Wayfinding Signage Design

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Wayfinding directional signage and directory map at The Star: Home of the Dallas Cowboys with a hotel in the background and the Cowboys training field.

What is Wayfinding Design?

Wayfinding is a set of experiences working in concert together to assist the user in orienting themselves and navigating to a specific destination.

Especially important within the built environment, wayfinding provides visual cues to help guide people to their destinations with ease and comfort. Working in close collaboration with key stakeholders and design consultants, the process of crafting a wayfinding program starts with a careful flow analysis exploring how people move thru places. Following this discovery phase, a visual kit of parts that carries the brand voice is designed to match the user’s needs.  The design process engages the user from varying perspectives to create a comprehensive wayfinding system that serves the community and evolves over time as user’s needs change.

Wayfinding Projects

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What is a wayfinding strategy?

The Wayfinding Profile

It’s much more than signage

All disciplines of design within the built environment must consider wayfinding as a key element of the user experience – planning, architecture, interiors, landscape, and lighting are all impacted by their relationship with wayfinding. Successful wayfinding design takes a multidimensional approach that includes all of the consultants working together with a common vision based on the principles of comfort and ease of navigation. By considering numerous experiential elements collectively a comprehensive wayfinding strategy can create a seamlessly integrated and intuitive navigation experience for individuals within any environment.

Signage & Graphics

As a critical piece of the wayfinding profile, signage and graphics fill gaps left by other areas of the built environment. Well-designed and strategically placed signage enhances navigation and improves the overall wayfinding experience by providing clear directions, identifying destinations, and conveying important information in a branded visual manner. Importantly, if the environment decodes itself, then there is less need for traditional wayfinding signage. The goal is not more signage, but better collective wayfinding elements.

Landscape & Lighting

Landscape architecture and carefully curated lighting design can also play crucial roles in shaping the wayfinding experience. Well-designed thoughtful landscapes can provide assistance with orientation and navigation with feature memorable elements. A properly planned lighting scheme enhances safety and visibility of the surroundings, making navigation much easier.

Architecture & Interiors

Architecture and interior design can impact wayfinding by providing clear layouts and visually distinct features that help individuals navigate and orient themselves within buildings. Considerations for accessibility and universal design further enhance the wayfinding experience, ensuring that everyone can easily navigate and orient themselves comfortably.

City Planning & Site Location

When a destination is located in close proximity to noteworthy landmarks, transportation hubs, or iconic attractions, it becomes easier for users to navigate successfully. This proximity allows for better spatial orientation and reduces the reliance on complex directions or extensive travel, enhancing the overall wayfinding experience.

Isometric 3D map artwork for 5th + Broadway in Nashville, TN showing parking levels and tenant locations to orient visitors to the surroundings and help in finding their destination

Needs of the Build Environment

Human needs translated for the built environment

In Abraham Maslow’s 1943 book A Theory of Human Motivation he outlines a number of needs that build on each other….physiological needs, food, water, warmth, rest, safety, love & belonging, esteem, and self actualization. These can be reinterpreted for the built environment in the form of “Certainty, Variety, and Delight”. These three key human needs are a guide to developing a suite of elements that people are drawn to instinctively because they satisfy basic human needs that are desired subconsciously.


Scale, Color, Pattern, Form

Variety keeps things interesting while providing a functional breakdown of the overall experience into smaller more intimate experiences. These varying areas denoted by differing elements, carry the same DNA origins, but help with the user’s cognitive mapping of an environment.


Maps, Arrows, Labels, Symbols

Certainty deciphers the environment for the user and primarily identifies uses, navigation, and directs traffic. One can let their guard down with the understanding of the environment and these elements of certainty provide assurance and comfort. All aspects of the wayfinding profile assist in creating certainty for the user.


Sculpture, Art, Whimsy, Surprise

Delight is the fun part….it’s the colorful sculpture or mural or unexpected feature where people want to engage and experience on an emotional level. These landmark moments add to the wayfinding experience in subtle intuitive ways and typically inform the personality of the place through interpretation of various influences such as culture, community, history, and emotion.

“Structuring and identifying the environment is a vital ability among all mobile animals.” —Kevin Lynch

Where did the term wayfinding come from?

