Illuminate the ASI Difference

See how ASI’s more than 50 years of experience and expertise in illuminated signage can help you light the way to your Brand.



SignPlan™, ASI’s proven approach to managing signage and branding programs from conception to completion

Never Stop Wayfinding…Do it for Your Hippocampus!




Over the course of my twelve years teaching within the signage industry, I have had the pleasure of learning many things about architectural signage including the thought, innovation, materials, design and craftsmanship that goes into producing beautiful yet functional signage solutions. For example, I learned and subsequently developed and taught topics related to wayfinding methodology, which has been a dominant organizational core competency throughout my company’s existence.

I recently ran across an article that explored the impact of technology overuse (ex. GPS) on the human brain, and low-and-behold, it led me to a wayfinding related topic that never really occurred to me: the exact part of the brain responsible for thought processes related to wayfinding…the Hippocampus!Picture1

The name Hippocampus is actually based on its resemblance to a seahorse, from the Greek word hippokampus (hippos = “horse” and kampos = “sea monster”). If you were to pull the hippocampus out of a brain you would in fact see the resemblance (please do not try this at home):Picture2

Not the most pleasant image, but now you have a visual reference for this discussion, so we’ll move on.

In addition to the belief that the hippocampus plays a role in forming brand new memories, neuroscientists also believe that the hippocampus controls our ability to navigate, form cognitive maps and spatially orient ourselves, all of which are primary elements of wayfinding processes.

It’s fascinating to better understand where wayfinding takes place in the brain, especially considering that the term wayfinding is still in its relative infancy. Kevin Lynch gets credit for first coining the term wayfinding in his book The Image of the City (1960), in which he writes about his findings from a five-year study of three cities, tracking how people navigated through a city using elements such as travel paths, districts, intersections and landmarks. Romedi Passini and Paul Arthur co-authored Wayfinding: People, Signs and Architecture (1992) to further articulate wayfinding as a spatial problem solving process, including more elements than signage alone, ex. the processes of formulating an action plan to navigate toward the desired destination and then implementing the plan.

If we were to describe how humans typically think when working toward a destination, in the form of a flow diagram, this is one way to represent the process:Picture3

This sample model is consistent with the findings of Lynch, Passini and Arthur, and as noted, the hippocampus supervises these thought processes.

Here’s a summary of what basically happens in the above diagram (moving left-to-right):

  1. Using environmental information and their own cognitive influence, the user builds a mental map (cognitive map) of their perception of the area.
  2. The user also uses spatial orientation to place themselves within their cognitive map, to give them a better sense of where they are situated within their cognitive map.
  3. The user then formulates an action plan of steps required to reach the destination.
  4. The user takes action (ex. moving left, right, straight ahead).
  5. If the user encounters trouble reaching their destination, they will determine what went wrong, amend their action plan, and execute the new plan.
  6. The user confirms that they have reached the desired destination, achieving wayfinding success.

And we now know that all of the above happens under the guidance of our friend the hippocampus!

Going back to the earlier technology/GPS reference to the hippocampus, I researched a number of articles that referenced the same well-known study published in 2000, in which it was found that London taxi drivers had a larger (with more gray matter) hippocampus than non-taxi drivers. It was concluded that taxi drivers had a larger hippocampus because they were constantly building cognitive maps along with their vast knowledge of the layout of the city. So, one can conclude that those who constantly think through wayfinding challenges can build and maintain a stronger memory and navigational skills.

On the other hand, there’s not enough evidence to firmly conclude that reliance on technology, such as GPS, will contribute to atrophy of the hippocampus. However, studies have indicated that we should understand the possibility that over-reliance of technology, including not using our God-given abilities to consistently build cognitive maps, spatially orient ourselves and make full use of our memory, could result in diminished cognitive and memory functions later in life.

As both a wayfinding provider and user, I enjoy the challenge of solving spatial problems with my mind, while appreciating technology that has bailed me out at as well. Wayfinding technology continues to evolve and we should embrace and consider new technologies that make life easier, more efficient and safer. Perhaps moderation, as with most things in life, is a reasonable approach that enables us to rely on technology as needed, but encourages us to use our minds and spatially solve our problems consistently and as often as possible.

