Signage and Wayfinding in a Post-COVID-19 World

Wayfinding and signage help guide people through various environments to navigate indoor and outdoor spaces. Digital and monument signs are just two of the wide variety of signage available to help people find their way from point A to point B quickly.

In pre-pandemic times, discrete signage that conveyed the barest information yet still effectively helped people to reach their destinations was the mark of effective wayfinding. Now, however, experts recommend a more “in your face” strategy during the time of COVID-19.

It’s no longer just about navigating through a building or across a campus. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need to remind everyone about the importance of physical distancing, mask wearing, frequent hand washing, effective queueing, new capacity limits on elevators, and — depending on the industry — much more.

Short- and Long-Term Strategies

What will your business or company need to manage and direct people – and how can signage help to influence and shape those desired behaviors? In the longer term, you may need to consider more fundamental changes.

Static, analog signage like building or room identification that comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA[JI1] ), easel signs, and banners work well to communicate information that changes. However, the trend toward digital signage and wayfinding design has become more than just a passing fancy but rather, a necessity, because digital signage has the added benefit of easily changing messaging with just a simple edit. For example, digital directories are easily updated when a tenant leaves or moves in; and directories provide the perfect vehicle to broadcast emergency messages, when required.

Here are a few more ideas:

  • Temporary stickers strategically placed on doors, stair risers, or other areas where we interact with the physical environment can grab attention elegantly but with purpose. Building managers and operators can use inexpensive materials or adhesives that allow for removal without damage to the walls once the stickers have served their purpose.
  • Digital or traditional easel signs could direct people to the nearest hand washing or sanitizing stations or provide reminders about maintaining proper physical distancing, and more. Restaurants can use sign holders to remind patrons to wait for seating or provide other direction. These sign holders offer adaptability and flexibility.
  • The retail industry might also tap into the increased digital consumption by providing engaging, creative in-store experiences. Imagine reimagining the visual merchandising experience, using digital signs to enhance the customer journey from the display windows they browse while queueing to enter to other signs with changing messages — including branded reminders to maintain physical distancing — as they browse throughout the store. Newer technology even allows us to choose dresses or suits to try on virtually!

Post-COVID-19 Signage and Wayfinding Best Practices

As people return to their offices, businesses, stores, restaurants, and other public places, these suggestions may help to ensure a smoother transition that includes guidance and reminders about how to move safely in a post-COVID-19 world.

  • Tailor and customize signs to embrace a more friendly, welcoming, and human approach. For example, opt for “Reminder: Masks are Required,” instead of “Put on a Mask!” to remind people that their behavior affects the collective. This approach can also help instill a sense of community and common purpose.
  • Keep your audience in mind. Think about the user’s journey as they return to these spaces, and how they’re thinking and feeling. Friendly messages like, “We missed you. Welcome back!” at the entrance and “Please wash your hands.” signs in the restrooms keep spaces open and welcoming.
  • Iconography, instructional signage, and positive messages work well together. Signs that include welcome or security signage, hand sanitizer stations, and meeting room protocols — supported by companion communications campaigns — inform and educate everyone about the new measures and their implementation.
  • Include your company’s brand in the new signs when you’re strategizing the signs you need now — and as the pandemic evolves. Opt for illustrations or other visuals and clever phrasing that uplift and align with your brand’s personality.
  • New posted signage should be visible, direct, clear, and unambiguous.

Much of life has been on hold for many weeks. Our reentry into the world should be welcoming and uplifting, not threatening or stress-inducing. This physical entry will also benefit from gentle but firm reminders via signage and wayfinding to maintain the precautions and measures recommended for everyone’s health and wellbeing.

Handshaking may have become a thing of the past — but personalized messaging that reminds us we are welcome and safe emphasizes our humanity. Presenting those reminders in a way that affirms community and togetherness is an effective approach.

If your business is looking for guidance on the signs to communicate new protocols and safety measures to customers, clients, and employees, Gary Baron, President of The Sign Center Corp and CREA United member can help. CREA United offers a collaboration of high-level professionals with a broad range of expertise in the real estate landscape, from interior design to legal, marketing and advertising, and much more.

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