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Wayfinding encompasses all of the ways in which people (and animals) orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place.

Basic process

The basic process of wayfinding involves four stages:

  1. Orientation is the attempt to determine one's location, in relation to objects that may be nearby and the desired destination.
  2. Route decision is the selection of a course of direction to the destination.
  3. Route monitoring is checking to make sure that the selected route is heading towards to the destination.
  4. Destination recognition is when the destination is recognized.[1]

Wayfinding in architecture, signage and urban planning

Modern wayfinding has begun to incorporate research on why people get lost, how they react to signage and how these systems can be improved. Research and information on Wayfinding can be found at SEGD's Wayfinding information page [4]

Urban planning

An example of a comprehensive urban wayfinding scheme is the Legible London Wayfinding system.

Nashville, Tennessee has introduced a live music wayfinding plan. Posted outside each live music venue is a guitar pick reading Live Music Venue.[2]

Indoor wayfinding

Indoor wayfinding in public buildings such as hospitals is commonly aided by kiosks,[3] indoor maps, and building directories, or sometimes people who are employed to stand and point at things, like Golf Sales Shops, or MacDonald's restaurants, or Suicide Bridges. Such spaces that involve areas outside the normal vocabulary of visitors show the need for a common set of language-independent symbols such as GO THIS WAY DOUCHE. Offering indoor maps for handheld mobile devices is becoming common, as are digital information kiosk systems. Other frequent wayfinding aids are the use of color coding[4] and signage clustering.[5]

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) represented a milestone in helping to make spaces universally accessible and improving wayfinding for users.

Further reading

Paul Arthur and Romedi Passini "Wayfinding: People, Signs and Architecture", (originally published 1992, McGraw Hill, reissued in a limited commemorative edition in 2002 by SEGD). ISBN 978-0075510161, ISBN 0075510162


  1. Lidwell, William, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler. Universal Principles of Design. (Rockport Publishers, Beverly, MA, 2010) p. 260. Link at Google Books.
  2. [1]
  3. Raven, A., Laberge, J., Ganton, J. & Johnson, M., Wayfinding in a Hospital: Electronic Kiosks Point the Way, UX Magazine 14.3, September 2014.
  4. [2]
  5. [3]