So, get out there and give your hippocampus a regular and challenging wayfinding workout, it may very well thank you for it!


Andy Levine 2017


Graphic Design in Signage – who would have thunk it?


When I studied for my Associates Degree in Graphic Design I did not give much thought to the reality of what I would do with it once I graduated. Of course, I had dreams and aspirations of wonderful and weird graphics designs that I would achieve but which forum they would appear in, I had no clue. The day came that I graduated and my foray into the labor market began. When I placed my resume on employment sites, proudly announcing my Graphic Design skills to the world, I had little idea of where the opportunity would come from and it was with a great deal of skepticism that I took a call from ASI Signage Innovations indicating an interest in me and my graphic design skills – signage? Seriously?


I knew nothing of signage at all or even thought there was an industry for it. Who takes notice of signs? Someone really makes them?? When I was in college we were taught about different industries or enterprises that would suit our Graphic Design skills, like print shops or magazine companies, but nothing about signage. However, coming out of school, it was impressed upon me that finding gainful employment was now my paramount preoccupation so I went to my very first interview at ASI Signage Innovations and was intrigued about the possibilities to firstly, fulfill the mission of securing gainful employment but secondly, it seemed to present an opportunity to practically engage all the graphic design skills I had academically secured.


I found that my first job out of college was not so different from the classroom, but add four cups of coffee every day. We have deadlines to fulfill with sign designs, much like turning in homework except my homework gets turned into a really cool sign that I actually created!  This is all completely new to me, I’m still learning different techniques for designing, I’ve even got to the point of making an “idea board” from signs I’ve seen that I really like so I can have inspiration and ideas for future designs.



Initially, I was nervous about the sign design process because of all the “rules” or guidelines required to make certain signs, including a simple room sign. With designing a room sign there are size, font, color, and artwork guidelines to follow, but who knew about the ADA? In fact, I had no clue that braille was so important when designing a room sign or the fact that it was even required. My professors in college never mentioned braille at all in graphic design. As far as I was concerned braille was used in books for the blind. “Visually impaired” – never heard the term before.


“Sign families” – another new term for my vocabulary. There are so many different signs out there for different establishments and locations within the facilities. I was trained in college on typography and was taught that every font has a time and a place to be used, such as sans-serif font faces, mainly used for room signs so people can read the text easily. There can’t be too much text on a sign. I was taught in college that the human brain can only handle about 69 words on a line before a person gets lost in the text structure, and too small of text can be difficult to read from far distances.picture2

When designing signs almost anything is possible, of course within the “rules”. You can print on a material that looks like concrete, real wood, or you can make a sign have a 3D effect. I enjoy designing signs because of the wide range of printing options that can be done to the sign to give it a 3D effect or a certain material or color. When I am designing signs for our sign samples I usually have free range of my designs, but not- too-crazy in detail. Each design I make is hand drawn in Adobe Illustrator and put onto a mock up design I made to give the printer a visual of what we would like to print. Designs cannot be too small with lots of detail because it won’t be seen properly. For smaller sign designs I use simplistic designs with little detail so they are able to be seen without having to look too closely at the sign. At the end of the day my designs require a lot of work and I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I see the end-result and see the final printed version of my sign.


So, it’s a new world for me, and hopefully a “sign” of many years to come in this wonderful industry.


