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Creating the Scope for a Wayfinding Project

Sign Family Diagram

It’s one of those conundrums – you’re going out to tender because you don’t have the internal expertise to fulfil an identified need. Yet for cost surety and ensure you hire the best person for the job, you need to be sufficiently knowledgeable to define exactly what you want. Leave anything open to interpretation and you’ll end up comparing apples with pears in your tender responses.

Whether it’s your first time, or you’re a seasoned procurer, this is intended as a checklist to assist in framing the scope for a wayfinding project. The scope of a typical wayfinding consultancy can be broken down into three broad areas:

  • Project/ Functional Scope 
  • Sign Scope
  • Service Scope 

Project Scope

For most significant development projects with public access, there are likely to be a series of discrete wayfinding requirements.  With different layers of information required to meet the navigation and orientation needs of a range of different stakeholders, uses and transport modalities. For cost and functional reasons, different areas may also warrant different design approaches.

Take a luxury five-star hotel as an example.  As well as wayfinding signs to guide guests to their rooms and various amenities; information will be needed in the car park; and behind the scenes in the staff and servicing areas. Each area will need separate consideration and a design approach that suits the environment. It would be inappropriate (and extravagant) to apply the same design and material quality created for the guest areas within the operationally focussed back of house. Similarly external Information targeted at drivers will need to be at a larger scale than that for pedestrians

There are also instances, where other specialists will be contracted to deliver aspects of the wayfinding, most notably:

  • Emergency egress strategy and fire exit route signs – usually falls within the remit of a fire safety expert. But it may be appropriate for the wayfinding consultant to be involved in the design specification (within the bounds of the fire safety standards compliance).
  • Large campuses or car parks where a transport planner takes responsibility for driver information and a wayfinding consultant – pedestrians.
Front of house wayfinding signs in 20 Fenchurch St
Large scale directional signs painted directly on the wall in the 20 Fenchurch St offices basement

Design of the back of house and front of house wayfinding signs in a commercial office building. Use of the same font, terminology, symbols, and colour palette provide continuity, but the scale of the information, materials and sign form reflects the different design environments.

Project Scope Checklist

The below is a list of key wayfinding and sign design areas to consider when developing the scope requirement:

  • Front of house
  • Back of house
  • Public realm
  • Car parks
  • Delivery/service vehicles (routes, loading bays, service yards etc.)
  • Pedestrian, vehicle, cycle route guidance.
  • Accessible routes

Sign Scope

There are occasions where for mainly historical reasons, responsibility for signs for toilets and room or apartment numbers are factored into the main contractor or architect’s contract. As this destination information is a core component of a comprehensive wayfinding strategy, this is likely to result in an incoherent design outcome. Therefore, unless explicitly excluded from the scope a wayfinding consultant will include the design of all signs that constitute a fully integrated wayfinding solution, including:

  • Building and campus brand or name identification
  • Entrance identification
  • Totems – (featuring maps, plans) and directories
  • Tenant Boards
  • Directional prompts
  • Vertical index signs
  • Floor level identification
  • Facility/amenity identification
  • Room/ apartment numbers


It is not unusual for the wayfinding consultancy brief to cover a wider set of project and or building information and graphic design requirements. These are discussed further under Adjacent Services.

Service Scope

A typical wayfinding project passes through a series of development stages, that loosely mirrors the RIBA plan of work:

  • Wayfinding strategy development
  • Concept design – signs & graphic elements
  • Detailed design
  • Tender
  • Implementation


While most wayfinding projects tend to involve a full end-to-end service, there may be situations, where this is not appropriate, or the client wishes to take an incremental approach. Fuller details about each stage are provided here.

Adjacent Services

It is not unusual for a range of additional design and planning related services to be included within the wayfinding brief, including:

  • Development of the naming, numbering and address strategy
  • Identity design *
  • Application for Planning consent (for signs)**
  • Decorative wall graphics
  • Manifestation design (glass film)
  • Conditions of use signs (e.g. No smoking, CCTV warning signs)
  • Tariff Boards
  • Interpretative information

* Unless explicitly excluded, wayfinding consultants will assume that identification signs to communicate the building name or organisation brand are part of the brief.  In instances where there is no existing brand or logotype in place, the client may wish to include this in the wayfinding scope of services.

** For a new development there is likely to be a dedicated Planning Manager to oversee all applications for consent. In instances where this resource is not available, for example when updating an existing wayfinding scheme, the wayfinding consultant may be willing make the application on the client’s behalf.

If in Doubt ... Just Ask

It’s a regularly rehearsed trope, that when it comes to design projects, the quality of the outcome is only as good as the quality of the brief. Every project is different and will come with its own unique challenges and opportunities. So taking time to talk to specialists consultants prior to tendering, might prove its weight in gold (or metallic sprayed acrylic if budgets don’t extend that far).