Wayfinding is a very complex system that has various functions, but the most important is the function of informing people of the surrounding area. Not everyone speaks the same language, so pictures and simple words are used to convey whatever information is needed. The basic principles of wayfinding are based on simplicity and generalization. More specifically, the messages from the signs must be clear and concise, display only the information that is needed, and remove excessive information. The more complicated the images or words, the more confusing or distracting these systems of information can be. It is overwhelming enough for someone to be in a new place and not know where things are located, and signs can simplify this stress. Within wayfinding though, there are sub-categories that subconsciously tell people what to do and where to go.
Wayfinding can be broken down into 4 main types of signs: directional signs, identification signs, orientation signs, and regulatory signs. Directional signs answer the question “how to” and are focused on keeping people moving towards a destination, especially when at junctions or locations that have multiple options. Examples include signs at airports that direct you to baggage claim, restroom signs with a directional sign, and almost any sign with a directional signal. Identification signs indicate exactly where an individual is. Examples of this include exit and entrance signs, building sign name, and room number. Orientation signs are very similar to identification signs, but the easiest way to understand the difference would be that orientation signs can be imagined as “you are here”. Most places with many options have a “you are here” sign that shows the relationship to an individual and the location they want to be. The final type of sign is a regulatory sign. Regulatory signs tell an individual what they can and cannot do. Examples can be “no parking”, proper protection, speed limit signs. All these signs indicate how to find and behave in the environment you are in.
Taking this background information, the assignment we were given was that we had to pick a location that we have very little knowledge about and identify what types of signs were used to get to the specific location. The location I picked was the Student Breakout Room B13 in Wilber Hall.
Initially, I broke down the basic information I knew about the location. The first piece of information was that the room was located in Wilber Hall. I knew that Wilber Hall was in between Park Hall and the Shineman Center for Science, Engineering, and Innovation. Once I had the building I moved onto the next piece of information which was the room number, B13. The B indicates that the room is in the basement of the building which meant that a stairwell needed to be found to get from the first floor to the second floor. The 13 also helped to be able to tell what numbers I should look out for when I reached the basement. With the key information gathered it was time to go to Wilber Hall and find the Student Breakout Room.
I initially entered from the Shineman first floor. The first indicator that I was in the right spot was a sign on the wall that stated “Wilber Hall”. This sign was located right next to the stairwell. After going down the stairs a hallway guided to an intersection. To the left was an elevator and another little inlet area, but not much more after that. To the right was an open space with a lot of classrooms and lounge areas. I went to the right and found numbers on each of the doors that were very close to the number 13. The first door I found said B11 and I followed down the hallway and realized that the numbers were going down, so I turned around and went back towards where I started. I happened to look in the open lounge area and my eye caught the sign saying B13.
When breaking down each sign I saw it was easy to distinguish. Signs that I saw related to directional signage included a sign at the top of the stairs before going to the basement indicating where certain rooms were on the first floor. Each number had an arrow next to it indicating which direction was the most efficient way to get to each location. I would have liked if there was another directional sign when you first reach the intersection after getting on the stairs in the basement. Identification signs I found included the name of the building on the outside, “School of Education”, and a sign on the inside, “Wilber Hall”. The room number, B13 is also categorized as this. I did not find any orientation signs at all. This made it very difficult because it is a nearer building that I have not walked around in and with all the twists and turns made it very difficult to orient myself. There were a few regulatory signs that said “Staff Only”, but other than that most of the rooms were free to go into. Using the techniques gathered about wayfinding and implementing them without the help of a computing device, I found the easiest route possible and found the room successfully.
Map made by Delaney.