Kathryn Dault 2016

Computerized Vinyl Cutting


Computerized Vinyl Cutting

or The Past Shape of the Future

I first glimpsed the future of the sign industry after climbing into the back of a van sometime during the summer of 1983.
I was a new Design Director in Bay Area, at the time. The local sign supply house brought a new Gerber-IVB over, dragged an extension cord inside the shop and fired it up.
The gadget was pretty basic looking, as you see in a catalog pic from the time:


The old time sign painters just shook their heads and declared it to be the greatest abomination ever invented. In a few years, though, none of those guys were still around.
The crude metal shell hid pretty sophisticated and long-wearing machinery. There’s a chance one is gathering dust in your own shop.
With it, there was no such thing as loading a file and letting it rip. Nope, you had to keyboard one of the 12 proprietary fonts, each more crudely designed and letter-spaced than the other. A horrific version of Helvetica came with the machine but you had to buy others as plug-in font cards. To boot, this was the first time you could curve, squash or expand lines to fit, which led to all manner of text never before seen in nature.
Remember, Apple didn’t introduce the first Mac until 1983-84 and with it, the beginnings of a wide spread appreciation of type. Up to then, typography was specialized knowledge common only to professional art directors, sign painters and typesetters.
I contend the personal computer (especially the Mac) and the Gerber-IVB produced the first great disruption in the sign industry in hundreds of years. Before then, a lettering brush was the primary tool.
The groundwork had been laid a few years before by the introduction of what many grey heads still call Vinyl Die-Cut Letters.
3M produced self-adhesive vinyl sheet early on. Several manufacturers adapted the print finishing technique of die-cutting. They used old, sheet-fed letterpress equipment to cut individual characters, one at a time, at a pretty quick rate. Our pre-punched paper supplier still uses similar equipment.
One supplier in particular, Simple Space-Rite of Phoenix, still in existence, was critical to the development of our exterior fiberglass line.

picture2Original 1966 logo Depicting Simple Space-Rite’s Flagship Product


We would order just the characters they needed, this time cut from low-tack frisket material and pre-spaced on slick paper tiles. They were laid out on the fiberglass sign after painting with the graphics color. Then, after applying the background color, the letters were peeled off leaving correct and defined letterforms. A Matthews Paint matte topcoat over all and the result was integral, subsurface graphics far better than hand-cut or even Gerber output could provide.
In fact, the accuracy of the type-forms on our exterior signs was one of the selling points to designers then and a justification for a higher price than just about any other exterior sign at the time.
Another justification for the high price was (and still is) the amount of skilled handwork involved in their production. That, along with improvements in the vinyl itself, led to its long, slow decline in popularity beginning during a sharp economic downturn in the late ‘80’s.
Coming forward a few years, it wasn’t until the early 1990’s there were utility programs allowing virtually any file from Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw to drive cutters. And, frankly, it wasn’t until a bit later dependable vinyl sheet appeared that didn’t shrink after a time, leaving behind a nasty adhesive and dirt halo.
Now, we cut and install vinyl with impunity in many different flavors. It wasn’t always this easy.


So what can we learn from this trip down memory lane?

There’s no Sense in Fighting the March of Technology

It’s bigger than us all.

Between 1950 and 1995, the changes wrought in all the graphic arts industries were unprecedented. Gutenberg would have felt right at home in a graphic design studio in the early ‘50’s. He could have picked up familiar tools and produced designs with the best of them.
However, that familiarity would have been short lived. With the entry of photocomposition, Letraset transfer type and IBM electric typewriters, things changed rapidly. Whole rooms full of skilled workers retired, were laid off or, for a lucky few, retrained.
The same happened with sign painters. As soon as the Gerber and plotters took hold, they were gone too.
The only way to survive using traditional techniques would be to reinvent and market yourself as an “artist,” practicing an arcane art for a select few. The meat and potatoes work went to new technology users who probably had no idea of their craft origins.
Many of the changes happened during economic downturns. Then, it made more sense to invest in machines than hire staff.
The best choice is to continually investigate and learn new technologies. Beware of those who either criticize on the basis of “quality” (technique only gets better as it matures).
An example: I’m just old enough to remember when phototypesetting, or “cold” output replaced hot lead (which had, in turn, replaced Guttenberg-like individual characters some 30 years before). I remember old timers railing against the newer typesetting that emerged from developer tanks as “just not the same quality.”
I remember when I moved to New York City in the early 1990’s and was amazed to find that the Macintosh and Desktop Publishing that was so common in Northern California, was derided by many New York designers “just not the same quality” as phototypesetting.
Some of these people were boyhood heroes of mine so, for a time, I believed them—at least until I realized what they were complaining about wasn’t type “quality” at all. In New York City, there was a robust support industry of phototypesetters who would, for a price passed on to the client, turn around typesetting in a couple of hours and messenger it back. The designer would then pour over galleys with an attitude of critical connoisseurship and mark them for another attempt at typographic perfection. This practice, although maddening for the night-shift typesetter, led to profitable overtime, cost overruns and, for a lucky few, the famed three-martini lunches.
In those halcyon days, all you needed in for capital investment as a graphic designer (or sign designer) was little more than a drawing table, a t-square and a triangle. An impressive office space (within bicycle messenger range of typesetters and photographers) could be the biggest expense.
Whether my grousing colleagues realized it or not, all that would come to a screeching halt with the entry of the Mac. All it took was another economic downturn and clients refused point blank to pay for endless typographic revisions, among other billable expenses.
All of a sudden, it became necessary to buy a Mac, a laser printer and expensive software like Quark and Adobe Illustrator. It became really expensive to be a designer. As a result, you’d be amazed at the fall-off in typographic quality during the transition. Equally interesting is how fast many designers deemed Mac typography, and their own meager operator skills, as “Just Fine.”
Never ending investment had reared its head graphic design and sign industries and hasn’t let up since. Resignation is the only rational response. It’s the price of success.



