“Sign Language” in Healthcare

Recently, we came across an article from Health Facilities Management Magazine that gives a great overview of wayfinding signs in the healthcare environment.

Written by Steve Stephenson, “Sign Language: Hospital Wayfinding Design Strategies and Implementation” discusses important wayfinding considerations, like code compliance, sign standards, and who to involve in the development process. We recommend checking out the full article – but in today’s post we’ll touch on some of the points that correspond with our own thoughts on wayfinding.

Wayfinding Sign in Healthcare Environment

Healthcare Wayfinding Strategies

Wayfinding strategies follow a similar process for most large or complex facilities, but healthcare environments call for additional considerations. Often patients and visitors in hospitals are operating at a higher level of stress and emotion, and many are first-time or infrequent visitors to the facility. This makes easy, intuitive wayfinding even more important and reassuring.

As Stephenson explains, an analysis is needed to determine problems or sources of confusion in existing wayfinding. It’s also necessary to establish facility goals for how the facility will function and present itself to visitors.

At ASA, we conduct facility assessments to offer an expert review of a facility’s sign system, as well as other factors impacting wayfinding. These include architecture, nomenclature, staff involvement, and navigation patterns. This on-site review allows our planners to become familiar with the facility, meet with the project team to solidify goals, and identify elements in the environment that can be improved to meet these goals.

View of Mountain out of Window of Healthcare Environment

The Big Picture of Wayfinding

Wayfinding pulls together many different elements in an environment. Stephenson says “Wayfinding should not be considered a different activity from signage design but, rather, a broader, more inclusive way of assessing all the environmental issues which impact our ability to find our way.”

This idea is integral to our approach to wayfinding. Considering architectural flow, interior design, key decision points, consistent terminology, and other non-sign factors allows us to develop a system that provides intuitive wayfinding and orientation.

The “big picture” approach also means that other concerns are considered. Budget, project timeline, code compliance, and sign program maintenance all play an important role in developing the right wayfinding system for each facility.

Multiple Signs in Healthcare Environment

Wayfinding & Sign Standards

Stephenson stresses the importance of developing wayfinding standards. These standards do not just apply to the aesthetic appearance of signage, but also to things like determining what circumstances require a sign, what size and type of sign that should be, and how signs will be updated and maintained.

Standards development and implementation is a vital part of our own process. This starts with concept development establishing a color palette, visual presentation, and hierarchy of signs. Standards are carried then through sign planning and documentation to ensure consistent sign placement and nomenclature.

To ensure standards can be easily maintained, we provide a unique Sign Program Manual. This organizes all program information in one place, allows our clients to easily update and reorder signs, and provides for long-term efficiency.

If you’d like to find out more about our wayfinding process for healthcare facilities or other complex environments, contact us!


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