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The time for paper maps and handwritten directions are coming to an end as more and more of our things are being replaced with digital alternatives. Wayfinding is no exception, as more companies, public spaces, and individual users are turning to digital signage to light the way. 

Because wayfinding has turned to digital signage for the posting of directions and public information, it has resulted in both an increased demand for wayfinding and the production of several tools to create wayfinding more easily through digital signage. 

Below we will go over the importance of wayfinding and signage, why it's useful, how to make it, and who can help you make it — or make it for you — if you need assistance. 

Digital Signage And Wayfinding

Though digital signage is a term usually associated with marketing and advertising platforms, it can also be utilized for general information posting as well. 

In short, wayfinding is the process of making and using maps or directions for giving information to guiding customers or other people to a needed location. Digital signage ranges from informational posts, to directions, and to advertisements that exist all in a virtual, “digital” space. 

When digital signage wayfinding (also called digital wayfinding or interactive wayfinding) is made, the digital space, such as a touch screen, is coded with a specific map, directions, or specified information to make navigation easier. 

Digital wayfinding can either be active or static. Meaning that it can be an interactive touch screen, where the user can navigate, or it can just be a digital map that does not have the ability to be interacted with. Common examples of digital wayfinding can be found in:

  • Airports. Airports are chalk full of digital wayfinding technologies. From the signs above each airport gate, to the countless monitors for flight department schedules, to the general airport maps, airports have some of the biggest need for digital wayfinding in the world. 
  • Malls. Malls are perhaps the most popular place where digital wayfinding is used. If you have ever been to a mall, chances are you have seen one of several large maps that show all the stores, the floor plans (if there are multiple levels), all of which is usually color coded by type of store, food, bathrooms, etc.
  • Hospitals and medical facilities. Large hospitals or medical facilities tend to have several smaller department wings designated for different purposes and patients. Digital wayfinding is often used to make navigation easier, and is especially useful for after-hours-services, such as sleep testing, when most staff will not be around. 
  • Commercial buildings. Most modern commercial buildings — skyscrapers, large banks, insurance agencies, etc. — will also have digital wayfinding of some kind. 
  • GPS. GPS, Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc. are all technically considered digital wayfinding as well. 

Why Digital Wayfinding Is Used

Aside from the obvious — it’s cool! — digital wayfinding possess several benefits to industries and customers alike. The biggest reason may be that it's self-sufficient. If you have a proficient digital wayfinding system, there’s no need to bother staff to ask for directions. Plus, most people like to not ask for help if it's up to them. 

Whether a company offers after-hours-services like a hotel (checking into your room late), or hiking a mountain late in the evening, digital maps can be utilized to ensure things can always run smoothly. 

Digital wayfinding systems are also very easy to adjust. If a new store is added, a change in floor plans occurs, or a mistake is made, the programmer or designer can simply go into the file, and adjust the directions or map with ease. 

Lastly, digital wayfinding also provides the ability to make superior maps and give superior directions than a paper map or verbal directions could ever offer. This creates less headaches for people unfamiliar with a given place, and gives them the best chance for easily getting to their destination.  

Making Digital Wayfinding Signage

Making your own digital wayfinding signage may appear tricky and — while it can be difficult — it can be pretty straightforward once you have everything you need. 

What Do You Need?

You will need 3 main things for making digital wayfinding signage. 

  1. Display. Are you going to put the signage on a big monitor, small monitor, interactive touch screen monitor, or something else? This is a simple and — hopefully — easy decision that will save you some unnecessary work in the future once you decide. 
  1. Designer. Whether you will be doing the design yourself, a friend or colleague, or a company, somebody needs to know what they are doing, especially if the design is going to be in a public space. 
  1. Design. Most digital wayfinding is created using CAD — computer aided design — software which can be transmitted into a “CAD file”. Others will use vector files, which are basically super mathematical images that produce a more detailed image than a normal designing software. 

After you have all 3 of these things, the files can be moved to whoever or whatever needs it, and you can be on your way to giving directions.

Principles For Design

Even though digital maps and directions are inherently interesting, it doesn’t mean that they can be designed without care. There are a few design principles to keep in mind when making digital wayfinding signage of any kind. 

  • Location. The where of any digital wayfinding system may be the most important component which determines its success or failure. For digital wayfinding in a mall, most of the maps are at the entrances. This is exactly where they should be. You wouldn’t want your one map of a hotel to be on the top story right? Location is key. 
  • Simplicity. This one has a bit of a catch. While some advanced digital finding signage have many interactive capabilities (from finding directions, to mapping a path, to ordering food and looking at schedules), all of which are complex designs, they are still easily manageable to use. Being user-friendly is a key characteristic of successful digital wayfinding signage.  

On the note of simplicity, it’s okay for your wayfinding signage to not be interactive (i.e. not have a touch screen with a bunch of “cool” characteristics). Though it’s often fun, it can also be distracting and, frankly, not necessary when you are trying to provide a straightforward, quality service — offering informing and navigation.

  • Helpfulness. Nobody wants to look at the map of a store with 90% of it being all the details of the restroom. Finding the balance between giving just the right information — general labels, short descriptions, etc. — without giving too much is essential for giving others an optimal experience when using your digital wayfinding system. 

What Companies Will Make Digital Signage?

Even if we would like to be a pro-designer, sometimes we just know we aren’t and require some external assistance. Fortunately, there are a number of companies that can assist and create digital wayfinding signage to fulfill your navigational needs. 

  • Visix designs digital signage, specializing in wayfinding, with some cutting edge programming — including voice activated wayfinding — as well as a host of other services, including training and support. 
  • Olea Kiosks provides all three of the services mentioned above. They provide their own kiosks with displays, and serve as the designer to make a personalized design to whatever your specific needs are.  
  • There are a number of digital wayfinding apps — including Robin and My Tours — which allow you to make your designs with more ease and professional help to contact if any issues arise. These apps allow you to split the difference between getting professional assistance and doing it yourself.