The primary function of wayfinding is to guide people to places. It has a vital role to play in connecting the physical environment of the destination with the needs and emotions of visitors (as well as residents) who want to be stimulated, entertained, educated and challenged. It should help them recall branded communications that they may have been exposed to before arriving in the area.
Wayfinding is important to brand building because it recognizes that our brains respond emotionally first, then logically. In addition to offering ease of navigation, a branded wayfinding system can provide information, form unexpected experiences, build a sense of anticipation, differentiate zones or districts, and consolidate potentially competing interests into a meaningful whole - all while forming strong emotional attachments.
In this way, wayfinding can be a pivotal component in building a meaningful and sustainable place brand. In addition to signage, it can include landmarks, area lighting, open sight lines to key buildings, landscaping and pageantry inspired by the brand. In recent years the wayfinding system has expanded to include web media as an important first touchpoint people can access for guidance to and through a community.
Todd Mayfield, Group Creative Director at Axia Creative, highlighted the importance of wayfinding in destination branding when he said, “A successful wayfinding system will support a brand on two key levels. On an aesthetic level, its design will appeal to a visitor’s emotion, helping to create anticipation of a positive experience, and its role in fulfilling the brand promise. On a communicative level, a system’s message will guide visitors to the experience itself, delivering satisfaction – keeping the brand promise.”
Working in this way, a brand inspired system can help shape the identity of a place through its experiences, style, design, colors, lettering, content and placement. A well designed system is an essential component of successful places because it encourages people to spend additional time (and money) in one place rather than another.
Next week we will consider the ways in which a wayfinding system contributes toward higher satisfaction, improved experiences and increased community pride.