Following the Yellow Brick Road; Colour and Navigation in Hospital Designs

Reading a map is tricky, following the directions can sometimes throw even the most ardent of orienteers. Of course, we can’t all have the luxury of a yellow brick road to lead us to our exact location, but even so- navigating a hospital design can be tough at the best of times. When you factor in the stress of not only the environment of the building, but that of others around you AND the reason why you are there, things can become overwhelming.

It’s no surprise then that people often lose their way trying to reach the correct ward or room in a hospital design, but with the gloomy possibility that this may only become a more prevalent issue as the population continues to rise, there is a sliver of hope. This hope comes in the form of wayfinding projects and more specifically the brave men and women who set out on the quest to make things that little bit easier for those in the hospital- staff, patent, visitors, and anything in-between (though hopefully not aliens looking to abduct humans for their own nefarious means).

This is where the inspiration of the “yellow brick road” comes in to save the day. A coloured trail leads you to your exact destination, or close enough. By having bold colour coding between wards or departments in your wayfinding design, you are telling everyone exactly what area they are in. With colour trails leading to other areas, all you have to do is follow the yellow brick road.

Healthcare Architecture

New Main Entrance Lobby and Retail by Johnson Design Partnership

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The Benefit of Accessible Design and Wayfinding Design in Hospitals

There are numerous benefits to wayfinding design for staff, patients, and other visitors. Such as improved overall efficiency in the running of the hospital as less time is needed to direct lost individuals and so staff can perform the tasks they were scheduled to do without interruption. This has the benefit of reducing missed appointments too which is another cost for hospitals to have to consider. Not only this, but efficient wayfinding projects will allow for less signage, which not only means less cost on hospital budgets to purchase signs, but also less confusion and a sense of being overwhelmed to those trying to figure out where they need to go. An important bonus to visual wayfinding design is that it is also a universal language allowing these community hub spaces to be inclusive of any visitor.

One of the key criteria healthcare architects use in wayfinding design projects is to design in a way for everyone to navigate around key areas as easily as possible, with minimal need to stop and reorient.

Efficient way-finding projects designed by architect firms may seem a little authoritative and ‘corporate’, but we recognise that for everyone involved, whether that’s staff, patients, or visitors, navigating the halls of a hospital design can be a stressful situation on top of what’s already a stressful environment. We recognise people are people, not machines, and as such- creativity and innovation in their projects are very much at the forefront of our process. Whilst way-finding projects aren’t new territory for us, that’s not to say we don’t treat each one with the same amount of care and attention to detail.

Accessible Design

Wayfinding feasibility for a London Hospital by Johnson Design Partnership

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Our Healthcare Architects Design with Wayfinding in Mind

Wayfinding design can always be retrofitted or done later in construction. However, for new hospitals, it’s vital to have the architect firm handle it in the design phase for maximum efficiency. It’s not just about colours, you need to incorporate good colour theory with practical design and alternative accessible design considerations.

Every time our healthcare architects undertake a new project, it’s crucial to the firm that both the needs of an individual and the needs of the masses are met. For example, whilst colour coding and efficient signage may be an integral part of a wayfinding project and as such one design may suit many, there are factors within this to consider. What if an individual is colour-blind, for example? In this case, it may be crucial to have a symbol that denotes you are on the correct path, one that is specific to the area you’re looking for and can’t be confused for another.

On the notion of signage, it’s important to make sure everything is as clear and efficient as possible for people to understand, which means considerations for font size and font type must be made. One aspect, as noted above, that can prove beneficial to many is the use of colour. Entire hospital design wards could have a certain colour that denotes exactly which is which, and when this is paired with a recognisable symbol upon signage, the two can prove effective in aiding anyone trying to navigate the hospital. To us here at Johnson Design Partnership, it’s both the why and the how that are important; in the case of wayfinding projects it’s the where too.

The skillset required to allow for innovation and creativity to feed into the design process of wayfinding design projects is not something that deters our team, but rather allows us to constantly improve, whilst finding the right balance of meeting specific criteria whilst proving they can produce something innovative that aims to benefit all, not just themselves. This is a core belief of our architect firm and it’s portrayed through our healthcare architects- it’s about more than just a project, it’s about people too. Innovation and creativity may follow certain guidelines, but it also allows our healthcare architects team to showcase their talent and help others benefit for years to come.

To come full circle on the Oz reference, Dorothy may have her yellow brick road, but the NHS has talented folks like those at Johnson Design Partnership to help design and produce an efficient way-finding project that means they too can find their way.

Hospital Design

Wayfinding feasibility for a London Hospital by Johnson Design Partnership

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