Way Finding

It's Dorothy's first day at work and her boss needs her to create and deliver important presentation materials to an admin assistant in a different department at the 9th hour on a Friday. As the elevator doors open, a sea of desks greet her. The person nearest the door tells her that she can find this person sitting nearest the copy area. Frustrated already, she follows the instructions but seems to have trouble finding the workstation and time is ticking. Then she realizes, she is not in Kansas anymore.

I have my fair share of losing my way when I go on field surveys. The lack of way finding tools propelled me to knock on someone's desk and ask for the way back to the reception. A simple sign, color or graphics could have helped navigate through the space much more easily.

Why is this important to point out?

  • Signage and way finding tools can foster a more communicative culture and and is also good for efficiency. It helps in managing traffic within the office and ease for everyone, including consultants, to navigate the space without hand holding. Communication through graphics and clear messages through writing cultivates a participatory and responsive culture. 
  • Way finding can also be used to encourage casual interaction among the employees by creating intersections along the main circulation. In the past, we pointed out the importance of unplanned collaboration and how it relates to cultivating a communicative and collaborative culture.
  • Another point is that you are able to secure areas by steering visitors away from private spaces.

So what can we do to implement a more communicative culture?


Paint architectural elements like a wall or column to flag common use spaces like copy areas. This is most useful when copy machines are dispersed throughout the space and placed between workstations and desks. The idea is to make the spot visible from across the office. Bright colors would help too, lighter colors just defeats the purpose of it. It also helps you to organize common spaces for example, designate all blue columns for copier areas.

Molkenstrasse designed by Bureau de Bank, photos by Hans van Veen and Floortje Donia

Set boundaries by using different color carpet tile or paint on hard floor to define the space and communicate the intent of that space within the workplace. Make it visible from main aisles; it anchors that area and makes it easier to find.

Combiwerk workplace designed and photographed by i29 Interior Architects

Break rooms, copier and supply rooms are common areas that should be fixed no matter how much the desk and workstations are re arranged and reconfigured. By making these areas fixed, it makes the space more efficient, and it brings a personal sense of belonging. It's familiarity make it feel like being at home.Partial height partitions can make these areas stand out amidst the open space. 

Adidas LACES by Buro Uebele Visuelle Kommunikation; photographed by © Christian Richters


Simple font, bold contrast and straightforward message makes all the difference when communicating and encourage a participatory experience from the employees and visitors.Make the signs meaningful and intentional by using vinyl lettering mounted on board and use contrasting colors for it to pop. Black and white is a simple and a classic color combination that conveys a strong message. Use clear, short and straightforward messages that conveys the emotion and intent.

THINK photo by Kasia Gatkowska; Interior Design by Alrik Koudenburg and RJW Elsinga
What if you are not sure about setting boundaries and signage?

You can always test an idea. In this way, you can see how your team reacts and continue good ideas and cross out the not so good ones. Start with simple tools like paint and painters tape to delineate spaces, foam core boards and vinyl lettering for signs. In the end, it is about communication and how well you convey the message through out the space by using different forms of visual aids.

Finding your way around the space should be as easy as following the yellow brick road.

Post Your Comment