Step into an unfamiliar office, and you’ll likely experience new-kid jitters. As experienced signage and wayfinding consultants in Dubai have found, an absence of intuitive wayfinding signage can make navigating a corporate space a daunting experience. This is especially true for incredibly large corporate offices.
This is where wayfinding best practices come in. The set of processes, design elements, and tools that make up a comprehensive wayfinding system make it simpler for people to map out their route and also contribute to a more productive work environment.
Three ways wayfinding impacts productivity
When it comes to office setups, the emphasis is placed on furnishings and space layout. As such, wayfinding is often taken for granted. But the ability for employees and visitors to quickly orient themselves within the office can help with workers’ productivity.
Implementing strategic wayfinding cues throughout the office results in the following:
Reduces decision fatigue
Like any muscle, too many decisions can fatigue your ability to make sound choices. This is why some of the most productive CEOs and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs are known to wear the same outfit, day in and day out. Not having to decide what to wear every day meant one less decision, thereby lowering decision fatigue.
Clear wayfinding cues throughout the office space act in a similar manner. Not having to make navigational choices means workers don’t have to combat decision fatigue. This frees up their cognitive energy for things that matter, including their work.
More efficient use of time
Well-planned office spaces share distinct patterns with urban planning principles.
A legible layout that maximizes functionality and flow through identifiable markers ensures efficient patterns of movement. The easier it is to navigate a space, the less likely accidents and injuries will occur.
By reducing wayfinding obstacles, visitors and clients alike can easily engage with their surroundings, saving time and ensuring a stress-free environment.
New employees have a lot of onboarding tasks to manage — from the responsibilities of their new role to the office culture. Trying to decipher navigational cues shouldn’t be one of them.
Clearly laid-out navigation signs allow new employees to feel a sense of place quickly.The fewer frustrations they have with moving throughout the office space, the more time they can dedicate to their work and social interactions, promoting productivity.
The five principles of effective wayfinding design
The powerful impact wayfinding has on productivity can only be realized by implementing the right wayfinding best practices. A dynamic workplace with a well-thought-out wayfinding strategy makes use of the following design elements:
1. Make full use of the four types of signage
While most people think there is only one wayfinding sign (directional), there are actually four different types of wayfinding signage. Each serves a specific role, but all must work together to create a comprehensive wayfinding system.
Identification signs are typically used as wayfinding landmarks. These types of signs identify a particular service or feature in the workplace. Examples of identification signs include door plaques, departmental markers, and exit and entry points.
Directional graphics display navigational cues to the reader. These signs are typically found in areas that lack clear orientation like junctions. Other examples of directional signage include maps of a building, directory signage, and post signs at elevator lobbies.
Informational signs provide readers with the necessary information they need to make navigational decisions. Typical information signs found in offices include business information, facilities and amenities signage.
The focus of regulatory signs is to set boundaries and establish safety standards and regulatory requirements. Signs like “No Parking,” “No Smoking,” and “Employees Only” are some examples of regulatory signs.
When all wayfinding signs are coordinated with one another, navigational communication is maximized, making the workplace more inviting and comfortable.
2. Use office reference points as wayfinding elements
Incorporating meaningful wayfinding elements into office design provides two benefits:
- Employees can effortlessly orient themselves within the workplace
- You’re able to inject personality and branding into the space
So, what does incorporating wayfinding into design look like?
In Netflix’s office, all conference rooms are named after movies. And Twitter uses species names of birds to name their meeting rooms. SpaceX follows in a similar vein, naming their conference rooms after famous astronauts and scientists.
These examples show how businesses can use themes that accurately reflect their branding to provide better orientation cues for employees. Naming landmarks like conference or meeting rooms with memorable names makes them useful wayfinding tools to improve the flow of traffic.
3. Visually communicate with colors
With more offices becoming more collaborative, social, and open workplaces, drawing distinctions between departments can be a challenge. One way to further shape employee awareness while improving productivity is through color-coding.
There are several benefits to color-coding that go beyond wayfinding.
Using your corporate color scheme can create a sense of community for your employees while providing a wow factor for guests. Colors can also be highly effective in designating areas as specific task-based zones.
For example, a collaborative area could have yellow furniture or yellow tones to help encourage the flow of creative juices. Spaces designated for solo work can be decorated with blue elements to aid with concentration and productivity.
Color-coded areas not only benefit employees but guests, as well. Work zones that are differentiated visually become effective at-a-glance orientation cues, allowing reception to provide direction with ease.
4. Create connections with graphics
Like color coding, graphics in the workplace can be used to communicate intuitive wayfinding.
The use of easily recognizable universal symbols provides clear informational signage to employees and guests alike.
But, graphics can do more than just display symbols and pictograms.
The use of specific graphical elements throughout the office can further reinforce information signage and concisely define workspaces.
The familiar WiFi arcs can signal to guests and clients that the internet is available throughout your workplace. Likewise, using creative imagery like a no cellphone sign or playful “zzzs” on the wall can give employees a quick reference that the designated space is a quiet area.
Not only can graphics become points of engagement throughout your office, but by using specific color schemes, the graphics displayed can beautifully depict your brand identity.
5. Increase accessibility
Besides colors and graphics, today’s dynamic offices must also seamlessly incorporate inclusive design.
Inclusive design ensures wayfinding elements can be used by all, regardless of physical disability or limitations. This requires wayfinding design to adhere to regulatory requirements such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Universal symbols, and tactile (raised lettering and Braille) characters, and the size and scale of the information presented, make wayfinding signage universally accommodating. This ensures everyone can make effective use of the informational and directional cues around them as intended.
Placement is also an important consideration to make. Not only must signage be installed where traffic is frequent, but these should also be mounted at heights where they are accessibility-compliant.
Intuitive wayfinding design is a must in today’s collaborative and dynamic office environment. With the help of a signage firm, your office space can incorporate efficient signage practices that result in improved productivity, health, and wellbeing.
To find a wayfinding consultant that’ll help you graphically bring your company’s culture and values to life, browse through several signage portfolios. A consultant’s expertise in wayfinding design can help turn your vision into a beautiful and impactful signage system.
Zak Zakaria is a Waymaker at dezigntechnic in Dubai who also previously worked as the company’s Graphic Designer and Art Director. Zak is a creative with work experience in multiple multinational agencies such as JWT and Saatchi & Saatchi. Signage design is a family business, making Zak’s personal experience with signage his longest professional commitment.