Icons 1423866249 wayfinding iconsm72tools Wayfinding

Think about Hansel and Gretel going into the woods. What did they leave behind? They left breadcrumbs to find their way out of the forest. What if it was you, going into the forest? What would you identify with to mark your way? Where in the world are you? Where have you come from? Where are you going? How will you find your way? Wayfinding is a term that encompasses all of the clues that humans (and animals and insects) use, create and look for to orient themselves and to navigate environments. Wayfinding can refer to landmarks, edges, fields or nodes in a city or signage and directional graphics on the inside of a building. The term wayfinding was coined by the writings of an urban designer, Kevin Lynch, in his book, The Image of the City. He created maps of neighborhoods based on interviews, observations, and measurements. He introduced ways of annotating (using symbols, titles, color, logos) maps that called out visual landmarks, structural edges and key intersections that were memorable such as highways, rivers, parks or major buildings. Wayfinding helps to mark (visually, auditoraly, texturally,etc.) key moments in space that as giving visual definition to people attempting to find their way around. Wayfinding not only helps us understand a path through a place or series of places, it also assists us in understanding how a place is organized. Wayfinding connects with all of the senses- sight, sound, touch, smell and feeling. How will get you from here to there? How will your community identify its history, its present and its future?

Find your way!

Activity 1 – Find your way

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Where are you? How do you know where you are? What clues can you see from right where you are that inform your position in space? Is it a door? Is it a sign? Is it a path on the ground? Is it the sun in the sky or the way the wind is blowing? Is it a sound or series of sound like waves, birds chirping, traffic or children playing? What cues do you seek to place your location? What cues inform your understanding of where you are in a place? This inquiry is an inquiry into spatial sensing and environmental awareness. Human beings, like animals, rely heavily on their sensory input to navigate the world. In addition people have created many ways of marking their environments, naming the environments and directing others in, through and around environments. Take a look at the Place Exploration, Place Experience, Placemaking for ideas about reading spaces and identifying key characteristics. Then check out Diagramming, [Symbols]( and Mapping journeys. Begin a wayfinding catalogue of what can be used to communicate location, navigation and destination. Post your notes, sketches, diagrams and symbols in your journal.

Prepare to begin a wayfinding adventure!

Activity 2 – Wayfind a treasure map

Imagine you have hidden a treasure somewhere. Now you want to make a map to remember where you have hidden your treasure. How will you retrace your steps? How will you identify where to turn, right or left, north or south? What markings can you choose to record to lead the way? What symbols can you use to mark the key steps of the path from any point to the treasure? Take a look at treasure maps and see what has been used in the past. Which symbols do you think work well? How can you create graphics that make sense, create confidence and show a clear path with clear signs? Which directions are clear? In making your map be sure to include a map key and if appropriate a scale. Consider mapping a journey in a book. Can your map show the route and the adventures and the events along the way?

Activity 3 – Wayfinding and your school

Every school is a unique place full of varied spaces to learn and do many things. Schools are also full of interesting people. In this activity brainstorm what is special about your school. Think about what spaces and people and experiences stand out and make it interesting and fun to attend. Consider both inside and outside spaces. Think about the experience of coming into school. attending school, going to lunch, playing at recess, and heading home at the end of the day. Make rough drafts of navigational flows of students during the day. What do they need to know? What is hard to find? Make a list of people and a list of places and a list of experiences. Create symbols, drawings and diagrams of these items. Create one wayfinding map or a series of wayfinding maps to identify areas of your school.Work with your teachers and principals to find creative ways to post navigational supports utilizing the floor, walls and ceiling when possible. Submit a proposal explaining what wayfinding can do for your school. Share at least three different alternatives to add wayfinding graphics to your school. Get feedback from classmates, teachers and your principal. Prepare and post a final design proforma of your schools’ wayfinding.

Activity 4 – wayfinding and your community

Now that you are becoming a wayfinding expert, take a look at your own community. Consider checking out what is on Historypin, too. How does your community present itself? Does your community have a friendly map? What should your community show to represent what it has to offer? Consider all of the activities that are possible in your community. A good idea is to start making lists in your journal. Make a list of important places. Make a diagram of what is up (north) and what is down (south) and what is to your left and right (east and west).

Activity 5 – wayfinding and welcoming

How does it look to someone new coming into town? What resources are available to help new neighbors find their way around? Does your community have a welcome website? What does your community need to welcome new residents. Brainstorm what new people and visitors might need to find their way around your neighborhood or community. Think about different age groups such as babies, young children, teens, college students, dog walkers, nature lovers, book worms, shoppers, runners, bikers, professionals and grandparents. Add as many user types as you can imagine. Make scenarios of possible new residents or visitors. Create a list of ‘must do’s’ and 'need to know’. Share your list with your parents and friends. Can they add anything else? Being to think about how your ideas need to be visualized. Do they need to be in signage? Do they need to be painted symbols on the sidewalk? Do you need banners on street lights? Do you need maps to hand out? Think about a wayfinding campaign. What are all of the possibilities? Create at least three different scales of wayfinding interventions.

Reveal the way(s)!


  • Wayfinding helps us understand how a place is organized.
  • Wayfinding can be
  • Wayfinding tools and signs can be incorporated on
  • When selecting a digital signage system, one considers
  • "Wayfinding' was coined by urban planner
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