Ken Ethridge, AIA, RAS

ASI Business Development Manager


Navigating the Gray Areas of ADA Signage


This year, the Americans with Disabilities Act celebrates 26 years of ensuring that disabled individuals have the opportunity to enjoy their independence and fully participate and achieve in all facets of society.  On, which is the U.S. Department of Justice’s website dedicated to educating the public about the ADA and related activities, check out the article Twenty Six Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act: The Lives, Faces and Stories Behind the ADA, illustrating real-life examples of how the ADA has positively impacted many lives over the past 26 years.

Though signage represents a very small portion of the content and scope of the ADA itself, its significance with respect to how signage providers design and develop signage solutions is tremendous.  Experienced solution providers must have a strong working knowledge of how ADA Standards impact signage, including knowledge of local accessibility codes, as state and local codes are sometimes more stringent than the ADA Standards themselves. Designers, architects, customers, everyone that we partner with depend on us to produce signage that complies with all related codes. Ultimately, individuals with disabilities depend on ADA related signage to address their needs as well.

Just like most types of legislation, the ADA has some instances of “Gray Area”, in which interpretation and practical considerations must be applied, and signage is no exception.  What happens when we find nothing in the ADA or local accessibility code that tells us that we can or can’t produce a sign with a special element? In fact, a critical differentiator between signage solution providers is the ability to use knowledge and experience to make accurate recommendations and interpretations when the ADA may not be 100% clear about a certain aspect of signage. Many sign companies know the ADA and its impact on signage, but how many of them can truly take on the role of “Trusted Advisor” with their partners and customers and guide them accordingly?

Following are some examples of signage gray area:


Pictograms on Restroom Signage

We are asked from time-to-time to clarify the question “Are gender-specific pictograms required on restroom signs?”. Technically, the ADA does not state that these types of pictograms are required. Your state and/or local accessibility code may note otherwise, so it’s always important to understand any differences between the federal standards and local code. Regardless, we typically see gender-specific pictograms on restroom signs even when not required. Why? It’s a common practice to include the pictogram so that those with visual impairments can more accurately determine their destination. And it can only help those of us with satisfactory eyesight, myself included. There are times in which we have to make a quick decision, and visuals such as pictograms make the process easier and   more accurate.








Please note that when these types of pictograms are used, the ADA provides standards to ensure that they are correctly applied. The field containing the pictogram must be 6” minimum in height, contrast must be sufficient, text descriptors must be placed below the field, and these descriptors must comply with standards for raised characters and Braille.

The ISA (International Symbol of Accessibility) pictogram is addressed differently in the ADA, which states that the ISA is required on signs identifying accessible restrooms when non-accessible restrooms also exist in the facility.


