Developing Universal Symbols for Health Care Facilities

Strengthening the Evidence and Understanding of how to Improve Hospital Facility Signage

Field of Work: Universal graphical symbols for health care facilities

Problem Synopsis: To someone who doesn’t speak English, or has minimal reading skills, going to a hospital or health care facility can be like entering a foreign country—beginning with the signs on the wall that they don’t understand.

Synopsis of the Work: Project staff at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD) worked with a design team to create and test a set of universal graphic symbols to help people with limited proficiency in English find their way around health care facilities.

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Key Findings/Results

  • The project team created, tested and disseminated 54 graphic symbols to help those with limited English navigate health care facilities.

  • Four demonstration sites developed “wayfinding” systems that incorporated these symbols into their signage. By the fall of 2010, two sites had fully implemented new signage and the other two were expected to do so over the next few months.

  • Project staff developed best-practice guidelines and other resources to help health e facilities redesign signage using graphic symbols.

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