More than development. Norwalk redevelopment.


Wayfinding is what the word itself suggests — a means of finding one’s way.  Wayfinding is closely associated with the branding and marketing of a particular district in one’s city — often the downtown, and sometimes a Special Services District.  Such endeavors, in turn, are usually associated with persuading the target audience that, beyond the one or two attractions in the district they have heard of or are familiar with, the totality of the district and its collection of businesses and sights are worth exploring.  It is at this juncture — where the visitor considers whether or not she wishes to explore — that the ability to comfortably navigate becomes determinative in winning that customer for the district.  If she is concerned about safety and/or getting lost, the allure of exploration quickly dissolves.

As the image above suggests, wayfinding has most often come to be associated with a coordinated signage system to help people navigate within a set geographical area.  Wayfinding can also be facilitated through urban greenery and/or well-coordinated heritage tourism.  Wayfinding has been discussed often in Norwalk, but never implemented on a significant scale.  It is a major — and popular — pillar of the Connectivity Plan, whose goal is to create a more coherent, unified downtown environment.

This initiative does not stem from a perspective that Norwalk lacks for signage.  Norwalk has lots of signage.  Signs for parking, signs for the library, the aquarium, the hospital, etc.  What Norwalk lacks — and what wayfinding can provide — is a signage *system* that conveys not only locational information, but also a sense that the locations are all a part of a connected, branded place, i.e., Downtown Norwalk.

As the graphic above indicates, one way that a wayfinding system does this is by offering a consistent look, whether by shape, style, or color pallet,  so that the signs convey not only their written content, but an important subliminal message: wherever you may go, if you see one of these signs, you’re still in ‘the district,’ and thereby easily connected to the particular experience it is offering.

A challenge in wayfinding signage — especially in larger districts — is balancing the above dynamic (a consistent look to convey your presence within a unified district) with the recognition that there are distinct mircro-geographies — sub-districts, if you will, within the totality of the larger district.

The stakeholder group that examined wayfinding opportunities in the Connectivity Plan identified 5 subareas of the downtown to use within the wayfinding system, and worked with the consultants to identify key locations to utilize wayfinding signage.  Heritage Tourism (about which more is related here)  was thought to be the best organizational and marketing framework for wayfinding within Norwalk’s downtown.