Raised Character Restrictions for Room ID Signs

One of our many mottos in the architectural signage industry is “Form Follows Function”, meaning that although design and aesthetics of signage is critical, first and foremost we always ensure that the signage functions perfectly while meeting all code requirements. We encountered a situation recently in which a designer proposed raising the individual characters on the Room ID sign types using standoffs, thus significantly elevating the characters from the surface of the sign. This type of method and design can produce beautiful custom interior and exterior signage, but is it viable within ADA standards for room identification?

The following is taken directly from the ADA with respect to the depth of raised characters:

703.2.1 Depth. Raised characters shall be 1/32 inch (0.8 mm) minimum above their background.

That’s it, there’s no additional verbiage in the ADA addressing a maximum depth of raised characters on Room ID signs. So, considering the designer’s proposal, as long as the raised characters meet all other ADA standards including san serif, width proportion, stroke width, character height and spacing requirements, the increased depth of the characters using special standoffs would not violate ADA standards (be sure to check your local code as well). We now have the green-light, right?

Not exactly. Whether the ADA is not clear or simply doesn’t address a certain signage scenario, experienced and consultative signage solution providers will examine the practicality of the solution, and more important the impact of the solution toward a disabled individual.  Though the proposed design did not appear to violate any ADA or code standards, our consultant had concerns regarding the practicality of raising characters in such a manner, maintenance/cleaning of this type of sign, increased possibility of character damage and breakage, and possible increased difficulty for blind individuals attempting to touch and read the sign information tactilely. The ASI consultant advised the designer accordingly so that we could take a different approach that was more practical but still aesthetic.

On the topic of creative ways to design Room ID signs, the 2010 ADA Standards introduced a new option for designers that permits the separation of raised and visual characters/numbers:

This is a viable option for designers as it allows more flexibility with the visual characters while adhering to standards for the raised information. For the optional design illustrated above, when working with visual (non-raised) characters, designers can use serif fonts, mix upper and lower case, and use bolded fonts (up to 30% stroke width), all for a more aesthetically appealing look, and without violating any of the raised character standards.


Gray Area Related to Sign Mounting Requirements  

The 2010 ADA Standards included new verbiage regarding the mounting distance horizontally between the sign and the door frame:

This latest standard was added for cases in which the door to an office, or other permanent space, opens outward instead of inward. The 18” by 18” clear floor space requirement helps to protect a blind individual from swing of the door while they are tactilely reading the sign.

So, in terms of distance from the sign to the latch side of the door, what’s the mounting requirement for the more common occurrence of an inward door swing?

Sorry, that’s trick question, as it’s not addressed in the ADA (again be sure to check your local code as previously noted).  This is yet another opportunity for experienced signage solution providers to apply a practical approach that will address the needs of the disabled while being aesthetically pleasing to the customer.  For example, installers may use a common accepted practice of mounting the sign 2” from the latch side of the door when the door opens inwardly.

There’s no disputing that the ADA has been instrumental in providing opportunities and protecting the rights of disabled individuals for 26 years.  The ADA may not account for every possible signage scenario, so following the intent of the ADA is critical when encountering these types of signage gray areas.  When we take this approach while applying our extensive experience and know-how, we can develop practical and consistent solutions that address the needs of the disabled as well as our customers.


Andy Levine 2016

Wayfinding in Underground Transit Systems – London Underground v New York City Subway System



London, England and New York City are two of the greatest cities in the world. Both cities are served by an underground railway system that moves millions of people around every day. It is estimated that London moves around 1.2 billion passengers a year compared to New York’s 1.6 billion. So, which system is easier to navigate?

An analysis of the two system shows clearly, from a wayfinding perspective, that London is easier to navigate and winds hands down.

