Why People Need Wayfinding: Our Sense of Direction

Over one hundred years ago, Charles Darwin noted something exceptional about human beings in scientific literature: our sense of direction. Believe it or not, our sense of direction sets us apart from other mammals and comes from our ability to sift through fine-grain environmental details to create an imaginary frame of reference in the spaces we inhabit. A lot of this has to do with our incredible sensory tools like sight, smell, hearing and so forth. However, it is the human capacity to imagine and remember (both concepts which also set us apart from other mammals) that helps us find our way.

An interesting component of the human sense of direction is our need to create wayfinding solutions to redirect ourselves and other humans back to points of interest, whether it be places to find food, water, shelter or some other basic necessities. Human beings have always created systems of symbols and markers to remind ourselves where things are and this art has evolved into the practice of wayfinding over time.

While industry jargon might make this process seem complex and there are ever-more evolving possibilities when it comes to generating wayfinding solutions to spatial problems, the reality is that wayfinding is one of the most basic tools that sets human beings apart in the animal world. We have always shaped our environment in imaginative ways to jog memory and signify to others where they are going. We have just gotten better and better at it with time.

Over the centuries, wayfinding has become more sophisticated and today, there are entire consultancy teams devoted to coming up with brilliant systems that effortlessly move people through built environments while created a branded experience at the same time. No longer is wayfinding only about our sense of direction, but now, it has grown to include the creation of experiences within that movement. Through proper signage and architectural design, we can actually develop human emotions in certain spaces and these emotions are more likely to lead to the creation of memories than anything else.

What does this mean? For businesses or organizations looking to develop memories with their brand, products, or services in their clients, these emotional responses mean a stronger connectivity to your space. Effective wayfinding solutions can also contribute to an individual’s sense of safety, security and well-being: characteristics which are priceless in what some perceive to be an increasingly chaotic world.

At Behrends Group, our design team takes these principles to heart. We recognize what is possible by developing creative solutions to directional problems with tools that resonate at the most basic human level. Let us play to your sense of direction and that of your clients to design perfect wayfinding strategies in your business or institutional environments.