Wayfinding, or environmental graphic design, is on the rise throughout the United States; Corbin Design and National Sign Plazas are just two firms to specialize in wayfinding systems. However, "way finding" is a term not often recognized in dictionaries, and a large amount of educated people still struggle with its definition. Wayfinding is more than signage; it is how one cognitively gets from Point A to Point B. It includes signage, maps, information kiosks, but also anything from landmarks to nodes that guide a person to a destination. This is not to say groups and individuals have not been using wayfinding as a process, but more specifically, people have lacked using wayfinding systems, encompassing all aspects of moving from one destination to another.
The most important aspect of using a wayfinding system is to increase and shorten trips with the given space. The best way to understand the benefits of wayfinding is exemplified in this quote from a recent wayfinding webinar I attended:
“Getting the right message to the audience will bring lots of visitors to your area, but once they are there, or on their way, if they can’t find you or your destinations, attractions, or more importantly, parking, you risk losing them as customers.”
- Signs of the Times: Making the Most of Wayfinding Systems in Your Municipality (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Note: It is hard to prove with quantitative figures this benefit, as economic development can be attributed to multiple aspects at once.
Buena Vista, Colorado stands out as a great small town, once which could benefit from revamping its wayfinding system. Currently, while driving down US Hwy 24, a large sign points west for "more shops," while the downtown core, East Main Street, is east. Residents and tourists have all experienced the questionable signage and lack of wayfinding system; for residents, they have grown to disregard it, but tourists will continue to struggle until an organized, comprehensive system is established.
Credits: Photographs by Katie Poppel. Data Linked to sources.