The Role of Static Wayfinding Signage in a Digital World
Technology is impacting every part of our life’s including in the field of wayfinding. Wayfinding is the art of how to find our way between A and B and is a subject area that incorporates signage design, architecture, design, and urban design. Despite this impact of technologies such as GPS and dynamic electronic signage, what role does static signage still have and why is it so important?
Technology is impacting every part of our life’s including in the field of wayfinding. Wayfinding is the art of how to find our way between A and B and is a field that incorporates signage design, architecture, design, and urban design. Despite this impact of technologies such as GPS and dynamic electronic signage, what role does static signage still have and why is it so important?
The term static signage refers to traditional signage that is made, for example, of wood or metal and that doesn’t change. Imagine a directional sign in a local park, on a university campus, or in a hospital. The signage will normally consist of arrows and locations names.
More recently, signage that can be changed from a control center and such that the information such as locations on signage, can be changed in real-time. This makes sense in that static signage can easily otherwise become out of date, such as if a ward in a hospital is changed. Digital signage has a powerful role to play in how we navigate in a modern world.
Consider though the issue of a power cut and the issue of all signage being electronic? I have experienced this myself before in a major international airport, where many directions were electronic and thus failed in a power cut during a storm, and chaos thus followed. The airport users did not know which directions to take within the airport itself.
Electronic signage can also be expensive to implement given the cost of the content management system and the need to train a member of staff in using digital signage. Furthermore, static (non-digital) signage can be placed pretty much in any climatic condition and location and so there will always be a need for static signage. Even with the growing use of digital signs, we will hence always need static signage additionally.
It is worth considering the benefits of digital signage and the role it can positively play in the field of wayfinding and navigation.
Consider, for example, the personalization that digital signage affords us. Imagine the scenario in an airport where, in one specific terminal, for the morning flights they arrive from Spain and every afternoon, flights arrive from China. In such a scenario, digital signage enables us to provide bespoke specific information in Spanish for the Spanish visitors and then in Chinese for Chinese visitors. This opportunity to specifically target those navigating through our spaces, is a powerful benefit of digital signage.
What makes the design of wayfinding signage particularly interesting from an industry perspective, is that signage has traditionally been the role of sign makers. That is, tradesmen in workshops physically making signs from raw materials. With digital signage, the role of a sign maker moves to one of a programmer or electronics engineer.
The great difference in the making of static signage and digital signage explains the mix and confusion that sometimes exists in the design of signage systems and why users sometimes get lost and find directions confusing. The mix of static and digital systems and the great difference in the design of these two types of signs explain the sometimes mismatch of signage in some locations.
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