Signage: A Day At The Hospital   Leave a comment


This may sound crazy, so please bear with me. I went to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for my class assignment in signage and wayfinding. I decided to stop by the Administration Department to get approval for photographing their signage. A woman stated I should talk to someone in their Operations Signage Department. Before we parted she remarked that if they were closed that she did not see why I couldn’t take a few pictures of the Hospitals wayfinding signs for my school project. The office was closed. And so I did…sneaking around, clicking when no-one was looking, yet knowing that I was on camera. I felt it was important to explain the photographs you are about to see just in case the Hospital contacts me.

I want to begin this signage/wayfinding assignment with a little background regarding Sarasota Memorial Hospital. I have a long history with this facility as my mother spent way too much time there between, diabetic issues, three heart attacks, a quad by pass (which I stayed with her the entire week sleeping in a chair in her room) and several other physical ailments leading to her stays in the hospital. This in and out went on for twelve years. Mom died four years ago. I worked in the accounting department in 2009 at SMH and was involved in the monthly meetings with the CEO which revolved around the new construction of the building and additional facilities.

Ok, so let’s begin. Signage and wayfinding are visual communications. It is through signage that united wayfinding and identity systems occur. This includes information design for exterior and interior signage through directory maps and signs that are color coded resulting in the user navigating easily through the medical facility.

Requirements for Interactive Indoor Wayfinding System:

1) The signs are easy to see

2) The message is clear

3) Shows “you are here” to the user

4) Allows choices to a destination

5) Depicts a route

6) The process is simple and understandable for various users

The construction has been going on for two years now and this trip was my first time back. Because of the chaos (building and reconstructing) the signage system needed to be clear and simple for all users.

As I pulled up I saw signs everywhere directing visitors. The colors of the signs are symbolic of patriotism red, white and blue. Immediately a user can see clear hierarchies by the use of different fields of color containing different types of content as well as easy to follow directional arrows. (para Chen Design, 91).

I had to park in the parking garage and there was the old signage that I was accustomed to:

As I walked out of the elevator a large yellow number one let me know I was on the first floor. The arrow pointed in the direction to guide me, the user to the main lobby.

The signage and wayfinding system can be seen as it helps the user quickly make the next decision of where to go and how to get there. “Maps and user guides. Fewer than half of all hospitals currently provide basic user guides and maps to aid in wayfinding. However, they can provide valuable assistance to patients and visitors and are fast becoming a necessity…”

A directory and other information maps are available and visible as the user walks through the lobby.

A sitemap is located within the first floor hallway as Baer describes, “…should give a visual outline of all components and informational elements of the project” (64).

The photograph below is the final version of the design in blueprint format that maps out the user experience. It reveals a detailed view of how the content is organized as it incorporates interactivity by being simple and easy to read. The visual information used in wayfinding is seen through maps, symbols and diagrams to guide the user. According to Romedi Passini, “… people need information to make and execute decisions. Therefore, the wayfinding decisions they make determine the content of the required information” (89).

Wayfinding provides direction for people in motion. The principles of wayfinding design are described by the Michigan street wayfinding signs conceptual approach:

1) Design for the first time user.

2) Design to simplify the visual environment (legibility, coherence).

3) Give only the information needed at a given decision point.

4) Integrate design elements.

5) Contribute to a sense of place.

6) Create synergy between destinations.

7) Respond to diverse stakeholders.

8) Design for flexibility and to minimize maintenance costs.

9) Design for adaptability to other media. (2)

The information based exhibits depict quality by organizing the data, showing clarity of the directional data and reducing visual disorder. The displays are clean with plain language. They are detailed to ensure a consistent quality in the sign information design as signage and interactive imagery are intertwined. The quality experience supports the goals of the exhibits and displays by meeting the priority of the target audiences through the mixed media that utilizes and meets the interests of all age groups and cultural backgrounds. The overall purpose includes the objectives relating to the quality and coherence. The quality of contextual information is in simple language regarding its background information. It also reveals continued changes due to the construction.

The new signage at SMH uses an approach known as Progressive Disclosure to engage the audience and make the information meaningful. Progressive Disclosure presents only the information needed to move from one decision point to the next. (para Phil Murphy). Effective stories are told from the moment the user arrives for example, does the user need the lobby to find an elevator or the emergency room to find a loved one? This information engages the audience in the decision process.

The hospital signage is clear and effective as it provides a design framework that establishes consistent aesthetics and quality. The integration of different components begins with the maps, naming, numbering, colors utilized such as the word “Emergency” in red, typography and general organization of the parts of a building which are important organizational aspects of the signage system. Wayfinding is unified as each sign is interrelated to the next and the clarity of purpose is clear in its plain language succeeding in showing complex data in a format which is understandable by various users.

The information is effectively designed for the variety in the audience between the various ages, genders and social status. In 2013 the Courtyard Tower will officially open.

What new signage will convey their final message? We will just have to wait and leave it up to the creative designers of the hospital signage department.

Works cited

Baer, Kim. Information Design Workbook: graphic approaches, solutions, and inspiration + 30 case studies. Beverly: Rockport Publishers, Inc., 2008.

Cooper, Randy and Craig M. Berger. 2009. “What’s new in wayfinding?” Healthcare Facilities Magazine. (2009). <;.


Murphy, Phil. Wayfinding Rx. 2012. 15 Apr. 2012>.

Romedi Passini. Information Design. Ed. Jacobson, R. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000.

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