Information design:
in practice, an informed theory

InformForm is an international platform for information design, which celebrates and explores both practical and theoretical experimentation within the field of design. It prides itself on showcasing relevant examples of work by students, for students. Read More

inform #12 wayfinding, signage and instruction

By InformForm

InformForm workshop with Year 2 BA (Hons) Graphic Design students from Ravensbourne, London

Wayfinding and Signage

The terms signage and wayfinding are sometimes used synonymously, but it is important to distinguish the two. Wayfinding is a comprehensive and strategic plan that attempts solve all navigational problems by finding solutions that enable a user to fully engage and move through a space. Once all navigational needs have been covered, wayfinding strategy dispatches appropriate solutions; these include anything from signage to environmental cues, to landmarks to printed or digital collateral information such as maps, floor plans and human guides. Well-designed wayfinding solutions are inclusive and serve to unify the space and guide as many users as possible through an environment. Well designed signage minimises the decisions that a user has to make by providing critical support at decision points from start to the end destination.


Instructional design is the practice that explains sequence of events step by step with the aim of effective knowledge acquisition.

Instructional signs include anything from the simple but useful ‘push’ and ‘pull’ signs to more complex instructional signs such as opening hours. Some instructional signs have specific legal requirements; they might direct people towards emergency exists or indicate the location of fire fighting equipment, how to use it and evacuation procedures. Symbols are usually an essential feature of instructional design as they show the flow and process of what’s being explained.

Instruction: process

Designing instruction or instructional materials is an iterative process. Ideally each stage of the process is informed by prototyping and testing. Regular feedback is key to inform and develop the following stage. Before embarking on the design, one needs to set objectives and understand the information that is to be communicated; what should the reader learn, what is the motivation and prior knowledge, and how will they achieve these goals. Additionally, consider the context of the instruction. Following the preparatory stage, plan the various steps of the instruction and develop a blueprint; consider how much content will be presented, in what order and what has priority. Develop a visual language that guides the user through the successive steps of the instruction; you may want to consider lines of various weights to separate sections and subsections for example.

The key to successful instructional diagrams is to schematise the necessary information, not to remove it. It is advisable to think about the format and media of your instruction from early stages of the process as appropriate technologies can enhance the communication.

Recommended texts and websites:
Signage Design Manual by Edo Smitshuijzen
The Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Places by David Gibson
Wayfinding Design in the Public Environment by Andrew Hodson
Wayshowing > Wayfinding: Basic & Interactive by Per Mollerup
Wayfinding and Signage by Philipp Meuser and Daniela Pogade

Posted in Articles
August 15, 2015
450 words & 5 images

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