Building Design to Improve the Ease of Wayfinding in Unfamiliar Public Buildings

By Ching-Lan Chang and Steve Fotios.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Wayfinding tasks comprise of a set of decision points and interconnecting paths leading to a destination choice. Path choice at decision points is critical to the successful completion of wayfinding tasks. While signage has an obvious influence on path choice, research has found a wide range of other variables – including elements of a building’s design and following wayfinding ‘strategies’ - that also influence path choice.

This paper presents investigations into these additional variables and their impact on reassurance when wayfinding, specifically for those encountering a particular building for the first time (unfamiliar users). Three studies are reported: an observation of route choices made by people walking around an unfamiliar building; an experiment into the effect of corridor width on route choice; judgements of finding destinations given by people on defined routes in an unfamiliar building. The objective of the study is to identify how buildings can be designed to improve wayfinding.

Keywords: Wayfinding, Unfamiliar User, Building Design, Architecture, Reassurance

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.237-248. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.438MB).

Ching-Lan Chang

Student, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Ching-Lan Chang is originally from Taiwan and since graduating from her degree in architecture has been studying in Sheffield. Both her Masters thesis and PhD derive from an interest in how the built environment effects what people do in their everyday lives.

Dr. Steve Fotios

Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, UK

Dr. Fotios is a senior lecturer of architectural science at the University of Sheffield, UK. He pursues research of lighting and visual perception, currently working on international projects of spectral effects of lighting for roads and interior spaces.


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