Definition of Wayfinding from: Symonds et al (2017). Exploring an Absent Presence: Wayfinding as an Embodied Sociocultural Experience. Sociological Research Online, 22(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.5153/sro.4185
The cognitive, social and corporeal process and experience of locating, following or discovering a route through and to a given space.
Getting lost can be a very stressful occurrence and the funny thing is that it can happen in the smallest of places, such as trying to find the toilets (restrooms) in a pub or bar, or in a large space such as in a hospital, airport, tourist attraction or sports stadium. For business owners, the cost of having users get lost and frustrated, irritated and stressed, is the possibility that the wayfinding experience will be seen as a very negative experience and users will often avoid your location in the future. It can be hard to measure the effects of bad wayfinding but it can be costly and any investment and time spent improving your wayfinding system is likely to be time and money spent well.
Wayfinding – This area of study is largely about getting from one point to another but can also often be for pleasure i.e. exploration (whereby there is no specific route you need to navigate). Local businesses, governments and other providers might though wish to try and still guide and influence your route for commercial reasons, for security and safety issues, or for control considerations (i.e. in customs and passport control in airports). Imagine walking around central London as a tourist, shopping, and with no exact planned route. Even with no planned route, you are most likely still being guided and influenced by city planners and those in control of signage, modal points and markers. (What is wayfinding?)
Wayfinding becomes important in many situations and places. A university might be planning a new annex and given the number of students and visitors who will need to access and navigate the building on a daily basis, good signage, markers and other planning can be essential to effective people flow and for safety. A hospital faces the need for effective wayfinding, particularly with the cognitive nature of this field and the emotional turmoil which many hospital visitors may be experiencing. This makes this field of expertise particularly interesting in spatially fixed areas and this site is focused on this field of study.
Similar to the example of hospitals, another good example of spatiality is cruise line travel. Cruise ships have a definite space with which to work, as opposed to land based destinations. The boat is the accommodation, the entertainment centre, the restaurants and a destination in its own right. Colour coding, lighting, clever use of space and carefully planned signage all combine to make wayfinding a well planned activity in cruise tourism.
Semiotics is one field of study which is considered to be the ‘study of signs’ although the exact description of signs can vary greatly in academia. Signs can be taken very literally and mean a sign in terms of the symbolic. Literally any communication can be considered a form of sign. Wayfinding hence covers many disciplines including semiotics, architecture, psychology, urban planning, communication studies and several other fields.
On this site we cover the latest mobile wayfinding technologies, wayfaring analysis, digital signage and the industry events (let us know if you are holding a related event in the UK or worldwide), the way in which technology is changing the nature of this industry and everything going on in the world of travel signage and wayfinding. We would love to hear from you if you have any questions, comments or helpful information. If you are a business looking to improve your wayfinding system then we provide: