Pedestrian Wayfinding


  • Inform, direct and engage.
  • Recognise the value of walking as an active mode of transport.
  • Assist Te Tauihu – Kaupapa here Te Reo Māori.
  • Improve the tourist experience.
  • Grow the numbers of central city walkers.
  • Contribute to an increase in retail expending.

City way showing

Walking is healthy, free, and good for the environment. More people walking are good for business and the public transport system. More people on the streets means a safer environment. City way showing systems can help first-time visitors gain a better understanding of the city, and help residents discover new places and stories.

Human-centric design

Wayfinding needs to be considered in terms of the people and the journeys they make. People using wayfinding will either be visitors or residents, within these groups there will be different age groups, use different languages and use a variety of travel modes. The variation of user requirements presents challenges and opportunities in communicating information to facilitate the user’s experience. The decision-making processes associated with completing a journey, and the level of information required to orientate oneself, varies through the stages of the journey.


A journey consists of several stages; pre-departure, en route, and arrival at a destination. Therefore, system components need to aid navigation at key decision-making points throughout the stages of the journey. Journey needs can be considered in terms of the integration of mode types, the placement and content of information, and system components to support full journeys.

People’s mental map

Research tells us that people visualise a place by developing their own unique picture or ‘mental map’. People use urban form and environment as their primary source of wayfinding information. Sight lines, landmarks, building features, and street names are core pedestrian navigation tools. The city wayfinding system aims to help people connect the points they know, through routes they use, to define a better understanding of an area.


Maps have been helping people navigate for centuries, visitors will use personal devices to access digital maps, they might pick up a printed map at the i-Site or their hotel, or they might encounter a map in the built environment. It is important that the content on these maps is consistent and also correctly intersects with other signage and transit systems. Working with GIS data all city maps need to be centrally authored, continually updated, and digitally distributed. Maps are an efficient, straightforward way of communicating a wealth of information. The way a map is presented can aid the cohesion of the wayfinding system — conventions, visual language, nomenclature need to remain consistent across the multiple touchpoints. The centrally authored map should ideally be available for people to use for their own digital maps, transit maps, campus maps, et cetera. Platforms such as Map Box can be used to manage this. While they might be visually different the locations, content and nomenclature remain consistent. People that struggle to read maps often find 3D buildings useful as they provide a literal representation of key landmarks.

Answering Citizen´s questions

The city wayfinding system needs to answer key questions when and where people need it. Progressive disclosure is a principle that enables this. Identifying what questions people have needs to be undertaken through insights from Local Hosts, City Ambassadors, i-Site staff, and users in the street. To be trusted and recognisable the system needs to maintain a consistent visual language across all touchpoints. A useful and attractive system will welcome visitors and build brand loyalty amongst residents.

A universal and inclusive design

The principles of clarity, brevity and unambiguous messages are key, while also allowing for expression of distinct layers of cultural association with place. The system must be designed for the inclusion of everyone. The system must work with existing systems that are not going to change such as street name signs. Identifying accessible routes, adapted toilets, pedestrian crossings and other useful detail can substantially improve the city experience for some users.

Our Te reo Māori city

We want Wellington to be a te reo Māori city. Te reo Māori is a taonga we need to protect, nurture, and grow. Our reo Māori is a key thread which weaves together our identity, our whakapapa, and ultimately creates the fabric of who we are as a people and as a nation. Using Te Reo in public places will help restore, revitalise, strengthen and enhance the cultural, social and economic wellbeing of the people.
Enhance people’s experience and appreciation of the city
The journeys that people take, pedestrians in particular, can also be supplemented with second tier information that enhances their experience and appreciation of the city. The integration of cultural elements into mainstream wayfinding signage, as well as more specific interpretation panels and cultural markers are examples of this opportunity to provide a fuller, more immersive experience of traversing urban terrain.

Educational opportunities

Although the general public is relatively unaware of it, the shape of the city retains marks and memories of the way local iwi and their ancestors used and related to the landscape. Strategically located cultural markers and interpretation panels can offer site-specific and heritage information, and also convey a sense of this enduring mana whenua cultural presence. While being educational, this type of information builds understanding of the city, the underlying natural landscape and the people, further enhancing and adding context to users’ mental maps.