Wayfinding Symbols Across the World

Metro stations, train stations and streetcar systems have distinct ways of showing how to get from one area to another. TheCityFix's Jonna McKone looks at mass transit systems from Mexico City to Paris and the visual representations used in each one.

1 minute read

January 11, 2011, 11:00 AM PST

By Anonymous (not verified)


When you're commuting in an unfamiliar place or using different modes of transit, what do you look for? And what sorts of symbols do transit agencies use to help commuters get where they have to go?

Two key visual methods-representational graphics and icons-serve as visual cues that reinforce direction, location, modes and uses of transit.

A variety of ways to access information are necessary to provide useful service. This could include audible cues, as well as visuals like maps, wayfinding symbols and even branding so people can identify different service providers.

Icons and symbols are universally recognizable and good design ensures such images are located within clear lines of sight. Directional demarcations help residents navigate transit infrastructure, which is often underground, multi-tiered and confusing, particularly for out-of-town travelers. But icons are not just about wayfinding; they also ensure that a people can understand and identify transit regardless of literacy or language, help travelers and commuters switch between transit modes and routes, and enforce or legitimize rules of the road.

Thanks to Garrett Bradford

Friday, January 7, 2011 in TheCityFix

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Bike parking in underground area with ramp for taking bikes upstairs.

California Building Code to Add Bike Parking Requirements

Convenient and secure bike parking can make a major impact on whether people adopt biking as a daily transportation option.

3 hours ago - Streetsblog California

Close-up on map of Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Nation's First Nuclear Power Plant in Nearly Half a Century Breaks Ground in Wyoming

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had shovel-in-hand for the groundbreaking of his company's small-scale nuclear power plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming, on June 10.

4 hours ago - WyoFile

Close-up of red Houston BCycle bike share bikes parked at a station

Houston Will Be Largest US City Without Bike Share

The city’s bike share system will cease operations at the end of June.

5 hours ago - Houston Public Media

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.