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Wayfinding and directional signs help get us to work, find destinations and help us with general navigation whether it’s on foot, bike, car or public transportation. They are time savers and provide information for safe navigation.

For property managers, from multi-family complexes to business parks and industrial parks, effective and efficient outdoor directional signs, traffic control signs, and way-finding signs are crucial. Making sure that there is ease of entry and exit and maintaining a smooth and efficient traffic flow can make a world of difference in the perception of your property.  Nobody likes to waste time wondering which way to turn, or where they should park. The challenge is finding the right balance between aesthetic value, functionality, and affordability.

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Whether amidst construction activities, around a local event or safeguarding customers navigating safely to a curbside pickup or social distancing reminders, way-finding signage is one of the keys to a great visitor experience. A business might be more interested in permanent signage solutions, while the local street fair event may be a temporary event, wayfinding signage can be created from a wide variety of materials and configurations. The basic guiding principles behind the design and placement of those signs should be the same. Signs deliver information, and in wayfinding signage, only a handful of different types of signs are necessary to deliver information. Knowing what those types of signs are is an integral part to creating a useful system of way-finding signage.

When designing the system, remember, the simpler the wayfinding signage system is made, the better for all involved; from the designers of the wayfinding signage system to the visitors using it to get around. The idea behind designing signs is to convey as much information as necessary in as little space possible. That’s why it helps to think of signs in these four different categories.

Identification signs

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Identification sign typically identifies the location name of businesses, parks, communities or destination sites.

It is very important to let your customer know they have arrived.  It can be very stressful and frustrating to drive around a parking area or around the block in an area when you know you are close but cannot actually find your final destination.

These signs are very helpful in letting the customer, guest or visitor know they have reached their destination. These signs can be the business name and logo, a park name, event name etc. Identification signs can also mark handicap parking spaces, reserved parking spaces, temporary parking spaces etc.

Directional signs

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When it comes to pointing the way, the directional or way-finding signs are the sign for the job. When using directional signage, the best rule to follow is to keep it simple. When planning a way-finding system, try to plan it as early in the overall planning stage as possible. Unfortunately, way-finding plans often get left to the end and don’t receive the attention they deserve. Directional signs don’t appear at the location, they appear around the location and on the way to the location. Directional signs need to be hidden in plain sight. They should appear at junctions, or anywhere a person on a way to a location might look to see which way to get to that location. Directional signs are also what turns a group of many individuals into a singular crowd. Airports, for instance, aren’t made for standing around; they’re made for transit. Directional signs keep people moving where they shouldn’t be standing still. So someone follows the directional signs until they find the identification sign. When they find that, they’ll need an informational sign to know a little more.

Informational signs

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What are the hours of operation? Is public Wi-Fi available? Is there some historical significance to the location? All this and more can be supplied to visitors through informational signs. While informational signs can be found at locations marked by identification signs, they can also provide information about other things along the route. For instance, if an area is under construction, it’d be nice to give a little heads up to anyone in sandals that the road might get a little rocky. If a way is temporarily closed, that’s also good to know ahead of time. While the informational signs are there to put people in the know, it’s the regulatory signs that tell them what they can and cannot do.

Regulatory signs

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Some of the most important signs are regulatory signs. These signs tell people the regulations or requirements of the area. Speed limit signs, no parking signs and stop signs are all good examples of regulatory signs for traffic control, but signs that tell people they need to wear shirts and shoes may also be considered regulatory signs. Is smoking in the area not allowed? How will people know without a regulatory sign with a no smoking allowed symbol? Regulatory signs need to be clearly visible to warn of rules or regulations of which the disregard might constitute a violation of the law or regulate behavior in public places.

The messages on every type of sign listed above should be crystal clear, and as short as possible. Too many signs can be just as bad as too few. Aside from that, the rules are simple; directional signs point the way, identification signs announce the location, informational signs tell about the location, and regulatory signs set rules and regulations for the area.

Across the board, the use of way-finding signs is essential to businesses and property managers to provide ease to those coming and going. Are you in the process of updating your signage? Could you benefit from custom updated branded signage? Are you about to embark on a new venture? Whether you’re in need of a single parking sign or an entire way-finding package we are here to help! As a custom full-service design, branding and sign company our experts are eager to work with you to help you make the best impression. We believe that getting you noticed is PARAMOUNT!

Dwight, E. (2008). Signs of the Times. American School & University, 80(12), 38-40.

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