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What Are Environmental Graphics and Wayfinding Best Practices?

If your organization is considering a renovation or relocation, it’s important to identify how environmental graphics and wayfinding could play a role.

What are environmental graphics and wayfinding?

Environmental graphics are the visual showcase of a brand. They present an opportunity to make a space come alive with company culture and bring a level of excitement to its inhabitants. Environmental graphics not only tell you how to navigate space but can also deliver a sense of energy and provide some guidance on how one might behave in a space. The emotional and physical experiences we create in spaces connect people to place. Wayfinding is how you navigate through spaces, following a path between origin and destination. “The best wayfinding is invisible”. Wayfinding is not limited to signage. Other visual cues can guide you through the space such as color, materiality, or an architectural feature such as ceiling height.

In collaboration with one of our partners Kristy Sieve, founder of Coalesive, we have identified the Top 4 Best Practices as they relate to your graphics and wayfinding journey.

Whether you are just beginning the process or are well underway, we are here with a Q&A with Kristy, along

with some additional insights that we hope will bring value to telling your story!


Best Practice 1: - ENGAGE EARLY

Q: What is the most important step in the Environmental Graphics and Wayfinding process?

KS: Make sure you have all the right people in the room at the start of the project. The best environmental experiences happen when facilities, brands, architecture, and interiors are all married together at the beginning.

It is important to dig deeper and build a library not only based on the brand itself, but the colors, fabrics, finishes, and spatial configuration, using them all to bridge the gap between 2D and 3D to help relay your story.

Engaging the entire team at the beginning will result in more opportunities for collaboration, coordination, and problem-solving as the design evolves. By identifying your key stakeholders and establishing those partnerships early on, not only will you see positive results, but you may also see cost savings.

Each of these key players holds a different perspective that brings balance to a project. With leadership and facilities holistically understanding the organizational vision, behaviors, and personality of­­ the business, branding brings out the character through the visual identity and brand messaging. When considering all these elements working together in harmony, the design coalesces from a storytelling perspective, resulting in a cohesive built environment and brand.


Best Practice 2: - TELL YOUR STORY

Q: What are the benefits when considering a “Branded Environment”?

KS: The branded environment is how you want people to feel when they are in your space. Take the individual on a journey and consider each of the interior elements working together to tell your brand story and create an atmosphere that enhances the employee experience. It’s important to ask: What does that whole experience look like? What story are you trying to tell?

It’s also important to understand how each person is going to experience the entire space. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and make your way through, starting with their first interaction. This is where a customer will experience an introduction to the space and the brand. “Your brand should be instantly identifiable.” ­­

As you move into the space, think about how you want to set the stage, whether that is through your mission statement, or a moment to recognize your organization’s community impact, or ­a place to tell your success stories. As you continue through you should feel a sense of rising action. Be sure not to give them everything in one place.

As the story continues to build on itself, bring them to that “Aha Moment”. The Aha Moment should make the most impact, bring the most energy, and encourage the end-user to move forward with purpose and relevance. From this point forward, there should be a decline in action, bringing them full circle to a “Resolution”, or an ending to their journey through the space.



Q: How does wayfinding play a role in the storytelling process?

KS: Signage and Wayfinding can easily ruin the entire experience. If a customer or employee can’t find their way, their experience is diminished. Good wayfinding is ‘invisible’ and should make for an easy journey through the space.

Quality over quantity is important in how you provide visitors with the necessary information. Use familiar naming structures to limit confusion and landmarks to help your customer easily move through the space.

As you are already thinking about how you want to tell your story, it is helpful to break that customer journey into different zones:

Zone 1 - The Client-Facing Zone

This zone is generally the first impression. It is here that you want to begin telling your story through your mission, vision, and values. Balancing your message and the first impression is important for providing just enough information to the customer so they know who you are, enticing them further into the space and the brand.

Zone 2 – The Interaction Zone

This is where staff and clients usually cross paths. You will typically find this to be a gathering space where collaboration and interaction take place. Messaging in this zone needs to be appropriate to all audiences.

Zone 3 – The Staff Zone

Messaging in this area is intended for staff and is often a good opportunity to relay specific behavior messaging, promote brand awareness, and act as a platform for staff engagement. This zone should be utilized to ensure participation and company support and buy-in from your team.



Q: What advice would you give clients as they are beginning the Graphics and Wayfinding conversation?

KS: Your people are the front line of your business. The workplace needs to respond to what the expectations are of the incoming workforce. For example, Millennials expect an experience and a purpose. The best way to create a purpose-driven company is by creating an environment and an experience that helps support your people so they can thrive.

Companies like Apple, Disney, and Ikea have set a standard for how someone feels when they walk into their space or when someone sees their ad on tv or in a magazine. That experience and feeling are driven by the need to attract and retain both customers and employees. These experiences have set an expectation when it comes to the type of company that millennials and future generations want to work for.

Setting your company apart from the competition in order to attract and retain top talent isn’t just important anymore, it is crucial. Employee engagement and satisfaction all start from the experience as a whole. While a company’s mission and vision are at the center of every business, the graphics and wayfinding work together with the other elements of a space to pull together a positive employee experience.


The images referenced throughout this post are the result of an interior renovation for Fidelity and Guaranty Life in Des Moines, IA. This was a relocation project in which SHYFT partnered with Kristy Sieve for the environmental graphics and wayfinding.

The outcome was a bright, modern workspace with bold environmental graphics that speak directly to the organization’s culture and brand. With a neutral finish palette and warm accents, combined with the striking contrast of the brand messaging and graphics, the space shows depth, character, and a layer of interest within each area of the space.

Take a more in-depth look at the F&G project here.

Are you ready to start your storytelling process through graphics and wayfinding? Drop us a line!

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