The journey may begin before you locate a subway station and you reach for your subway map. According to the Londonist, a writer for the Guardian named Bim Adewunmi referred to the New York Subway Systems as “the work of a sadist, cooked up in a fever dream and delivered with a flourish and an unhinged grin”. Regarding the subway maps she wrote that “The city’s (New York) subway map is dense and needlessly complex. Where in London the Central line (red) is distinct from the Piccadilly (dark blue) which is markedly different from the Hammersmith and City line (pink). New York’s map has designated the same forest green to the 4, the 5 and the 6 lines. The B, D, F and M all rejoice the same shade of violent orange. And I’m almost entirely certain the blue of the A, C and E lines is the last thing you see before death’s sweet embrace”. It seems to me that the Guardian’s writer was correct. Looking at the green line, it becomes very difficult to see if the 6 train stops at 32nd Street or not. You could easily get on the 4 expecting it to stop there and it does not. So, in my opinion – round 1 goes to London.

Picture1                Picture2

So, you are out on the street having consulted your map and you are looking for the Subway Station. If one were to ask people (who don’t live in either New York or London) to tell you what the Logo or identification of the London underground is, most people will describe it to you. On the otherhand the identification of the New York subway is not as apparent and well known. Ask someone how New York stations are identified and unless he a local he probably cannot tell you. The London logo is so prominent and well known it is easy to find a subway station while New York stations are identified by innocuous signs that blend into the visual noise of New York City and are invisible to those who are not versed at traversing the City.

Picture3                     Picture4

Further, while most London stations have a single entry point, this is not the case in New York. Uptown may be on one side of the street and Downtown on the other and if you are not familiar with New York you don’t even know where is Uptown and where is Downtown. So, round 2 goes to London.

Once you have entered the station, if not a frequent traveler you look for a map. The Londonist did an article on this subject and wrote that in a New York subway station “there isn’t much in the way of maps on the walls and the actual station name is often on a sign on the side of the cast iron pillars making it hard to spot”. The London system again has very large indication on the subway walls of the name of the station as is apparent in the picture below, giving round 3 to London.


Picture5             Picture6


In terms of identification in the station directing you to the correct line, again London seems to have done a better job. On the walls in the subway pedestrian walkways are very large signs indicating which line you are on, what are the next stations on that route and they are very clear as to which line you should take, for example, if you enter the subway at Piccadilly wanting to go to Queens Park, the large sign (as depicted in the picture, above, right) indicates very clearly that you take the South Line on the Train going to Harrow and Wealdstone (last stop) and that your destination is 9 stops away – very simple, very clear. Once again, the New York System has small, inconspicuous metal plates on the pillars at the platforms showing upcoming stops – round 4 to London.

London was also ahead of New York in adopting a digital signage system within the subway system. All platforms at all stations have numerous digital signs indicating the arrival of approaching trains – they have been quicker to adopt technology – round 5 in London’s favor.

The key characteristics that make London superior from a wayfinding perspective fit in with the wayfinding concept of IDRI. Those in the wayfinding industry are familiar with IDRI which identifies the sign types found in any facility – namely, Identification, Informational, Regulatory and Directional.  All the elements of IDRI are clearly present in London.

From an Identification perspective, the easily recognizable Logo and its prominent use as a key locator make London better than New York.

From an Informational perspective, large easy to read signs, both static and digital make London better and easier to navigate.

Regulatory signs including exits, emergency exits, are all large and prominent.

Finally, Directional signs within the subway station are large and easy to understand and a simple easy to read map rounds off the advantages that London has over New York.


Selwyn Josset 2016

The Key to a Successful Project – It’s All About Values

ASI – Buffalo State Signage

Recently the ASI, Buffalo affiliate completed a very successful signage project at Buffalo State College. The project won the Best of ASI Award. Andy Bernatovicz of ASI, Buffalo conducted a webinar about the project and attributed much of the success of the project and indeed all projects to the key attribute of values.

Andy drew inspiration from a book entitled “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann. Andy quoted three sentences from the book, namely:

  1. “Your true worth is determined by how much you give in value than you take in payment”
  2. “Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them”
  3. “Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interest first”

But it was really the first quote that referred to value that inspired Andy the most. He feels that there are many go-getters but not so many go-givers and it is the go-giver that is more likely to succeed. Following on with his impression of value, he identified four key values that he believes are the cornerstones to securing a successful result in a project. These four values are:

  1. Your own values.
  2. Your value to your customer.
  3. Your value to your own organization.
  4. Business value.

Your Values

You have to ask your values are. What do you stand for? Andy identified the rocks that he stands on as:

  • Honesty and integrity
  • Openness
  • Patience
  • Being engaged

If he ends the day checking off each of the core values he feels that he has accomplished his goals for the day.

