How wayfinding could make us happier and healthier

Signage plays a critical practical role in the public realm, but is it living up to its creative potential? We discuss how wayfinding can establish a more joyful and emotional connection with the world

“It’s well beyond ‘toilets are over there’,” jokes Wesley Meyer, creative director at F.R.A Creative, which specialises in wayfinding and placemaking for the public realm. “Now, we’ve got to craft the experience.” We’re in the middle of a conversation about signage which has spanned everything from the dire state of hospital wayfinding – ironically, something Meyer experienced repeatedly as a teenager, and that almost certainly influenced his interest in the discipline – to the studio’s decision to embed a human tooth in a sign at London’s Borough Yards development.

“We’ve stopped trying to solve the problem of, are people lost?,” he explains. “Or, are they getting from a to b? We are still doing that, but I think it’s almost too easy. The higher challenge is, are people bored? And how do you reward people for spending time in a place, especially repeatedly? There’s a big difference between when you first go to a place and it’s like, ‘Where are the lifts? Where are the toilets? Where are the shops?’ After that, everyone knows where they’re going and stops looking at signs. How do we reward these people that do come back?”