designing a medical clinic

Opportunities for Hospital Wayfinding Signage Improvements to Better Serve Patients

Published on: September 10, 2019

The hospital environment can have a big impact on a patient’s state of mind. Using pleasant design and colors, decorations, or art can elevate patients’ moods. And that positive mindset is key to wellness. But patients expect more from their healthcare setting these days. 

Patients demand a hospital environment where they feel safe, connected, and understood—and to meet their expectations, you have to go a step beyond simple interior decorating. By building on new hospital design concepts, you have the opportunity to improve patient satisfaction—and health outcomes— through strategically-branded hospital wayfinding signage. 

Hospital Wayfinding Signage Can Revitalize Patient Engagement

Hospital wayfinding signage is, of course, necessarily functional. It helps patients get to where they need to go. But it can also be so much more than that. Since wayfinding signage is such a common touchpoint throughout your facility, it holds the potential to influence patients time and again. Here’s how four hospitals leveraged their wayfinding signage to meet patients’ needs by: 

Reducing patient anxiety 

hospital wayfinding signage

Art and beauty are soothing to the soul. They give nervous patients something pleasant to focus their attention on, which is especially helpful in waiting rooms and pediatric units. And that’s just what the new Alaska Native Medical Center accomplished with the wayfinding program. 

Their interior wayfinding signage used natural themes to delineate different areas of the hospital with topographical icons like “mountain” and “water,” bringing features of the natural world to an otherwise impersonal space. By using distinct wall colors and bright icons, they made different areas of the facility distinct and easy to navigate. Not only did this landmarking strategy provide patients with a better understanding of the space, but it also served to alleviate patient anxiety and support a sense of connection. 

Patient responses to this new hospital wayfinding signage show how it helps them feel:

“Seeing photos of people picking berries or fishing to give me hope of better things to come: Spring and Summer.”

“Everyone relates to water in some way, whether it’s the ocean, river, bay, or creek. It is a connection across all of Alaska that creates a common tie to connect people together.”

Showing you understand

hospital wayfinding signage

When your patient population has a distinct cultural identity, your hospital wayfinding signage can help further a connection by welcoming them with language and elements they relate to. At Maui Memorial Medical Center, every patient and visitor is greeted by a cheerful “E Komo Mai” written in large letters at the lobby’s information desk. This means “Come in and make yourself at home” in native Hawaiian and is just one of the ways Maui Memorial Medical Center incorporates local culture into their healing environment. 

The center also uses icons of native healing medicinal plants within their wayfinding iconography, which give each floor of the hospital its own visual theme while evoking a sense of connectedness to nature—a significant value of the locals. Blue and green frosted resin is a repeated design element, mimicking the sea glass often found on Maui’s shores. And even the inpatient nursing units are designed to reflect the island’s natural landscape and spirituality. 

These culturally-appropriate elements integrated into thoughtful wayfinding and architectural signage show the patient population that Maui Memorial Medical Center understands and values who they are. Patients feel warmly welcomed across the care spectrum. 

Building trust 

hospital wayfinding signage

Hospital wayfinding signage can build trust between your patients and your brand if it is designed with an understanding of how certain colors and shapes promote positive emotions and, in turn, brand perception. San Mateo Medical Center leveraged this understanding when setting out to redesign their logo and integrate it into their wayfinding program.

Branding experts used a select combination of colors and shapes to create a mosaic that represents the center’s values of diversity, unity, and health. This new design effectively conveys what patients can expect from San Mateo Medical Center. And their positive experiences when they receive healthcare there builds upon that brand promise. 

Update Your Hospital Wayfinding Signage For Better Patient Experiences

Connecting with your patient population involves implementing strategic environmental branding and wayfinding design elements. The examples above make it seem simple, but the best results can only be achieved by partnering with a human-centric design firm that understands nuance in branding. Sometimes, even the smallest details can make a difference in how your hospital is experienced and perceived. That’s why the first, and most important, step toward improving the patient experience at your hospital is choosing who to design your hospital wayfinding signage. 


At GNU Group, creating hospital wayfinding signage that helps improve patient wellness is our passion. To learn how our people-focused environmental graphic and signage design can create a more comfortable setting for your patients and visitors, connect with our team.