The Las Vegas Wayfinding Shuffle

Recently I shared how one sign in disrepair can tarnish the image of a brand. My comments were sparked by happening upon a directional sign in disrepair on the same floor as my room at MGM Resort’s Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. ASI recently held an owners meeting at MGM’s neighboring Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas we also attended the ISA (International Signage Association) International Signage Expo also taking place at the Mandalay Bay.

Unique Wayfinding Inside Las Vegas Hotel/Casinos

During our four days in Vegas I walked back and forth between the humongous Luxor and Mandalay Bay countless times and was able to observe a unique wayfinding strategy that was common in both hotels. I visited a few of the other grand hotel/casinos along the strip and noticed similar wayfinding challenges.

Las Vegas boasts a wide variety of huge hotel/casinos, each more magnificent than the last, each costing a fortune to build and housing thousands of guest rooms plus numerous shops, restaurants, spas, shows, pools, etc. Navigating within a hotel/casino is quite an undertaking. Did I mention that these hotel/casinos were huge and that to get from the lobby to your room, from your room to a meeting room, show, restaurant, pools or anyplace else required hiking shoes, nutritional supplements and pre-visit circuit training so that your cardiovascular system was up for the challenge?

Inside the Gambling War Zone – No Wayfinding Signage

There was adequate wayfinding once one was away from the heart of a casino to assist navigation across vast distance to ones destination. But when in the midst of the slot machines and gaming tables that stretched out as far as your eyes could see you were on your own. You were inside the Gambling War Zone with each warrior stranded alone to fend for themeless. Hotels were purposely designed so that all routes to anywhere in the hotel required one to pass through their casino. I traversed through the casinos of the Luxor and Mandalay Bay more times than the blisters on my feet could stand and each time I cursed myself for not having a GPS device so I could get to where I needed to go without getting hopelessly turned around and confused.

It is obvious that the hotel/casinos wanted me to remain lost so that I would be forced to linger in the casinos as long as possible and I would therefore spend more time gambling. The allure of the casinos was strong with an endless array of slot machines each with a different theme, flashing lights and cacophony of sounds. The excitement of the gaming tables including Poker and Black Jack, Roulette and Craps was certainly tempting and the longer one spent weaving through the casinos the more enticing they became.

One didn’t have much trouble finding the other big moneymakers for the hotels from inside their casinos; especially the expensive shows that each hotel proudly advertised throughout the country and strongly promoted  on property. Show signage was large and lavish and was visible from across the casino. Shows even had a wayfinding sign or two within the heart of the sprawling casinos. But forget signs to amenities such as meeting rooms and guest rooms. Every minute guests spent elsewhere the hotel was a loss of gambling revenue for the casino. The hotel/casinos wanted guests to stay in the casinos and gamble, pure and simple.

Navigational Quagmire

I am known for having an almost infallible sense of direction. I learn my way around new surroundings almost immediately. Yet, I found myself repeatedly asking employees for directions at both the Luxor and Mandalay Bay. Obviously, I am not the only hotel guest that was in a navigational quagmire requiring assistance. Hotel/casino employees were constantly bombarded with requests for directions.

One day several of us were navigating through the Mandalay Bay and were on the perimeter of their casino. We walked up to a service desk and asked directions. We were given so many lefts and rights that there was no way we were going to remember how to get to our destination. What surprised me was that the desk didn’t have maps upon which routes could have been marked. Obviously, a decision had been made against providing such maps. The hotel/casino wanted us to remain lost so that we would spend as much time in the casino and patronize their shops and restaurants.

The Las Vegas model of wayfinding in abstentia worked to the benefit of the extravagant, ever popular, sprawling Las Vegas hotel/casinos. It was part of the Las Vegas vibe. Guests weren’t going to avoid a hotel/casino simply because navigating through it was a Herculean task because it was exactly the same  everywhere else. Guests were captive. Lump it or leave it… and nobody was going to leave it!

Don’t Provide Las Vegas Hotel/Casino Wayfinding Model at Your Facility

The rest of us, however, must make certain that visitors to our facilities never face such mass confusion and frustration. People avoid establishments where they have to work hard to get to their destination. Unlike Las Vegas, there are plenty of facilities that provide the same products or services that we do that have good wayfinding; they are ready alternatives to us if we don’t do a good job with wayfinding.

When planning architectural signage for your facility don’t base your decision on price alone. Make sure that wayfinding expertise provided by your signage company keeps your guests, visitors, vendors, patients, students, staff and others from being caught in the Las Vegas Wayfinding Shuffle!


John Selig
Marketing Manager

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