Your Value to the Customer

You have to ask yourself how many of your customers would fight to the end to have you as their partner. To succeed in having your clients fight for you have to bring them so much value. You have to go the extra mile for them. Sometimes its little things that make a big difference – just providing extra service, providing extra samples and consistency. It’s those little things that engender a sense of trust in your client. This sense of trust is what will encourage your client to allow you to continue engaging with them.

Your Value to Your Organization

There are some questions you have to ask yourself in order to determine your value to your organization. How easy are you to work with? Do you provide good information to your colleagues? Are you good at communicating with other people in your organization? Do you set a good example with regard to your work ethic?

Business Value

The keys to business value are:

  • Long Term Relationships.
  • Making a connection – face-to-face, eye-to-eye. E-mail loses the personal connection.
  • Be Kind.
  • Add Value.
  • Be Timely.
  • Anticipate!!


Selwyn Josset 2016

The Role of the Psychologist in the Wayfinding/Signage Process


Wayfinding in high traffic environments is a complex and challenging process. Consideration has to be given to all sorts of users and stakeholders. If one considers a healthcare facility, the users are extremely diverse – not only in terms of the reason that they are visiting the facility but diverse in terms of culture, language, level of education, age, sex and so forth and all these factors need to be (or should be) considered in planning for the signage and wayfinding in these facilities. Very often additions are made to existing facilities creating a maze and adding to the complexity of the environment.

Very often too, in the early stages of an addition, new construction or renovation of a complex facility the stakeholders will form a committee or task force to assist in the planning and the implementation of a successful wayfinding and signage system. Experience has shown me that these task forces/committees usually consist of the following personnel:

  1. A representative from the marketing department of the institution. With healthcare (or higher education) becoming more and more competitive the creation of and maintenance of the integrity of the institutions brand becomes a key consideration. Hence the involvement of marketing.
  2. A representative from the Facilities/Engineering department. The reason for the involvement of these folks is self-evident as these are the people who may probably be responsible for the maintenance of the system in future years.
  3. A representative from the upper management of the institution. The wayfinding and signage and the budget implications should require the participation of upper management – they are in fact the ultimate decision maker.
  4. An EGD and wayfinding expert. The EGD professional obviously need to be involved as the design of the sign system is critical to the requirement of integrating the design into the brand and maintaining the aesthetic integrity of the project and the wayfinding expert (if not the EGD) is critical to the objective of moving people efficiently throughout the facility in an efficient, effective and stress free manner.

These are all critical players in the signage/wayfinding process however it seems to me that there is an element missing. We know that navigating around a complex environment can be a stressful endeavor and very often this stress level can be significantly elevated by uncontrollable circumstances. A rush to see family members in a hospital, a rush to get to a terminal in an airport, a need to find a certain administrative room in an education facility are activities that occur to thousands of people every day. Jim Harding from GSP and Partners talks about the three V’s of signage, virtual, visual and verbal. One element that, in my opinion, significantly impacts the ability to effectively deliver the three V’s is the mental state of the user and careful consideration should be given to this.

Consideration of the psychological aspect can be accomplished by including an appropriate person on the wayfinding task force. I had an opportunity some years ago to be involved as a member of a signage/wayfinding task force at a very large healthcare facility in Atlanta, Georgia. The task force initially consisted, as is usual, of Marketing, Management, Engineering, Finance and an independent EGD tasked with developing the design, the wayfinding and selecting a vendor to build the signage. The facility consisted of some recently constructed buildings and some very old existing structures linked by complex, winding pathways, some below ground. Floors did not match – a path from the first floor in a new building may lead to the second floor of an older building and so forth.

