Category Archive: wayfinding

  1. Select Wayfinding – wayfinding for Merseyrail

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    Select Wayfinding (Wayfinder UK) were commissioned by Merseyrail to undertake a general analysis of the organisation’s current wayfinding provision across 64 stations. Concentrating on how Merseyrail links up with other networks on the main national rail network.


    We were briefed to highlight the issues compromising the current Wayfinding Strategy and to make recommendations on how it could be revised to improve the user experience while maximising the organisations image and operational efficiencies.



    Focusing primarily on the passenger experience, we were asked to pay particular attention to signage and all other forms of visual communications (Technology) and identify all factors effecting the efficient movement of all users around all Merseyrail facilities. In our recommendations, we were asked to consider ongoing and planned developments in respect to both the physical environment as well as other Merseyrail initiatives.


    Our observations revealed the current wayfinding provision to be very much design led and we were able to conclude the primary cause of many wayfinding problems were the designer’s lack of appreciation for the cognitive processes involved. We found that although no single overriding design issue was responsible for the wayfinding problems a large number of different issues were combining to create significant confusion.

    The current wayfinding was also found to be in conflict with recognised best practice and performed poorly when assessed in respect to fundamental wayfinding considerations. It failed to follow many of the guidelines provided in response to statutory requirements.

    As wayfinding consultants we are not simply concerned with just the installation of signs, but primarily by the understanding of human behaviour, in relation to navigation. In order to navigate effectively, human beings rely on a complex range of cognitive processes. Some of these processes are active, where we consciously seek out information to help us complete our journey, while others are passive and occur deep within our sub-conscious, the result of evolution and human conditioning. It is common practice for the planning and development phase of any wayfinding project to consider the active processes, however, the way information signs and their content is interpreted and acted upon within our sub-conscious, is often overlooked. Our purpose is to use our understanding of these cognitive processes and develop solutions which harness them to best effect, while considering the limitations of human spatial awareness.

    Select Wayfinding (Wayfinder UK) is at the forefront of wayfinding in the UK and uses their own unique wayfinding methodology to achieve an effective and cost saving solution for all their clients. Merseyrail benefited massively from the comprehensive report produced which highlighted many of the issues and problems along the communication trial. This report and its recommendations now sets a clear path and guidelines for Merseyrail to follow and improve their passenger experience.

    Wayfinding is much more than signage!

    Less is more.

  2. What is Wayfinding?

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    Put simply, the answer to the question “what is wayfinding?” is “the efficient movement of people in places and spaces”. It was Kevin Lynch who very first coined the word ‘wayfinding’ in his 1960 book The Image of the City. Where he discussed how users understood their surroundings in constant and expected ways. As a result his work had important influence in the field of urban planning and environmental psychology.

    Since the word was first coined, wayfinding has evolved into a common component of buildings and urban environments across the world. It has developed into a behavioural science, using strategies which aid human navigation.

    However many people still don’t truly understand the concept of wayfinding. The most common misconception is that it is just signage. It is true that it often leads to signage – but this a small component of a typical strategy.

    Manoeuvring the streets of a foreign city or the corridors of an alien building can be difficult, and consequently can fill you with ease or frustration. This is due to the visual language that communicates how we navigate a given terrain. How a person manages to get from one place to another effectively without any problems is down to the how well a particular system works.

    Why do you need Wayfinding?

    Over the last few decades wayfinding has developed into a strategic service, which has important implications for urban environments. In today’s busy environments wayfinding is crucial to avoid chaos and confusion.

    An understanding of human behaviour is essential to wayfinding. The perception of information within a built environment allows humans to navigate. As humans we have developed cognitive processes which help us orientate ourselves within built environments. An effective strategy understands these basic needs for navigation, applying them to our environments and therefore easing the process.

    The ideal wayfinding system will allow the users to not need to think and to travel intuitively towards their destination. Those users who experience a seamless journey are much more likely to appreciate their surroundings and leave with a positive experience. A strong strategy will add value to a particular service or brand. Wayfinding can become part of the marketing process, delivering a positive experience to all users.

    So what is wayfinding? Experts who understand wayfinding are essentially problem solvers, they provide a strategy which communicates a clear and consistent message to specific users. Providing communication clarity in signage is ensured through solid wayfinding techniques. Embracing human beings in built navigation process, putting in place systems that are understood intuitively. By ensuring an environment is maximised for human navigation this provides value to a given location or building. Positive user memory, prompting people to think of a building fondly and want to visit again.  Finally, it allows you to understand the potential of your environment, maximising business objectives.

    Select Wayfinding (Wayfinder UK) is the leading independent consultancy and can provide you with strategy and implementation throughout the UK.

    Mike Slater (MD)
    Select Wayfinding (Wayfinder UK) Ltd