Wayfinding: The Art of Directional Signage

When was the last time you relied on a sign to find your way to an event, a doctor’s office, or even your new home? While signage is important for people visiting cities or new locations, properly designed wayfinding signs allow people to easily navigate places like office space, apartment buildings, and hospitals. These visual or tactile pathways can also help save time, reduce stress, and provide clarity.

Directional signage is one of the hallmarks of wayfinding. Here we explore the forms of signage and best practices for designing directional signs.

What Is Directional Signage?

JR Tolkien famously said, “not all who wander are lost.” Wayfinding is the art of ensuring those who wander always know exactly where to go and what to expect when you get there. Unfortunately,  moving through an environment or space is not always clear-cut. Directional signage can help people move from point a to point b, providing clear and concise directions.

Directional signage may also reveal other details about your destination, like the distance and duration between areas. But directions are only part of wayfinding. There are three more types of wayfinding signage.

What are the Various Types of Wayfinding Signage?

  1. Identification – Identification signs tell you what’s at that particular point or space, like a street address, office numbers, door plaques, donor signs, and more.
  2. Informational – These signs provide details about where you are, such as amenities or business hours, what hazards may be around you, what’s important about the location, and other space-related details.
  3. Regulatory – Regulatory signage provides safety information or regulatory rules for the space or environment such as traffic signs like “don’t walk” or “stop.”

Best Practices for Directional Signage Design

Design is the first step in creating directional signage. The right designs can give your location some character while also providing a visual pathway. Here are three best practices to keep in mind when designing directional signs, large or small, indoor or outdoor.

The Key Principles of Wayfinding Designs:

  • They should be easy to read with legible fonts, high contrasting colors, and simple, user-friendly language.
  • They should be concise in the messaging. This is especially important if they are used in a high-traffic or fast-paced area or environments where people only have time for a quick glance.
  • They should have consistent branding throughout the locations. For example, if all signs are a specific color or shape, it’s much easier for people to look for and recognize them as wayfinding.

Common Forms of Directional Signage

Here’s where the true art of wayfinding begins to take shape. Directional signage and wayfinding signage can be indoor, outdoor, or a mixture of both. Depending on the location, duration of need (one-time event versus permanent fixture), and messaging, some forms of directional signage are better than others.

Directional Wall-Mounted Signs

Highly versatile, these directional signs can be painted by hand, small vinyl film decals, full wall wraps, or hard-plated plastic, acrylic, or metal. You’ll often see these as arrows or other shapes showing a particular direction like signs that point to apartment units, offices, emergency exits or restrooms, and more.

Directional Floor Decals

Since most people tend to watch where they are walking, floor graphics are a good location for directional signage. They can be painted on, designed in chalk, or made from a more durable vinyl material. Durable floor graphics can be permanent or removable and help guide people where to go or when to stop in airports, convention centers, shopping malls, offices, apartments, and more.

Directional Window Graphics

Not a lot of wall space in your location? Directional signage can be installed on windows using special film. This glass treatment is most often custom-made due to the nature of the surface. Consider using window graphics when you need to place directional details on a glass exit or entrance door. Plus, window graphics can be designed as a privacy film, depending on the need and location.

Directional A-Frame & Coroplast Signage

A-frame and coroplast directional signage is perfect for guiding foot traffic on sidewalks and other pathways, as well as directing cars through parking lots or detours. A-frames provide a two-sided smooth flat surface for vinyl adhesives, while coroplast signs have the graphics printed directly on the corrugated plastic. Coroplast signs are also UV resistant and waterproof if needed for extended outdoor use.

Directional Flag Signage

Flags are an excellent directional signage option for retail, events, and trade shows. They can be seen from afar, depending on the height. They are fabric, so they are light and easy to transport. They can also be double-sided, like a-frame signs. Directional flags typically don’t have much room for details, but they can help people quickly pinpoint your location.

Directional Banners

Whether hanging from the ceiling, mounted on the wall or the side of a building, placed on a pole, or covering a barricade or fence, directional banners are a versatile option for many companies. Directional banners are made from fabric, mesh, and vinyl. Large format direction banners are not only eye-catching, but they also offer vendors or companies plenty of space for directional messaging.


ADA Directional Signage
Outdoor Posts Directional Signage
Hotel Directional Signage
SEG Directional Signage
Window Graphic Directional Signage
Overhead Directional Signage
Wall Mounted Directional Signage
ADA Directional Signage Outdoor Posts Directional Signage Hotel Directional Signage SEG Directional Signage Window Graphic Directional Signage Overhead Directional Signage Wall Mounted Directional Signage

Custom Directional Signage for Your Business

Besides the typical forms of wayfinding signage listed above, there are a few specific types of directional signage that businesses or vendors can use to help navigate a large or small space or area. An example of a dynamic directional sign is a post with arrows pointing the way to multiple areas in a museum, street fair, or even rides at a theme park. Here are some other eye-catching directional signage solutions.

SEG Directional Signage

SEG (silicone edge graphic) is a high-resolution fabric graphic finished with a thin silicone strip. These directional signs are typically wall-mounted or as a stand-alone display. They are borderless and recessed, allowing you to use the entire space for your directional design. Because of this feature, you can add a light behind the print to further illuminate the wayfinding sign, making it easily visible from afar.

ADA Directional Signage

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodations, and more. One requirement of public accommodation is ADA sign compliance. Indoor buildings must have identification and directional signs with raised text, raised graphics, and/or Braille for areas or rooms, especially office numbers, entrances and exits, and restroom signs. Required ADA signs are often wall mounted for easy access.

Digital Directional Signage

Digital signs are not only dynamic, but they are cost-effective. The graphics may have an upfront cost, but a digital directional sign can be updated quickly with little to no cost. Digital signs are more eco-friendly than some printed directional signage and you can easily integrate mobile applications with digital directional signs as well.

Interactive Directional Signage

Interactive directional signage promotes haptic experiences between the person and the sign. These unique directional signs can be digital or physical. Companies or vendors can get creative with touchscreen displays or kiosks with interactive map features or design a physical display with lights or sounds that people can activate to figure out where to go next.

Best Custom Directional Signage

Directional signage is an essential tool for companies, businesses, and vendors. Color Reflections can help you create custom large-format directional signage like banners, SEGs, fabric graphics, wall-mounted graphics or wraps.

With six nationwide locations, our teams have designed multiple large format prints, delivering versatile directional signage for multi-family properties, apartment complexes, businesses, outdoor and indoor sporting events, trade shows, and more. We can also offer professional installation of large-format signage. Work with us to create directional signage for your next project.