The Art of Community Wayfinding
“Christopher Columbus did not stop at convenience stores for directions, and neither will we.” Everyone knows real men don’t ask for directions! These days we use GPS, if we have one and understand it. Technology is cool. Having to actually ask someone for help is embarrassing. Who wants to tell the world we don’t have a clue where we’re at and need help getting to Aunt Millie’s house?
Having worked in nearly 1,000 communities, we can tell you that finding places is by far our biggest frustration. What should be a pleasant experience becomes an exasperating exercise as we drive around, map in hand, wondering why so many com- munities treat their top amenities as “hidden treasures.”
Frustrated visitors spend less time and less money and they seldom come back for repeat visits. You can spend millions of dollars marketing your destination, but if we can’t find what you’re selling, we say one word – “Next.” And we’re gone.
We don’t have much patience in this get-it-now world, and why should we waste our vacation or business trip time wander- ing around in uncharted territory, desperately trying to find our destination?
Visitor centers are one answer. But national statistics show only five percent of visitors ever stop at an information center – IF they can find it and IF it happens to be open.
Enter the age of 24/7 “Wayfinding” – a system of signs, gateways, banners and kiosks that helps visitors connect the dots and find their way, making for a pleasant experience, extended stays and additional spending.
A well-designed system lets your guests know what you have to offer and how to find it – day or night. Your front-line employees also benefit from the constant reminder of what you have, where it’s located and how much more pleasant it is to deal with visitors who are not frustrated and angry from arriving too late for the last tour.
A comprehensive wayfinding system includes the following:
• Pedestrian wayfinding signage at key locations – downtown districts, attractions,etc.
• Vehicular directional signage
• Decorative pole banners
• Decorative crosswalks
• Visitor information kiosks and displays
• Community and downtown gateways
• Amenities signage – restrooms, parking, information
• Services signage – police, fire, hospital, municipal offices
• Marquee signage at specific locations – attractions, parks, museums, cultural arts facilities, government offices,etc.
The best wayfinding systems do much more than simply guide people to their destinations. They make locals and visitors feel at home and welcome. They enhance the ambiance and attractiveness of your community, and they build and promote your community’s brand or theme.