During the early phase of the project the task force raised the issue of the stress and psychological factors that this complex labyrinth may cause to users and decided to deal with this from the outset as a critical aspect of the wayfinding/signage process. Consequently, the Task Force sought out and identified a person who was a Professor of Architecture and an Environmental Psychologist at Georgia Tech, Professor Craig Zimring, to work with the Wayfinding Task Force. Professor Zimring’s work focuses on understanding the relationships between the physical environment and human satisfaction. His input was significant. Using students from his department, surveys were conducted at various intersections, choke points, entrances and so forth at the hospital to try and identify how people felt emotionally when reaching certain points in their attempt to navigate the facility. Demographics were collected during this process which identified age, language and other variables to identify how certain demographic groups were impacted psychologically at certain points as opposed to others. The results of this study were carefully considered in developing the wayfinding and signage system. The decision to add a Psychologist to the Wayfinding/Signage Task Force was a very good one and ultimately proved invaluable in the development of a very effective wayfinding system.

Selwyn Josset 2016

5 Challenges that Arise During an ADA Retrofit

5 Challenges that Arise During an ADA Retrofit

For those contemplating a remodel of their office, one of the most important aspects of the project is ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The most recent comprehensive ADA Standards for Accessible Design were issued in 2010. Today, if a client is renovating an older facility, or even an office remodeled six years ago, they may think they are compliant by still referring to the regulations that were current when their offices were built. The reality is that they’d be non-compliant, and that could cost a significant amount of time and money.

Here are the top five points to keep in mind when retrofitting and remodeling:

1) Lunchrooms: Counters cannot exceed 34 inches in height at the sink area and must have a 30 inch wide clearance below for a wheelchair to roll under the sink. The challenge here is finding smaller, compatible appliances, like dishwashers and under-counter refrigerators. While more manufacturers are becoming ADA height conscious, at times sinks and the rest of the counters are installed at two different heights. The microwave must also be offered at ADA accessible height and not be placed in an upper cabinet.

2) Restrooms: Restrooms are one area where several new standards have been added. All toilets must meet ADA unless the restroom is accessed only through a private office, is not for common or public use and is intended for use by a single occupant. A few alternatives are allowed in this case but the restroom must be able to meet ADA standards when the alternatives are removed. Current code requires additional unencumbered areas. The toilet must be placed in a clear space 56/59 inches front to back and 60 inches clear space from sidewall to sink edge. The sink must have a 30 inch side to side and 48 inch front to back clear area and the same size clear area must be offered between the sink and the toilet. Numerous other revised requirements for accessory and grab bar placement are listed in the standards.

3) Door Clearances: There are two important factors about doors. All doors must provide a clear width of 32 inches and must provide maneuvering clearances for those in wheelchairs. There are several standards for maneuvering clearances but the most basic for a front approach is 18 inches clear space at the pull side of the door and 12 inches clear space at the push side of the door. The ADA standards cover all types of doors, including hinged, revolving, sliding, manual and automatic.

4) Built-in Reception Counters:  A typical reception counter is 42 inches high. But with ADA regulations, an area no more than 34 inches high and no less than 36 inches wide must be provided. From a design standpoint, the 34 inch walk up counter height means much more of the receptionist’s worksurface contents are in full view, which usually is undesirable from a privacy and aesthetic point. One way to alleviate this is to offer both the shorter counter for wheelchair users and a higher counter for able-bodied individuals.

5) Signage: Not all signs are required to be both visual and tactile with braille. Some exemptions include building directories, addresses, company names and logos. ADA standards list character spacing, style and size requirements. A range of 48 inches minimum and 60 inches maximum is now the standard height to the baseline for tactile signage.

While these are just the highlights for some of the most common components of a facility, there are many more requirements that need to be met. In addition to individuals in wheelchairs, other disabilities have to be taken into consideration such as those hard of hearing or blind. Before you start, consult your architect or interior designer. It is a much more prudent – and cost effective – approach to be proactive in design than reactive.


For more information:

Older posts «

Get Adobe Flash player