WAYFINDING SYSTEMS: One of the Functional Mechanical Systems of Facilities

WAYFINDING SYSTEMS: One of the Functional Mechanical Systems of Facilities

NNMC Tower Photo


In the mid-1980’s, I worked as an engineering technician within the Facilities Management Department of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.  That’s the hospital that has the 20-story tower that Franklin Roosevelt drew a conceptual sketch for on a napkin as he drove by the site in his convertible in 1937 and I hear has now merged with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  FDR’s hand-drawn sketch used to be on display in the halls of the hospital, the same place where JFK’s body was brought for autopsy after his assassination in 1963.

In about 1986, working with the site’s in-house civil engineers, I helped spearhead the need for an upgraded signage system at the 44-acre campus that housed a world-class hospital, a medical school, and many naval medical research facilities.  I noticed there was little congruity in the existing signs: all different colors, typefaces, shapes, and sizes. The main site identity signage, as well as the various building ID signs, were not well-designed or well-constructed.


Even more, I thought… wouldn’t it be a good idea if all the signs were numbered and labeled and entered into a campus database of signage?  Working in facilities management, I knew the new HVAC system being installed with the new construction at the expanded hospital was all becoming computer-controlled.  Shouldn’t signs be considered a system just like HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems at a plant?  Shouldn’t that system be identified and maintained just as meticuously as all the rest?  So I drew a site map and located all the existing signs on the map.  Then, I surveyed each sign location.  If it made sense, it would become the location for the new sign, if not, a new location would be selected (if even needed). Next, I systematically developed sign types for the main ID and main directionals, then secondary ID’s and directionals, etc. After the design was complete, all the signs in the system were logged into a database that would help the facilities management department with information like the date the signs were placed in service, the size of each sign, the standard sign type and wording of the signs, the location on a map of each component of the system, as well as any maintenance logs.  The new comprehensive signage design and management system was compiled and presented to and approved by the base commander!


With today’s computer technology, it’s so much easier to design and manage a facility’s signage system. Take a quick look at your site, and ask yourself the following questions:  Is it clearly identified at each entrance by signage that expresses the brand identity of the organization?  Then—once customers, visitors, staff, and vendors arrive—can they find their way around easily?  Are the signs unified into a comprehensive system that creates the effect you want people to feel as they use your campus?  Are the signs on a maintenance schedule just like all the other campus mechanical systems?


Holiday Signs helps facilities managers at hospitals, colleges and universities, airports, and other commercial, medical and professional complexes tackle modern-day wayfinding challenges.  We have design experts on staff to develop solutions that work for the custom environments of our clients.  We utilize new, high-tech methods to help design, manage and maintain effective signage systems—systems that effect brand, safety, and security, and ultimately the impressions made upon the thousands of people who interact with your campus each and every day! www.holidaysigns.com


Written by Mark Hackley, Account Executive, Holiday Signs

Keywords: Wayfinding  Facilities Management  Plant Safety  Campus Safety  Signage  Holiday Signs  NNMC  Directional Signage  Architectural Signs Corporate Identity  Branding  Building Signage  Site Signs  Directories Hospital Signage  College Signage  Healthcare Marketing  School Signs



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