|As a city official, you might be well aware of wayfinding. But to review, wayfinding relates to knowing where you are and where you are headed. Essentially, wayfinding consists of cues that are recognizable and consistent and that help determine the best route in which to quickly and easily navigate to a destination—and then find the way back again. When used effectively, wayfinding is intuitive and straightforward. It prevents motorists, cyclists and pedestrians from the frustration of being lost or disoriented and can keep roads and paths safe for all.Signs are perhaps the number-one wayfinding tool. They mark streets, provide “breadcrumbs” to popular monuments, cultural attractions, hospitals and government buildings, and are also used as a tactic to route traffic around residential areas.|
Maps, another popular tool, are often used to depict public transportation routes, outline parks and zoos or simply provide direction for lost passersby. Usually presented in the format of a sign affixed to a wall, kiosk or bus shelter, maps have been traditionally static—neither interactive nor portable.
Today, Internet, mobile devices and satellite technology are changing the way many cities approach wayfinding and signage, as are greater sensitivities to diverse city populations.
Perhaps the most popular city wayfinding apps revolve around maps. These maps are usually wholly interactive and cannot only tell a user where something is, but where they are themselves, which is especially helpful for those who have lost their way. Maps also often show routes, allow users to search for restaurants, attractions and activities and more.
South of the border, developers in New York City recently created an app that features augmented reality—a live but digital interpretation of the real world. Called WayFinder NYC, it helps users to find New York subway and New Jersey Path stations. The user just aims the phone as if they were taking a picture, and the application indicates subway and PATH stations in that direction. When the user faces another direction, the list of stations will change accordingly. By clicking on a station name, the user can get a map and walking directions to that station.
Currently many of these trends exist as private endeavours… but as popularity and demand grows, it may make sense for cities to get on board. Before your city or town gets too excited about these new trends in wayfinding, step back and take a look at your current state of signage and maps and consult a wayfinding and architecture firm for help.
Based on research and analysis, your city or town may then decide to pursue an upgrade or revamp to wayfinding. If this is the case, be sure to communicate plans, funding and changes effectively in order to create excitement, educate constituents and make the transition into the 21st century of wayfinding as seamless as possible. Don’t forget to promote these new resources to residents through direct marketing campaigns that include branded items, like bike lights or a sign-shaped key chain to build excitement.
“Toronto’s INFOTOGO interactive wayfinding pillars.” Digital Signage in Canada. 22 Nov. 2010. Web. 2 Jan. 2011.
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