Today, public space is full of unfamiliar features: plastic partitions, mask requirements, and rules that dictate how far apart to stand, how many people can be in a space, and even in what direction we can walk down an aisle or hallway. Sign designers face an unprecedented challenge: to help us understand our way around a world that’s fundamentally different from the one we left when the pandemic hit. Now more than ever, wayfinding signs are becoming a surprisingly crucial backdrop to ease our return to public life.
“As the world attempts to reopen, signage plays a critical new role,” says Guayente Sanmartin, general manager of HP’s large format graphics business.
On our way to buy groceries, renew our licenses, or just to spend time in our neighborhood parks, new wayfinding signs — one-way arrows, decals that say “stand here,” and much more — pack a world of information into a single glance, providing the assurance that we’re headed in the right direction. For businesses, Sanmartin adds, “signage communicates a message of safety, calm, and care” that puts customers at ease during this uncertain time.
Why we need effective wayfinding
The goal of a wayfinding sign is to clearly and concisely tell people where they are and where they ought to be going, without getting in their way.
“Although we had solutions for when people could move around normally, we know that we can't use those same solutions,” says Cesar Sanchez, managing director of the New York office of Netherlands-based wayfinding firm Mijksenaar.