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Finding Your Way

Systematic planning enables education institutions to get people to their destinations.

When two roads diverged in a yellow wood, the poet Robert Frost famously recommended the road less traveled. But when two roads diverge on an education campus, students and visitors probably aren’t thinking in poetic terms and might appreciate a little practical help.

Signs and maps, and the way streets and buildings are identified, provide people with clues that enable them to understand where they are and how to get to their destinations.

Education institutions have learned that a well-designed wayfinding system can help students, staff and visitors navigate campus buildings and grounds safely and efficiently, whether they’re walking, pedaling or driving. In addition, such a system can help a school establish and enhance its identity.

"Wayfinding is more than exclusively a navigational aid," says the University of New Mexico (UNM), which developed wayfinding and signage guidelines earlier this year. "It is a way to market an area’s resources, alter negative perceptions, evoke a sense of history and character, and improve the streetscape."

Having a wayfinding system implies that it is more than just posting signs and maps and naming buildings in a random way. It implies that a plan has been put into place to create consistency and structure so that people readily understand the information the wayfinding system is conveying.

UNM’s system calls for two types of signs on the Albuquerque campus: identification and wayfinding (vehicular and pedestrian). Identification signs have three categories: site (a standalone area that encompasses several buildings); building (for individual facilities); and parking.

Four types of vehicular wayfinding signs are used: D1 signs are used along major roadways, where the viewing distance of the sign is more than 150 feet. D2 signs are used on minor and interior roadways where the viewing distance of the sign is less than 150 feet. D3 and D4 signs are intended to guide traffic within the interior campus, or within a site.

Pedestrian wayfinding is divided into three categories:

Directional signs are placed at locations where pedestrian paths cross, or where multiple destinations are situated. Kiosks and orientation maps are found on walkways and provide the context and location of specific departments, buildings and services. Building directories are adjacent to the primary entrance of a building and are intended to be visible from pedestrian walkways. They help identify occupants within a building.

Other guidelines:

  • Order of information. On monument signs, the building name, donor name or site name is listed first; the college, school, department, occupant or service is listed second; and the numeric address and building number is listed third.

  • Building names on signs. Formal building names will be displayed with all capitalized letters to easily distinguish it from other types of information. Donor names are to be spelled with upper- and lowercase letters.

  • All signs shall be designed for day and night conditions.

  • Vehicular signs shall contain no more than five destinations.

  • The UNM logo is the only logo permitted on signs.

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