Building Better Cities With Wayfinding

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There are many modes of transportation available to visitors and residents for getting around any given city. These methods of transport only become reliable with comprehensive wayfinding signage solutions and mapping services.

Wayfinding is a critical component of navigating people from Point A to Point B and any diverging points in between with intuitive ease. A wonderfully designed city makes effective use of wayfinding signage, providing accurate, consistent information content.

This transforms complex urban environments into understandable and straightforward navigational spaces, helping people engage seamlessly with their surrounding environment.

Defining the purpose of wayfinding

The primary purpose of any wayfinding signage system is to provide people with directional and orientation cues to effectively navigate their physical environment with ease and confidence while simultaneously enhancing their experience.

This goal is achieved by displaying relevant information in crucial decision points, which are noticed easily by the expected users.

A comprehensive wayfinding signage system uses several design elements and cues, such as signs, graphics, typography, and symbols, to attract the attention of users and point them in the right direction.

The benefits of an effective wayfinding system

Effective wayfinding signage isn’t just about nicely designed signs. There are real, measurable advantages to cleverly designed signage. Cities who integrate wayfinding design into their urban planning can realize the following benefits:

1. Improve walkability

A clear map of the built environment encourages people to explore.

Strategically placed pedestrian mapping gives the people the confidence to explore their environment without the risk of getting lost. An increase in sustainable mobility options reduces dependency on motor vehicles, significantly improving public health.

2. Supports greater economic growth

Wayfinding information that highlights places of interest within their surrounding environment encourages people to discover what’s around them. Corralling pedestrian traffic to the right business developments like shopping areas influences footfall and improves spending.

The easier it is for visitors to explore their travel destination, the more likely they will make return visits.

3. Encourages connectivity

The use of creative, strategically placed wayfinding signs can entice vehicular traffic and public transit users to divert their journey to vibrant business corridors filled with shops, restaurants, and local businesses.

Greater connectivity of places through the use of several modes of transportation promotes a wider range of services and amenities that provides the opportunity for social engagement, furthering economic activity.

4. Strengthens brand identity

Smart wayfinding’s implementation helps to reinforce a city’s defining history and proudly announces the distinct character of a municipality. An exceptionally well-designed wayfinding system is an efficient marketing tool for cities, adding vibrancy to a city’s streetscape while enhancing a sense of place.

A neighborhood or municipality looking to differentiate itself and increase awareness of its amenities can turn to wayfinding signage to foster its unique identity.

Developing a successful urban wayfinding program

To create a well-designed city wayfinding system, non-intuitive streetscapes and complex urban communities need to embed a graphically consistent network of navigational, directional, and orientation signs to better assist users at any point of their journey.

Developing a multi-modal wayfinding strategy serves to highlight the benefits as mentioned above and help visitors and residents alike make smarter travel choices.

But to effect such a transformation, city planners have to extensively research vehicular and foot traffic patterns to assess and identify behavior and routes. This information is critical to determining where signage must be positioned throughout the city to produce positive change.

Understanding the structure of the municipality and perceived barriers to movement will also aid in developing a more effective wayfinding system.

A unified wayfinding system will require input from community stakeholder groups, which may include business associations, the tourism community, transit agencies, and cultural institutions. Collaborating with signage consultants enables cities to assist in developing a multi-modal wayfinding framework to facilitate feedback.

To improve wayfinding, cities must deploy strategic wayfinding elements informed by national and international guidelines and best practices. The features must be consistent, legible, user-friendly, and accessible.

City directions, orientation cues, highway signage, among other information content, should have several consistent and legible features to help users predictably navigate their surroundings.

Other fundamental elements necessary for effective wayfinding include color coding, standardized icons, a complementary contrast to guarantee legibility, and accessibility for the physically and visually impaired.

Cities looking to define themselves as a “smart city” must also consider other system components like mobile technology and digital signage. These technological tools could further improve navigation experiences for residents and visitors alike.

Digital wayfinding solutions can also help to make navigation more secure. The use of a mobile application will enable residents and visitors to effortlessly and promptly receive real-time city service alerts like current traffic situations or public transit delays.

Of course, leveraging such technologies require significant investments. Cities must identify possible funding models to make informed decisions on how to manage the costs of a fully implemented digital wayfinding system.


Investing in best-in-class wayfinding program implementation leads to a more positive navigational experience for both pedestrians and motor vehicles. A built environment that is viscerally satisfying encourages exploration and discovery which, in turn, results in economic and public health benefits.

As a full-service signage and wayfinding design firm, our consultants can help your municipality identify wayfinding strategies and principles to make your cityscape a better experience for its residents and visitors.

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