Hospitals have many attributes. They are obviously places where care is paramount, just as much as they are places of cutting edge medicine. They are a hustle and bustle as well as being places of clam and relaxation. They are sprawling edifices but also closed and comfy areas within areas. But regardless of all the superlatives that can be applied to hospitals, they are generally positive and calming places where people can be assured before treatment, and allowed to recuperate afterwards, and the right use of signage can help with that repairing process.
Hospital designers learned long ago that light levels and colour used in a hospital can go a very long way towards affecting the health of patients, and poor use of these can be just as harming psychologically as considered use can be healing. It’s not just hospitals either. There has been a huge amount of work carried out on the effects of lighting and colour on people’s health and attitudes in other public areas too. Investigations into these aspects airports and railway stations has also shown that the psychological power of colour and lighting can influence the mood of people who may be anxious, disoriented or overemotional. However, while travellers may see some aspects anxiety, it’s nothing compared to the emotions people in hospital might feel.
Colour and lighting factors also extend to the types of signage used in hospitals as well influencing how signs are presented, as these too can be a part of the healing process.
Signs in hospitals have to fulfil a number of important functions. Fundamentally they have to convey information and help people navigate quickly and safely, but they should also be safe and of no risk in passing on infections. Touchable signs such as Talky’s and touchscreen Totem’s are generally not encouraged, though this doesn’t mean that variations of these aren’t being used. Hospitals signs have to reach out to people in a variety of ways since those needing to navigate may have all manner of ailments that prohibit them accessing signs in the normal way. They may have visual or aural impairments that mean they cannot make out visual or speech-orientated signs.
All of this means that hospital signs have to be bold and multi-aspected, but also calming and good mood inducing with it. That tends to be a big ask, but this is where technology is starting to help.
While certain types of Talky and Totem signs are certainly of great use in these environments, provided that they don’t require any kind of touch to operate them. This means that then can be operate by proximity and automatically provide information when someone approaches them. Of course, you wouldn’t want these in a busy passageway, but in specialist areas they are ideal.
Colour and lighting play a huge part in creating mood signage, with most hospitals making use of colour-coded areas to denote different parts of the establishment, but subtle colour and mood lighting have been shown to help people recuperate and even casual signage can help in this way.
Hospital visits are usually tough enough anyway without bright and highly coloured signs in jaggedy fonts making it any worse. The correct kind of signage in the right colours and appropriate lighting can help put minds at ease.