Wayfinding First Aid

New signs ease the stress of hospital navigation.
Rendering: Genesis Studios; Architecture: HuntonBrady Architects

When tasked with having to traverse the ever-changing labyrinth that has become synonymous with medical buildings, offices and hospitals, accurate signage is imperative. From directionals that guide your path to the parking lot, to digital displays that help you make your way to a room, sign companies are striving to keep up with ever-changing client demands while trying to remain accurate, current and informative.

INS + OUTS OF A NEW PAVILION

Big projects often call for multiple companies to work together to achieve a goal. That was true for Lakeland Regional Health’s Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women & Children (Lakeland, FL), whose interior and exterior signage was designed by KMA Design (Tampa, FL) but fabricated by two different signshops in order to accomplish the desired aesthetic. “[KMA] has done other facilities with a focus on women and children in the past and this type of environment presented the challenge of combining a sophisticated feel towards a women’s healing environment, while at the same time serving children’s population in a non-clinical manner,” KMA CEO Barbara J. Martin said.

INTERIOR WAYFINDING

To that end, bids were sent out for both the interior and exterior pavilion signage. Creative Sign Designs (CSD; Tampa, FL) was awarded the job of providing production-level designs, and fabricating and installing the interior signage/wayfinding for the Barnett Pavilion. The project consisted of creating room, department and elevator IDs; flag and stairwell signage; wall and ceiling directionals; and a history wall – all color-coded for easier hospital navigation, according to CSD Vice President Melanie Harden. 

Creative Sign Designs generated a variety of color-coded signs for Lakeland Regional Health’s Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women & Children in Tampa, FL.
Creative Sign Designs generated a variety of color-coded signs for Lakeland Regional Health’s Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women & Children in Tampa, FL.

Harden and her team aim to help their clients avoid “signage pitfalls” that can befall large-scale interior signage programs. “We consult, conduct wayfinding analyses, produce conceptual and fabrication-level designs, permit, fabricate and install interior and exterior signage,” she said. “This is attractive to our healthcare clients as it provides a seamless process for all of their signage needs.”

The CSD team designed the signage with CorelDRAW, Illustrator, SA International’s EnRoute and FlexiSign PRO, OMAX Intelli-MAX, and KeyedIn. The signs were then fabricated using digital printers, screenprinters, CNC routers, lasers, a press brake, shears and a water jet. All interior ADA signage was mechanically fastened to the wall, while the rest of the signage was mounted with countersunk screws. One down, one to go.

EXTERIOR EMERGENCY 

For the exterior of the pavilion, Baron Sign Manufacturing (Riviera Beach, FL) fabricated the creative, colorful and bold signage that would direct visitors to the children’s emergency entrance. “Healthcare signage is very different from other forms of signage, especially in its wayfinding applications,” Baron Senior Estimator Glen Spaulding said. “While design and overall cohesion is important, it is also very important the people visiting those locations can quickly and easily navigate their way through the site.”

Once the area was identified and modified, throughout construction KMA created the design using 3D-modeling techniques to ensure the illumination and design would be aesthetically pleasing within the space. Next, a playful color palette was chosen with alternate returns and faces to add interest. “We did not want any trim caps on the letters to allow for a seamless transition from face to returns, [because] this added to the look of the letters as they are viewed at a close distance,” Martin said. 

KMA’s detailed notes made Baron’s sign fabrication and installation process fairly seamless, Spaulding said. “Because this was such a creative endeavor, both the KMA Design team and the Baron Sign Manufacturing team had several in-plant meetings and conceptual development engagements.”

Baron Sign Manufacturing helped lessen the blow of what could be a scary place for some children by making an emergency sign bright and playful.
Baron Sign Manufacturing helped lessen the blow of what could be a scary place for some children by making an emergency sign bright and playful. 

To create the artwork, Baron used SketchUp and CorelDRAW, as the programs helped with the 3D rendering of some of the more unique design aspects of the project, Spaulding said. Sign materials included Matthews Paint systems, GE Lumination, 3M vinyl and Eastern Metal Supply aluminum. The sign was built using a MultiCam CNC router and installed on an existing footer.

Hospitals can be a stressful environment. These projects point to the future of healthcare signage by keeping in mind that well-crafted signage can make the trip less stressful, or, at the very least, not add to the stress of the patient or visitor. “More digital and static signage combined to maximize flexibility and a means to communicate with multiple languages and provide additional support for wayfinding … [are] becoming the norm,” Martin said.

WALKING THE WALK

The Premier Health network (Dayton, OH) has kept PLANIT Studios (Worthington, OH) plenty busy over the years with a long-term contract for implementing indoor digital wayfinding systems in all five of Premier Health’s hospitals. “We started working with the organization resolving wayfinding issues in several of their hospitals on a small scale,” Planit CEO Pete Williams said. “Our first large-scale project was with Miami Valley Hospital when they added a new bed tower. During this project we developed a system-wide standard. In healthcare, the buildings and departments are always changing.”

Most recently, Planit completed another full-signage program for the Miami Valley Hospital North campus, which combined both traditional signage and digital mapping as well as digital kiosks. This transformed what once was a health center into a hospital, and provided a wayfinding system that connected patients and their families seamlessly to all areas, according to Williams.

For the Miami Valley Hospital North project, Planit audited the existing sign system and met with key stakeholders throughout the facility to gain insight into existing issues and to ensure that they met Premier Health’s standards. From there, Planit produced a sign location plan, developed the maps and messaging being used, and coordinated the work with fabricators from Hightech Signs (Fairfield, OH) to approve shop drawings and oversee installation. 

Mapping the campus and having it click with the general public was quite an undertaking, Williams said. The campus has two main public entrances linked directly to parking lots that bring the patients and visitors in at two different levels. The emergency entrance is accessed by a side street and the new bed tower and emergency waiting room are not easily found from within the main building. Planit was able to solve many of these issues by going digital. “With digital wayfinding we can add as much information as we want because we are not limited by wall space,” Williams said.

For Premier Health, PLANIT Studios was tasked with implementing indoor, digital and smartphone-connected wayfinding systems in all five of their hospitals, as well as other interior signage.
For Premier Health, PLANIT Studios was tasked with implementing indoor, digital and smartphone-connected wayfinding systems in all five of their hospitals, as well as other interior signage.

Planit literally walks the walk to understand client needs. “We spend a lot of time walking the halls, watching people and how they experience spaces, and asking ourselves if the existing signage is helping or creating more confusion,” Williams said. “Wayfinding begins days or even weeks before [an] appointment. The signs should simply be a confirmation of what they have been told or seen prior to coming on the campus. All of these items must work in unison in order for the patient to have a positive experience.”

Planit used AutoCAD, Google Sheets, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign to create the wayfinding solutions, making sure their design files coalesced with the software used by their fabricators. The wayfinding systems were constructed with clear acrylic, digitally printed Avery Dennison vinyl, ViewSonic touchscreens and Displays2go monitor stands with tilting brackets. In addition, the kiosks are equipped with a MazeMap software that can be completely linked to mobile devices.  “A patient can either search on a kiosk or on a mobile device to get a map delivered to them with specific directions to where they need to go,” Williams said. “It is a personalized map that the hospital can link [people] to ahead of their visit in order to guide them from door to door.”

On the horizon, Williams sees smartphones continuing to play a key role in healthcare wayfinding. “We are seeing a lot more inquiries into digital wayfinding and electronic kiosks. Over the last five years, there has been a significant increase in the population that has a smartphone. [They] are becoming part of our every-day lives and our clients are asking, ‘If I can get from place to place using a smartphone in my car, why can’t I find my way around a building using the same technology?’”

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