People and Technology: the Perfect Wayfinding Pair

In its simplest form, wayfinding presents a system that guides people through a physical environment. There is, however, much more to effective wayfinding than merely reaching a destination.

The most obvious form of wayfinding guidance is the physical signage of arrows directing users to various buildings and end points. With the omnipresence of technology in our everyday lives, the relevance of wayfinding is no longer just for navigation, but the overarching theme of connection. It sets the mood and reinforces positive perceptions through which people experience their wayfinding journey.

So, who’s behind it all?

Stephen Minning, CEO of PAM Wayfinding and Director of BrandCulture Communications, has been creating branded environments and pioneering new concepts of wayfinding for nearly two decades. Realising the need for senior management to start connecting with the rest of the workforce, BrandCulture was formed.

Minning admits wayfinding is a concept that has historically been carried out rather poorly within physical environments. Seemingly simple, the true complexity of incorporating proper wayfinding systems into an ever-changing space made him realise how wrong it could actually go.

Rather than commission multiple project managers to overlook interrelated information, Minning decided that it would be more effective to design a cloud-based system that could streamline the information and create efficiency. Not only would this system save time and money when implemented, future projects would benefit from it too.

“Here was a problem without a well-functioning solution,” says Minning. “I knew I had to step in and create the solution myself, since nobody else was going to do it.”

“After all, what is a brand worth if the user or client cannot connect with it? The key to projecting an exemplary vision of a brand is proper communication—this extends to the built environment and wayfinding, without which, brand equity falls flat.”

PAM’s journey with the University of Canberra

With the complexity of a university campus, implementing a proper wayfinding system is even more critical. Multiple stakeholders, budgets, as well as disjointed software and technology, can prove extreme challenges in the wayfinding sphere.

For Kamal Kopparapu, Campus Planning and Design Coordinator at University of Canberra, shifting from a private architectural firm to the public university sector meant the journey to achieving digital wayfinding was no easy task.

“Most of the existing processes and software available on the market focused on one aspect of wayfinding—be it auditing, planning, design, implementation or maintenance—taking streams out of the entire process,” says Kopparapu.

“Part of the university’s vision was to come up with a holistic, integrated approach rather than focusing on each part in isolation.”

Unlike many of the other wayfinding options out there, Kopparapu says PAM is different in that it provides UC with strategic opportunities to improve the user experience. As an end-result, the platform allows UC to deliver the prototype, production and installation phases all in one operation.

“At the time that PAM was awarded the tender for the UC project, there was no other wayfinding provider in the market who came even remotely close to filling the brief of the university’s 2030 ‘smart campus’ vision. And there still isn’t,” says Kamal.

Creating a campus experience of the future

 Technology is key to the future of functional wayfinding and user experience, but the actual technology still remains secondary; it begins with the needs of the user as they journey to and through a campus. Accessible wayfinding is a key element to ensuring people from all walks of life can enjoy their experience, regardless of age or ability.

“Wayfinding is just one of the elements of campus experience—the end goal being to make people feel welcome, confident and comfortable,” says Kopparapu. “As with UC’s 2030 vision, people should be at the top of the agenda.”

In the modern wayfinding world, people are engaging with mobile technology more frequently. These innovations enable people to experience their environment, and provides access to precisely the amount of information they require.

This does not automatically render fixed signage irrelevant, but rather emphasises the fact that signage needs to be adaptable and integrated. The physical space is immersed in the digital world, so technology and digital signage must remain functional, flexible and scalable.

As a result, traditional products are now becoming digital gateways that enable users to connect with wayfinding information, based on their personal needs.

“The idea is to create more knowledge—not to hold back on ideas—otherwise they will live and die in one project’s ecosystem,” says Minning.

“At the end of the day, the more collaboration there is [in the wayfinding sphere], the better it will be for students and those having to navigate around those spaces.”

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