Signage and wayfinding around a hospital



A good wayfinding strategy enables a person to navigate a building with ease and independence. Wayfinding isn’t just about signage. It should take a holistic approach that includes the use of colour, contrast, artwork, and interior design to help building users navigate routes and identify destination points.

New technologies are emerging that use mobile apps and kiosks to assist with wayfinding. Recent studies have shown how this technology can improve the customer experience and improve operational efficiency.

In addition to this site, additional information can be found as follows:

For more information for dementia-friendly design, the following links may be useful:

Your wayfinding strategies should be clear, intuitive and designed with a wide range of users in mind. A combined approach to wayfinding, signage, arts, and interior design will result in a solution that meets the needs of all people, including those with specific sensory and mobility needs.

Use the characteristics of the environment such as the sound of voices, lighting or fragrance from plants around an entrance. All of these are beneficial and can help people with wayfinding, particularly for people with cognitive, mental, or visual difficulties.

Recommended standards:

  • Include all four main types of signage to promote good wayfinding.
    • informational
    • directional
    • identification
    • mandatory safety signs.
  • Use colour and art to mark out routes and destinations, this will help reduce the need to rely on traditional signage
  • Highlight ‘landmarks’ to help users create a mental map of a facility so they can move around without getting lost.
  • Based on individual site needs, consider providing information in an audible format such as individual receivers or public address systems. This will supplement visual and tactile signs and maps.
  • All wayfinding strategies must include an effective escape route in case of an emergency and should include audible and visual aspects of wayfinding.

A wayfinding strategy should ensure that information is used to promote a user’s independence, supports good orientation and is inclusive for everyone.

Recommended standards:

  • Signage should be a combination of lettering and images and include a tactile component such as Braille or raised lettering and symbols, placed within easy reach.
  • Embossed signs have a raised surface above the sign between 1mm to 1.5mm and have a stroke width of 1.55mm to 2mm.
  • Make wording concise, simple, and clear to understand by using single words or short sentences and avoiding abbreviation.
  • Symbols and icons are helpful for children, for people whose first language is not English, and people with learning difficulties.
  • The size of symbols should be appropriate for the scale of the space.
  • Use universally recognised words, terms, and symbols such as the standard icons to identify toilets.
  • Where possible make use of tactile maps and models to help people with visual difficulties.
  • Use colour coded signs and pictures to indicate the purpose of the room or department, these are particularly helpful for those with cognitive challenges.
  • Use multiple languages where possible and where a particular need is identified.
  • A consistent style throughout the building will make the wayfinding system easy to understand.

Contrasting the colours of surfaces and features helps people with visual difficulties assess and navigate their environment safely by helping them identify features and obstacles. Use of colour alone may not be effective, as there are many people who can’t tell the difference between different colours combinations.

Recommended standards:

  • Use colour contrast between adjacent colours to provide the recommended difference in Light reflectance value (LRV)
  • When colour coding rooms or departments use different colours that a wide range of users can recognise. Don’t use the same colour in different shades and tones.
  • A brightly coloured or contrasting band along a wall or skirting can help people find their way around a building and should be a key part of a signage and wayfinding system. Linking the contrasting band with signage is particularly helpful for people with visual impairments.
  • Ensure signage is well lit, so it can be read when natural light is low.
  • Ensure the letters on signs contrast with the background colour as well as the walls or surrounding environment.
  • Ensure signs have a matt finish to avoid reflections and glare making them difficult to read.
  • Avoid underlining of letters as it can be miss read, e.g. ‘h’ can look like ‘b’
  • Use universally known colour codes for safety signs: green for safety, yellow for risk, red for danger or prohibition and blue for mandatory.

Signage placed in the right location is critical to the success and visibility of good wayfinding to promote independent and ease of accessibility for all users. See also link Reception Desk

Recommended standards:

  • Place signs, including pictorial and tactile signs at key points where people need to make decisions about their route, for example, where there are alternative paths.
  • Position all key wayfinding components within a building users’ line of sight and where it won’t be blocked by tall furniture, equipment, or other people.
  • Signs that take longer to read should be placed in such a way the reader doesn’t get in the way of other building users.
  • Use repetition of signs on long routes for signs indicating the way to a room or facility.
  • Position all signs in accessible locations and consider the vision of people standing or sitting e.g. wheelchair users.
  • Position door signs on the door rather than next to or above, this will help to avoid confusion.

Use clear fonts such as Frutiger Bold, Gotham, Helvetica, Avant Garde, Arial and Futura for better clarity and legibility. Consult a specialist manufacturer for further information.

Recommended standards:

  • Ensure Font types is clear. Use an initial capital letter followed by lower-case letters. Full capitals can be difficult to read.
  • Font size depends on the amount of information displayed and the distance from where the lettering is read.
  • Ceiling-mounted signs should have larger lettering than wall-mounted signage because they are read from further away.
  • Avoid typefaces that are highly decorative, complicated, very bold, condensed, or italicised. They are harder to read and can distract from the information.
  • Use Arabic numbering format (1, 2, 3, etc.) as these are universally recognised.
  • Display lists on signs alphabetically or group information logically.
  • Ensure arrow heads are large enough to make direction appear obvious.

Keep wall signage and other wayfinding components looking the same under a variety of lighting conditions to cut the detrimental effect of strong light which can make it difficult to see signs properly.

Recommended standards:

Use matt or satin surface finishes as these are easier to look at and less likely to be affected by glare. Avoid shiny and glossy surfaces which can create glare and reflections.
Illuminate all signs evenly to the appropriate lux level.
Review design and placement of natural and artificial light to reduce glare.
Position lighting to avoid dark shadows over signage.
Always avoid flashing, blinking lights since they can disorientate and distract.
Further information can be found within Lighting

Artwork and interior design can help with intuitive wayfinding that works at a subconscious level and isn’t over-reliant on signage.

A variety of wall colours and patterns can help to identify key areas, circulation routes seating areas or other activities within a large, open space. Co-ordinated colour schemes and finishes can help distinguish rooms, wards and departments. Artwork and other visual clues can be used for those who cannot rely solely on colour.

Recommended standards:

  • Use artwork and sculpture to help make parts of a building easily recognisable and aid orientation.
  • Colour coded walls help identify different floor levels, departments and/or other area of a building.
  • Different wall finish, texture, colour, and tone can be used to signify different areas, such as an access route and a seating area next to it.
  • Use wall surfaces to provide information, such as department names and directions.
  • Ensure room information is positioned on the door of the room rather than next to it.
  • Identify WC/toilet doors clearly using a different colour from other doors. Be consistent with all sanitary doors throughout the building.

Wall mounted items and their components should be safe and robust to avoid causing damage or harm.

Recommended standards:

  • Ensure all building components minimise the opportunity for self-harm, especially where mental health services are provided.
  • Where deemed necessary by risk assessment, consider the use of anti-ligature
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