Wayfinding: The Healthcare Campus Conundrum
I’m diving into the topic of wayfinding for our July issue of Healthcare Design, looking at where common mistakes are made and identifying realistic ways to avoid them. And while the bulk of what I’ll be discussing in the article will focus on a single facility—as well as transitions between front doors, parking garages, etc.—I also asked my sources to offer some advice on what to do when dealing with “The Frankenstein Campus.”
We’ve all seen them—over time, countless additions, expansions, departmental relocations, new brands/physicians groups and so on sprawl across acres of land with no clear path for how exactly to navigate the maze it's become. And while signs with the specific information needed at each decision point help, experts offered a few additional items worth considering to help visitors feel more comfortable in what can easily be an intimidating place.
Chris Bowles, senior graphic designer, Stanley Beaman & Sears (SBS; Atlanta), says one way to ease navigation is to break a campus down into zones—like a large city’s downtown, midtown, and uptown.
“Automatically, if you know your building is in Zone A, you’re not concerned about the rest of the campus,” he says. Other ways to distinguish individual zones may be done through the use of colors (“head toward the blue building”) or symbols (“head toward the star building”). “It’s a little bit simpler of a device to remember,” Bowles says.
However, what’s often encountered on retrofit wayfinding projects at campuses is that a branded identity (or identities) with icons and colors already exists, notes Marisabel Marratt, associate and senior designer at SBS, which means the design team will need to work closely with the client to suggest ways to tweak that existing system to better incorporate new entities as they join the campus and find a more holistic branding approach.
“Inevitably, it’s part of the process. As you start to insert a new system into something already established, you start to question the established system,” she says.
For any campus setting, Robert Brengman, vice president of creative at Corbin Design (Traverse City, Mich.), agrees that it’s critical to bring cohesiveness to wayfinding design (again, even if multiple brands exist on the same campus) so visitors will more easily notice navigational cues to begin with. “They really need standards for the design of the system so that when it’s implemented at any time, it will always look the same.” And signs, he adds, are part of that culture and should be extended into existing and new buildings as they come on-line.
“What it does is set up a pattern throughout a campus of recognizable elements that have the same orientation, scale, typography, legibility, color, and contrast—all of the things that people will look to for information when they need it,” says Mark VanderKlipp, president of Corbin Design.
For more on wayfinding, specifically what to avoid when it comes to signage, how to layer architectural elements to create intuitive navigation, and ways wayfinding experts and healthcare designers can best collaborate, check out the July issue of Healthcare Design.