WAYFINDING

Methodology

 

Axia's process for the development of destination wayfinding programs is based on an enhanced version of the SEGD (Society of Experiential Graphic Designers) methodology. Axia combines our decades of working experience with our understanding of graphic design, industrial engineering, place-making, branding and human behavior with industry standards to develop programs that are highly functional and visually inspirational.

 

Strategy

We have 4 primary objectives when developing a destination wayfinding program. First and foremost, the system must provide efficient navigation to a community with a focus on parking opportunities. Secondly, the design of the system must support the brand and enhance a memorable sense of place. Thirdly, it must be sustainable. The life of the system and the maintenance of its parts must be designed to mitigate future costs associated with replacement and general maintenance. The 4th objective is to design a system that will remain fresh and innovative. We avoid waning styles or popular trends.

 

Our wayfinding strategy is based on 5 levels of messaging. The 1st level occurs on highways typically outside city limits. Wayfinding messages in these areas are delivered by US Department of Transportation signs. The role of guide signs in this area is to guide vehicles to exits that lead into municipalities, routes and state/federal destinations. The design and messaging content is strictly controlled. Even though customization is not permitted, we do evaluate existing messaging and locations and recommend potential reassignment if needed.

 

The next level falls within the city limits of a city or town. These signs can be customized if they do not occur within USDOT’s jurisdiction. If they do, they must follow USDOT guidelines outlined in the MUTCD (Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices). The role of signs within this level is to guide vehicles to regions within the community or to key attractions that, by themselves, draw a critical mass of visitors into the area.

 

The third level falls within regions of a community. These regions can be historical districts, retail clusters, downtown centers, industrial areas or any area that can be delineated. These signs include a combination of destination-specific messages and directions to parking facilities. The key objective for guide signs within these areas is to efficiently guide vehicles to parking opportunities.

 

The 4th level occurs within pedestrian environments. Once parked, pedestrians are guided by directional signs and information kiosks to specific destinations and back to where their car is parked or to transportation hubs.

 

Process

We have a 5-phase wayfinding project process. The first phase, Project Area Analysis, includes a positioning meeting with the Client's team followed by a guided tour through the community. This gives us an introductory perspective from a resident's point-of-view. We interview key stakeholders before we venture out on our own for a self-guided exploration, which gives us a perspective from a visitor's point-of-view. During this first visit to the project site, we collect and/or review existing master plans, related marketing materials and relative documents.

 

We conduct a thorough site survey and assessment where we identify definable destinations, vehicular and pedestrian decision points, analyze traffic flow, traffic speed and planned roadway improvements, review and photograph existing conditions and in-place wayfinding devices, identify proposed wayfinding opportunities and interact with people on the street– users and front-line service providers.

 

We conduct preliminary and continuous interface with State DOT, utility companies and any city contractors who represent authority over setbacks, regulations and/or overlapping infrastructure.

 

We develop a preliminary system framework through documentation of ingress and egress points, vehicular and pedestrian traffic trends/density, destinations, diversions and service resources, critical on-path decision points, retail centers, definitive districts, etc. We identify necessary sign types and their proposed locations. We establish design criteria and how best to support the community's brand. This first phase is summarized in an Assessment Report.

 

Once we have obtained approvals on the recommended program criteria, we begin the Concept Generation phase. We generate three or four concepts based on the community's character, brand, historical relevance and the assessment findings.  We conduct a team charette before we start articulating concepts to include the City staff and willing stakeholders early in the collaborative process.

 

If requested, we host a public workshop during the conceptual phase. During this public forum, we present the program objectives and design criteria. We present rough concepts to evoke comments and ideas. The feedback we collect from this meeting is considered during the design development phase.

 

We consult with one or more fabricators to determine a range of probable costs so that early adjustments may be considered before the design is developed into its final form. If necessary, we explore value engineering to keep the design within a realistic fabrication budget. Concurrently, we update an online, collaborative map to develop the plan.

 

We refine the concepts to include input from the public meeting and what we have learned from the probable costs. The objective of this meeting is to identify a single concept that will be developed in the following phase. At the end of the Concept Generation phase, a concept summary is submitted to the Client for final approval.

 

Upon the selection of a single concept, we begin the Design Development phase. The selected concept from the previous phase is developed to include all system sign types. The wayfinding strategy continues to be refined. We design support graphics including a directory map, system fonts, symbols and other graphic devices for effective visual communication. The final design is presented for initial review and subsequently to any oversight committees. At the end of the Design Development phase, we submit final design summary document to the Client. Prior to initiating the Documentation phase, we facilitate full size mock-ups to be tested in the field.

 

During the Documentation phase, we prepare three companion documents which are used by qualified sign contractors to prepare their bids to fabricate and install the system. These include, a Design Intent set (scaled drawings, general specifications, colors and finishes schedule), Message Schedule (proposed messages and phase recommendations) and a Sign Location Plan (locations for every sign element). In some cases, we are asked to prepare a 4th document which identified existing signs to be removed. Final bid documents and production-ready art / templates are uploaded to password-protected project page.

 

The last phase, Production Oversight, includes consulting on RFQ/RFP language, fabricator qualifications and recommendations on RFQ/RFP distribution.  During the bidding process, we respond to bidder’s technical questions and review short listed respondents for an award recommendation. Upon contract award, Axia interacts with the sign contractor, answers questions, considers product/process alternates and addresses any challenges as they arrive. Axia receives and reviews the sign contractor’s shop drawings for design compliance. Axia also receives and reviews samples (materials and finishes) prior to full execution.

 

During the fabrication process, Axia communicates with the sign contractor and issues periodic progress reports to the Client. After the program is installed, Axia is on site to inspect the program for completeness and provides a post installation summery report to the Client prior to final contractor disbursement.