Anyone involved in the world of wayfinding and sign design is likely to come across the terms pictogram, icon and symbol sooner rather than later. As jargon goes these terms, are pretty innocuous. But what’s the difference between an icon, pictogram and symbol? We give our view on their different uses in wayfinding design.
Every sector, discipline and business establishes its own language. Using single words or acronyms to represent more complex constructs that act as communication shortcuts. It’s all very well if you’re in the know, but it can be a huge barrier to understanding if you’re not. So for anyone experiencing his or her first encounter with the world of wayfinding we thought it would be helpful to put together a bit of a checklist.
Vertical banner signs are frequently seen on the sides of buildings and shops or fixed to lampposts. For multi-storey buildings, applying high level, banner signs can help cut through the visual noise and increase visibility of the brand, destination or promotional message. When it comes to the layout should the letters read from the bottom to top or vice versa?
Highlighted in Kevin Lynch’s seminal book on urban planning The Image of the City, landmarks play an important role in helping us understand a place. Not only do they provide the datum points that help us build a mental map, we rely on them to find our way round. Therefore, an audit of the local context to identify potential landmarks should be a key input in the development of a wayfinding strategy.
From The Longitudinal Prize launched in the early eighteenth century to try and solve nautical navigation; to space exploration in the mid 1900s that paved the way for GPS and Satnavs. It is bizarre, that the most advanced animals on Earth, have had to use our superior intellect to develop technology, to do what comes naturally to turtles and the Monarch butterfly.
So often we come across wayfinding being erroneously equated as another word for signs. To put the record straight, wayfinding is a recognised, albeit niche design discipline. There is a raft of specialist wayfinding consultancies whose business it is to design solutions to increase legibility and help people find their way round buildings, towns and cities. Where signs may or equally may not be part of the solution.
Designers use a range of sophisticated digital tools to bring their ideas to life. But however smart these softwares are, it requires specialist experience and training in the relevant design discipline to be designer
Truly collaborative partnerships are key to the success of design consultancy projects. No matter how well considered a written brief, it can only ever be a sanitised, top line summary, open to interpretation. It will miss the nuance and detail that you get through talking face to face. To really capture the essence of what’s required you need to hear the stories and experience the culture and personality of the business.