I recently interviewed Todd Mayfield, Group Creative Director at Axia Creative, and author of Branded Wayfinding for Destinations. I asked Todd about his book and the role wayfinding can play in destination branding.
Question: What’s the difference between generic street signs and a branded wayfinding system?
Answer: The basic function of a city’s signs is to guide people to places, inform and influence behavior. Wayfinding, on the other hand, has a broader role in connecting the physical environment 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 online or in advertising and brochures. It helps create a sense of place.
Question: How does wayfinding support the city brand?
Answer: A wayfinding system should support a brand on three 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. On a third level, it is a conduit for forming new experiences and tourism products e.g. trails, historic interpretation and clustering attractors.
Question: What can be included in a wayfinding program?
Answer: In addition to signage, it may include landmarks, area lighting, open sight lines to key buildings, pedestrian nodes, landscaping and pageantry inspired by the brand. In recent years wayfinding has embraced mobile apps and GPS systems.
Question: What did you hope to achieve in writing your book, Branded Wayfinding?
Answer: I was motivated by the need to explain and simplify the field of wayfinding, particularly for tourism destinations. It’s not always well understood, yet can be an extremely cost effective way to enhance the city image and project the brand.
I have tried to demonstrate how easy it is for a brand inspired system to shape the identity of a place through its experiences, style, design, colors, lettering, content and placement. I believe that a well designed system is an essential component of successful place branding because it encourages people to spend additional time (and money) in one place rather than another, and want to return – and tell friends and family.