Designing a wayfinding system in a hospital

How to provide orientation in such a complex organisation?
How can design support wayfinding, navigation and orientation in a hospital? And how can the design outcome be functional, but still artistic and appealing to all senses?
Understanding cultural and medical conditions

In this section I would like to share experiences with you about designing a wayfinding system for a hospital in Stockholm, Sweden (MA thesis project). The design focuses on people, who are not familiar with the architecture e.g. patients, visitors and new employees. At first it was very important to understand the cultural context means the cultural singularities and the medical system in this city/county/country. One the one hand it was a challenge (for me), because I had to question how things work and why they are like this, which many locals are familiar with. On the other hand it was a great opportunity to scrutinise state of things through seeing them from a different perspective and therefore get quality insights during the research phase.

Moreover it was about how collaboration between various disciplines (my project partner Rickard and me) like in this case cognitive science and science can cross-pollinate each other and therefore take a turn for the better. In addition to that the involvement and collaboration of the different stakeholders like the hospital's employees and patients was very important to us and led to a concept that can be refined and carried on by the hospital in the future. 

User Research

We collected a diverse range of information materialised as sketches, pictures, recordings, quotes, notes, opinions, literature using methods such as guided tours, observation, interviews and immersion. In addition to that my project partner Rickard Granholm gathered scientific material from the field of cognitive science. Amongst others it consisted of various experiments that showed how the human brain functions especially in moments of stress. It indeed helped to understand the challenges of orientation from a different perspective.


We organised brainstorming sessions with the employees in the hospital in order to get ideas for future applications. The results consisted from a range of diverse thoughts on products and services to improve wayfinding for patients, visitors and all employees at Danderyds.

How does collaboration contribute to the designed outcome? What happens if knowledge fields merge?


In addition to that the investigation studies the advantages and possibilities of multidisciplinary work between the knowledge fields of design. Simultaneously it questions the traditional boundaries originating from categorisation and specialisation within the design discipline as such. This project was a collaboration between Rickard Granholm (University of Skövde, Department for Cognitive Neuroscience and Philosophy) and Anja Popovic (University of Gothenburg, Academy of Design and Crafts), initiated by CTMH - Center for Medicine and Health in Stockholm.

Design a system

The multidisciplinary approach and the results of the investigation also raise the questions, where the boundaries between the knowledge fields actually are and how this might affect the role of the designer in the future.

The visual system is the outcome of the investigation. It is based on the requirements we set up for the graphic design. This system is a model kit. That means multiple design applications can be generated, no matter what kind of media the hospital might want to apply in the future. The combinations of the system's components like typography, shapes, symbols, grids create flexible design applications that serve as information carriers. 


In order to be able to get constant user feedback, we built several physical and digital prototypes. We created pocket maps to get direct feedback when navigating through the space in order to constantly improve the interaction of maps and signs in the physical space. Futher we generated a dummy fo an interactive map, which can be regularly adapted to changes of rooms and connected to mobilde devices to test how the user can orientate before even visting the hospital.

Signange is inevitable. We experimented with various shapes to create a modular system of flat and 3-demsional signs, that can be easily adapted to the usable space on walls and changes of departments available in 3 sizes based on the grids. In order to orientate on-site, we equipped signage with technology and made it responsive. Interactive signage can be installed to test how the user reorientates oneself and navigates back and forth through the building. As a side-effect it illuminates dark spots and corridors. In addition to that there is also a speaker box prototype using speech interpretation and recognition software to give the user direct feedback on navigational questions. So the user doesn't need to return to the reception when nobody is around to help. 

Finally textile applications could be applied to the various waiting zones to give information about the specific department or showing maps. Not least to give the space a warmer and welcoming appearance.