New wayfinding system in Great Ormond Street Hospital

Landor Associates have created two distinct wayfinding systems for Great Ormond Street Children’s’ Hospital (GOSH).

The first, which is already up and being used, sees each of the hospitals 6 buildings taking on a colour identity.  This is to make navigation between the buildings easier.  The second, which is not completed, is based on the natural world.  It hosted different animal characters which will help visitors find their way around, as well as put the children at ease. 

Carl Halksworth, design director at Landor on the project explains, “Great Ormond Street Hospital came to us with a brief in 2008 based upon the organic mess that the wonderful hospital is architecturally, and knowing that there was a huge redevelopment scheme – old buildings being knocked down and new ones built. The wayfinding problem that existed was that people knew they were in the hospital but not which particular part. How to get from A to B was also a problem.”

“As you travel through from building to building, there was no signage to tell you where you are,” adds Landor’s associate creative director, Ben Marshall. “On our first visit I found it easy to reference the Lego model of the hospital I’d seen in the reception area, thinking, ‘are we in the orange bit now’ or ‘are we in the purple bit?’ It was kind of obvious what we should do.”

Instead of just colour coding the hospital’s buildings Landor’s design team wanted to develop a more rigorous wayfinding system.  “For me, it required a multi-storey car park level of simplicity of navigation,” says Halksworth,” but we couldn’t stop there because when you understand the nature of the organisation, you don’t want to just apply some big numbers and say that’s what it’s all about. We wanted to take the opportunity to really get into the culture of the hospital.”

The team came up with a more complex wayfinding system that has two purposes, to direct and also distract.  “We wanted to use whatever method we could to make sure that it’s as clear and simple to find your way around as possible for the parents, partners, visiting GPs – a huge audience of people,” explains Halksworth. “Now it feels relatively common place, but for me it was an eye-opener when we started to talk to the team at GOSH about the way distraction / distraction therapy – is a key part of the therapeutic environment. The thinking is, if you’re going to give someone a big injection in their bottom, give them something to look at, get them to count the number of bees on the wall – it will make the situation better. So we wanted to look at how we could bring that distraction into our scheme and to make it more of an inviting and welcoming environment.”

The theme came about given the fact that many of the wards were already related to animals and they were named after them. The basic idea is that each floor of the building takes on a natural world theme, with the lower ground floor being under the sea, the top floor being the sky and the remainder positioned within the middle section adapted a range of habitats’. 

I love this use of wayfinding, it creates a very colourful child friendly place which relaxes the children and makes the job of the parents and staff easier.  The only negative that I could see would be that it might take a long time to travel from one section to another because the child would want to spend time exploring the zone they were currently in. In my opinion the illustrations are beautiful and extremely effective.  I wish the team the best of luck and I hope their ideas are put into practical use and you never know this idea may appear at a local hospital near you.  At least that is what I hope.

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2 Comments

  1. What a fun hospital. Very clean, professional and the wayfinding system seems contemporary. Our firm also works in the same industry, check out our website for some work we have recently completed.

    Joyce

  2. […] on from a recent post about Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) new wayfinding plans, I was given a link to Focus EDG.  Roark Gourley was enticed to make […]

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