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Design, Review, Revise, Repeat...

Seeking feedback from a range of different perspectives is an important part of the design review process. However, when you’re busy juggling competing priorities, or up against deadlines that could have financial consequences if missed, it can be difficult to allocate sufficient time. For those of us involved in the design of physical wayfinding signs, it’s not something we should short circuit. After all a well-considered signage system could last decades. This means addressing the wayfinding requirements during the early stages of a development project and ensuring design reviews are fully accounted for in plans and proposals.
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Some wayfinding projects sail through the design review process smoothly, whilst others get mired in seemingly endless change requests from a range of different stakeholders. Clearly the larger and more complex the project, the greater the likelihood you won’t hit the button at the first pass. Whether it’s discovering, at the initial strategy review meeting, that the architectural plans have changed (and the wayfinding consultant was missed out of the communication loop). Or, the audit and strategy stage throws up things that need further thought before the package can be progressed.

You finally get to a point where the immediate client and project team has signed off the initial strategy and design and it’s passed to other stakeholders for comment. When you discover changes are needed to reflect leasing plans and agreements; the creation of a new brand identity or how the operations team intends to manage the building. Then there’s finding out that some sign locations clash with the placement of other interventions or can’t be easily supported by the building infrastructure. That’s before it hits the scrutiny of the accessibility, wellness, sustainability consultants and local planning and highways agencies.

The key message is .. make the most of the design review process. Rather than despair, embrace and seek out all feedback. Unless you are a wayfinding genius and the project brief was also written by a wayfinding genius, it’s reasonable to expect that things may have been missed or benefit from improvement. We’re talking here about the functional rather the aesthetic aspects – design by committee rarely delivers exemplary outcomes.

It may not be appropriate to incorporate all changes requests. Some may contradict considered good practice or potentially impact negatively on some users or other aspects of the development. It’s the responsibility of the wayfinding consultant, along with the the project team, to acknowledge and evaluate the feedback; update and revise plans where appropriate – ensuring they have a clear rationale for their decisions.

Accommodating feedback from a range of stakeholders who are examining the wayfinding from different perspectives, can only help maximise its effectiveness. A well-designed wayfinding signage system could last several decades. From an economic and environment sustainability perspective it’s worth investing the time to get it as right as it can be. Otherwise, there is a risk it will be sub-optimal from the get-go and even worse need replacing a couple of years down the line.

So be patient my wayfinding friends – embrace the design review process. Actively canvas and consider feedback from a range of perspectives. There is nothing more dispiriting than receiving a quick, cursory response to work you’ve put your heart and soul into. Equally, nothing more satisfying than seeing a signage scheme you helped design still in place thirty years later – just ask The Velvet Principle’s Creative Director.