One can’t discuss wayfinding within the built environment without mentioning Kevin Lynch and The Image of the City where he shared that a city or space can be “classified into five types of elements: paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks.” These elements acting at multiple scales facilitate clear movement throughout a place for vehicles and pedestrians. Wayfinding, which is truly everywhere in the built environment, becomes a critical component of navigation.

More on Kevin Lynch in our article: What is Wayfinding?


“The channels along which the observer customarily, occasionally, or potentially moves. They may be streets, walkways, transit lines, canals, railroads.” These channels provide the framework for wayfinding as they directly facilitate movement and connections.

What are the different types of Wayfinding?

Components of Wayfinding

Lighting Design

The transition of wayfinding from day to night needs to be seamless and the way feature lighting elements can highlight a path, landmark, or decision making point, can be critical to the success of the holistic guest experience.

Landscape Design

In concert with architecture and signage, the way softscape and hardscape are treated can aide in the wayfinding experience by creating memorable and tactile landmarks in the spaces between buildings.


Rules, regulations, or restrictions that individuals must follow in a particular area are important tools to provide information such as speed limits, parking restrictions, or specific instructions for accessing certain areas.


General information about the surroundings, landmarks, or points of interest help users understand their context, location, or culture and make informed decisions about their route, learning and discovering along the way.


Providing specific instructions and pointing user towards different destinations, these wayfinding components ease navigation and indicate paths to follow and discover.


Helping individuals identify and locate specific site, buildings, or room, these elements typically display names, numbers, or labels that allow for easy recognition and identification of desired destinations.

Art & Sculpture

Wayfinding tools do not only include traditional forms of signage, but properly place art and engaging elements create visual and intuitive clues to aide in comfortable navigation…and have some creativity and enjoyment along the way.

Architectural Features

Collaboration with the architecture can provide intuitive integrated features that are equally as important to clear navigation as a sign and are seamlessly woven into the user experience… “take a left at the big red wall”.

Topic Series

Articles on Wayfinding Design

Wayfinding design poster for article series on wayfinding signage design including the reason for wayfinding and how it has evolved over time

What is Wayfinding?

What is Next in Wayfinding?

Wayfinding Signage Markets

RSM Design specializes in creating intuitive wayfinding solutions for a diverse range of markets, including hospitality, healthcare, mixed-use, residential, and corporate. Essentially any private or public place is within our domain. Leveraging our expertise in developing wayfinding systems, we transform spaces into accessible, engaging, and memorable destinations tailored to each projects's unique needs and identity.

Hospitality Wayfinding Signage

Wayfinding signage design tailored to the needs of hotels, resorts, and the hospitality sector.

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Health & Wellness

Starting with meticulous research, we plan & strategize for the wayfinding signage design needs of each Hospital, Medical Center, or Clinic.

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Mixed-Use Wayfinding

Adaptable wayfinding signage design systems that suit the variety of needs at mixed-use developments.

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Sports & Entertainment

Wayfinding signage design for sports focused venues and entertainment districts

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Cultural Wayfinding

Well-designed wayfinding design systems add value to one’s experience within cultural centers, galleries, and museums.

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Retail Wayfinding Signage

Wayfinding signage elevates the guest experience resulting in a holistic shopping and entertainment project.

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Science + Technology

With our extensive experience we seek to enhance scientific workplaces and spaces so discovery can flourish.

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Food & Beverage

Creating eclectic wayfiinding signage and graphics programs for foodhalls, public markets, restaurants, and cafes.

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Park Wayfinding Signage

Working closely with cities, communities, and developers to connect people with outdoor spaces through creative park wayfinding signage.

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Civic Wayfinding Design

Comprehensive wayfinding signage solutions tailored to civic environments where the goal is to facilitate efficient navigation and enhancing public accessibility and engagement.

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Education Wayfinding Signage

Seamless navigation and enhanced campus accessibility for students, faculty, and visitors through integrated wayfinding design.

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Residential Community Design

Convenient navigation and elevated living experience for residents within neighborhoods and communities.

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Transit Wayfinding Signage

Streamlining navigation and enhancing passenger experiences across various modes of transportation.

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Parking Garage Wayfinding

Optimized navigation and efficient vehicle flow within the arrive experience of parking garages.

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Waterfront Wayfinding Signage

Facilitating easy navigation and enhancing visitor experiences along the waterfront promenade.

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RSM Design focuses on research driven design to create comprehensive and timeless wayfinding systems that enhance the user’s experience and serve the greater good of the community.