Which Way Do I Go?…Which Way Do I Go?

Have you ever been a first time guest at a large complex? Maybe a hospital, corporate office building, university, major league sports venue, airport or some other similar destination. Have you ever felt like the hound from Of Fox And Hounds – (Warner Bros, 1940) …“which way did he go George, which way did he go?

As I have said several times in this series, I spend a fair amount of time on the road. I am in and out of airports, rental cars, and hotels on a weekly basis. I may be in 2-3 different airports in a single week. On top of that, I am a guy (DUH). So as a member of the male species, it is ingrained that I do not ask directions. I am a man, and by golly, I can figure this out on my own. I am so thrilled that smart phones have GPS…that is a man’s best friend when you are on the road. But I have learned that the GPS does not work very well inside the airport when I am trying to navigate my way to destinations within the terminal. However, most airports (except for Newark…the blithe of all airports) use the same, or very similar, iconic signs that allow me to find my way to key landmarks without  damaging my much protected masculinity. They are:

These 3 signs put me at ease and make me feel like “I can do this”, even if I have never been to that airport. I can follow these signs and not look like a neophyte or an “occasional traveler” (you know who I am referring too). I can proceed with confidence that I will be able to locate the restroom, rental cars, and baggage claim (which I rarely use, but is nice to know where it is on those occasions or when I am assisting someone else find their way). These are all examples of Wayfinding.

Here is what Wikipedia says about wayfinding:

Urban planner Kevin A. Lynch borrowed the term for his 1960 book The Image of the City, where he defined wayfinding as “a consistent use and organization of definite sensory cues from the external environment”. In 1984 environmental psychologist Romedi Passini published the full-length “Wayfinding in Architecture” and expanded the concept to include signage and other graphic communication, clues inherent in the building’s spatial grammar, logical space planning, audible communication, tactile elements, and provision for special-needs users.

In laymen’s terms, wayfinding are elements that help lead a guest through the maze of a facility.

Wayfinding are elements that help lead a guest through the maze of a facility.”

This can take the form of signage, “weenies”, floor markings, pathways, visual graphics and even sound and smell. Any element that provides a sensory clue to a desired location can be considered wayfinding.

Let me say this again…these elements are NOT for your current members/attendees, although they will enjoy it as well (and in the same way I may not need to know where the baggage claim is, if I am trying to help someone else, it is nice to have obvious clues to be of assistance). Rather, wayfinding is for those not yet at your church…your guests. By providing wayfinding…starting at the entrance of your parking lot and continuing throughout the campus experience…you reduce a portion of the walls that a first time guest may have erected and you ease their mind.  They are able to navigate the parking lot, the pedestrian access points, and circulation spaces without feeling and looking like “the dumb new guy”.

In addition, wayfinding done right, can be the landmarks for connection. “Hey Sam, I will meet you outside the double door with the large orange KID CITY sign”.  These wayfinding elements become part of the fabric of your campus, your culture, and your guests’ experience.  Don’t see them as just signs or directional components. See them as part of how your facility tells the unique story of who you are and what you value.


Check out our book, Why Church Buildings Matter. Church facilities will not save a person from a life of sin and frustration. But the lack of attention to the church campus can indeed be the road block to reaching those people that need to hear the gospel message the most. Don’t minimize their impact. This book will reveal how to maximize your church facility to share the greatest story ever told, the gospel.

One comment on “Which Way Do I Go?…Which Way Do I Go?

  1. Enjoying this series very much, Tim – well done! As we’ve talked about before, the spaces we create – and how we navigate in them – are huge markers of ease, or dis-ease, among Guests.

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