The Origins of Wayfinding

The origins of wayfinding can be traced to architect Kevin Lynch, who coined the term ‘’wayfinding’ in 1960 in his book Image of the City.

In that watershed book, Lynch indicated that 5 main elements needed to be present in order for people to self-navigate effectively in unfamiliar environments. These five elements are:

– Landmarks (notable elements like fountains, the tallest building, sculptures, etc.)
– Districts (major sections of the overall place)
– Nodes (intersections of hallways or roadways)
– Pathways (clearly defined means of movement)
– Edges (boundaries that limit movement like walls or rivers)

Noticeably absent from this list is signage.  Not that the author dismissed signs as unnecessary for wayfinding. He actually discusses them as well, but he recognized that people instinctively gather much of the information they use for self-navigation from cues provided by their surroundings.  The Wayfinding Associates philosophy is based on this concept.