124 Color Works Production & Information Wayﬁnding and Color
At the headquarters of the
Guardian newspapers in London, every
level of the ofﬁces is color-coded. Within
the dynamic, horizontally shifting signs,
individual values of each color palette are
applied to differentiate ﬂoor locations.
These color values are inspired by the pal-
ettes used within the actual newspaper.
For instance, airport wayﬁnding mechanisms might not work for
a city’s street signs. Or signage in one city might not work for signage
in another city.
Color-coding can establish hierarchy and differentiate areas/zones
more clearly. In buildings, wayﬁnding can be applied not only to hang-
ing and standing signage but also to interior and exterior wall spaces
and zones. Color may also be applied to entryways and exits to signify
a change from one color-coded zone to another. Floors are also
a possibility: Color-coding can make it easier to deﬁne a space.
This type of work is highly sensitive and collaborative, and decisions
regarding wayﬁnding cannot be made by the designer alone. Several
professionals, from architects to ﬁre and safety inspectors, will have
a say in what colors can and cannot be used in an environment. The
majority of the time there is no subjective rationale behind color
choices. Rather, choices result from a clear, objective understanding
of the situation at hand.
As a designer, there are many things to consider:
When designing within buildings, know what other colors and
materials are being used in the same surroundings.
Design for individuals with disabilities.
Avoid using too many colors—a palette that’s too broad
reduces the mnemonic power of color and makes it more
Rules and regulations differ from country to country, and
even town to town.
As in print, color studies will need to be shown in the physical space to
determine whether the colors will work in the given environment. Use
Pantone PMS colors for interior signage and AkzoNobel, DuPont, or
Dulux for exteriors. RAL is an equal alternative to Pantone PMS colors.
Originating in Germany in the mid-1920s, RAL (Reichsausschuß für
Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung—“State Commission for Delivery
Terms and Quality Assurance”) was created as a color standard for
industry. Originally a simpliﬁed system with forty colors, RAL now
comprises more than 1,800 colors. RAL is normally used by graphic
designers with a focus on wayﬁnding, as well as architects and industrial
designers. It uses a four-digit system: The ﬁrst digit represents the color
hue, the second is neutral (always zero), the third number is lightness/
brightness, and the fourth numeric is the chroma.
Natural and artiﬁcial lighting conditions are an important factor in
choosing color for wayﬁnding. Depending on its location, natural light
can play havoc on color. It is very important to know whether the location
is consistently gray, overcast, sunny, or hazy. This knowledge allows
you to determine whether your palette is too soft or too extreme for its
environment. Discoloration may occur if the colors are exposed to
extreme natural daylight, so selecting durable materials and colors is