Wayfinding is an ever-evolving concept, often developing in real time. As guests and clients use and move through a venue, event or locatio, guided by key elements from the signs and maps, to tickets and apps, and how the space is divided up they should be following a wayfinding masterplan. We say should, because the reality is that many venues and events shun the idea of a wayfinding masterplan. In this article, we’ll talk about why they are essential, and, perhaps even more importantly for you as an event organiser or stadium operator, how a clear masterplan can be a boost for your business both financially and with regards to brand awareness.
Signs are perhaps the most tangible part of wayfinding that visitors and clients recognise. They may not realise that every very well-placed and designed sign, from a station platform to a stadium seat number, relies on a clear and well-constructed wayfinding masterplan. The benefits may well be less tangible, for example, staff may not need to field as many wayfinding questions, either freeing up their time or reducing the staffing levels. However, for many companies, the wayfinding masterplan is either entirely forgotten or set aside, a lack of understanding of the plan, or perceived cost leading event organisers to abstain from committing.
What is a wayfinding masterplan?
A wayfinding Masterplan is about the whole customer experience, from the minute you start interacting with the venue to the moment the event begins. The first thing to understand is that a wayfinding masterplan is not just erecting signs. That means from the moment someone thinks about buying a ticket and how they will get to the venue, to their setting off on the journey to the venue, through to asking staff for help or downloading an app, they are in your ‘masterplan’. These customer experiences are all highly in tune with how your customers are going to find their way.
There are many beneficiaries of a clear wayfinding masterplan: visitors, venue, and event. There are also indirect beneficiaries such as the host city, transport providers and local economies. The business case for a wayfinding masterplan
Implementing a wayfinding masterplan has myriad benefits to your costs and revenue.
First and foremost, you will need to buy less stuff. (eg: Farnborough air show undertook a masterplan they reduced their sign hardware by about 50%). And with fewer products to buy, there are fewer products to build, maintain, dismantle and store. This meant further reduced costs. However, perhaps the greatest impact a robust wayfinding masterplan can have is on client and visitor feedback and event coverage. If a visitor has a stress-free experience, finding their way easily, they might share on social media, tagging the venue or event name. A key client might do the same, with the impact reaching further thanks to their follower numbers (for example a large beverage brand or a major retailer). An increase in social media traffic plays an important role in the success of many businesses.
When it comes to your specific venue, and setting out your business case for a wayfinding masterplan, there are four key areas to consider:
1: Investment in ‘upfront’ elements for later savings
Part of the business case – investing in guides, maps, staff training and mobile devices rather than just ‘popping in’ signs can help the movement of people, flow, and enjoyment and brings us right back around to customer satisfaction. Often in a stadium, a minor tweak to the wayfinding system can have a major positive impact on the spectator’s experience of the venue. Investing time at the outset of a project can reap rewards. The London 2012 Olympic Stadium had a 92% customer satisfaction score, compared to the scores from older, more established venues at the Games there is a huge and significant gap demonstrating the positive impact a masterplan approach can have.
2: The needs of the two different types of clients:
When we consider the business case for a wayfinding masterplan, it’s about blending the needs of the two types of clients: the visitors, and the ‘clients’ – the event owners themselves. A venue may need spectators to use certain areas to aid the spread of the crowd, a retailer may have paid big bucks for a prime spot so is expecting footfall past their door or there might be a particular activation that is part of the uniqueness of the venue. This is where a wayfinding masterplan can come into its own. For example, at the London 2012 Olympic Park, the heartbeat of the day’s experience was the Park Live area, a stage set over the water where crowds watched the sporting action on the big screens, along with compering from hosts on
the big stage. Simply directing visitors to Park Live would have meant nothing. Conversely, using the wayfinding masterplan to reveal what Park Live was before their visit using maps in the spectator guide, an explanation on the Park’s mega-maps as well those directional signs meant plenty of visitors made it to Park Live.
3: The ‘why’ of their visit to the venue
It’s not just about heading over to a part of the venue, it’s also about the ‘why’ of going there – from an experience such as Land Rover at Farnborough, to the hospitality areas at Wimbledon. Clients who are taking a space at your event or venue also benefit, not just from sales or customer interaction, but from the same coverage for their brand as visitors share that experience. Clients want a strong wayfinding masterplan because they want the visitors to find them. If an area isn’t on the main route through a venue, the organisers might choose to leaflet or add their own signs to the area. Nothing devalues a venue more than clutter – the well-meaning client who decides to make ‘extra signs’ with a laminator, or the event organiser who creates flyers with their own map on. These might seem like extreme examples, but they can happen, and they devalue and compromise the entire system. It’s easy to get distracted when a project is close to completion and begin ‘panic adding’ your own perception of wayfinding.
4: Make your building intuitive:
This means for the people that are using it to navigate their way round and not necessarily for the people who are operating it For example, in a stadium, the seating arrangement is often laid out with the ticketing and ticket office in mind. But when you switch to a spectator experience-focus, there can be huge benefits to the flow of spectators and how they get to their seats. Spectators will cross the imaginary red line from the public realm to being at the event. They then pass through the gates, along concourses and into the seating bowl. By looking at the fine detail, for example not just how many gates there are but how they are numbered, can affect how you set up your stadium. It will give you a benefit further down the line, as there will automatically be fewer pinch points where people congregate and block the way. That also means spectators can get in and out easily there will be increased spend at concessions.
How GJ+H Wayfinding.Workshop can help
Talking a client through the wayfinding system before the event gives them a sense of inclusion and engagement – their needs have been included and a suitable design response created. Most importantly, they will feel that somebody else isn’t getting treated better. Instead, a wayfinding masterplan that would include all exhibitors will bring custom, a flow of people and a positive outcome. If you get your wayfinding masterplan on point, your brand will grow as a result.
A clear wayfinding masterplan leads to satisfied customers, who are more likely to return to the venue or event again. It puts you ahead of your competitors and shows you want to stay ahead of the game. They leave positive reviews and encourage others to come next time. It adds to your image and gives reach to the coverage of your event and venue.