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UTMB Wayfinding

This master plan aims to improve millions of visits to UTMB sites.

The University of Texas Medical Branch is a public academic health science center and hospital system that has served the Greater Houston area for over 130 years. Its mission is: "To improve health by offering innovative education and training, pursuing cutting-edge research, and providing the highest quality patient care." In 2022 alone, it accommodated over 1.5 million outpatient visits annually, directly employed over 13,000 people, and operated over 10 million square feet of facilities.

In 2022 I was part of a small team of designers and consultants who strategized, designed, and planned the execution of a unifying Wayfinding Master Plan for this world-renowned comprehensive health system. By focusing on two of the hospital system's four campuses, Galveston and League City, we developed a plan that could be carried into any UTMB facility. It was an honor to work with such a smart and dedicated group of people on this complex and impactful challenge.

What is a Wayfinding Master Plan?

A wayfinding master plan is an overarching document used to structure how people navigate space. More than an informational system of signs, colors and design elements, the wayfinding master plan for UTMB also informs decisions about pre-visit communications, naming conventions, logo use, landscaping, and architectural and interior design. Additionally, it encourages cross-disciplinary communication and awareness of how decisions in one arena affect others.

Shepherded by the UTMB Facilities Portfolio Management team, endorsed by stakeholders across the hospital system and in the C-suite, the document serves as a playbook for internal and external design teams. It underscores the importance navigation plays to the user experience, and, ultimately, supports the UTMB brand.

The Process

Our scope began with an "Analyze" phase that produced a Wayfinding Master Plan Current State Report. The report included insights from site visits, interviews with other area hospital system wayfinding and facilities teams, UTMB stakeholder interviews, an employee survey, and a visioning workshop.

This diagram shows the milestones and deliverables of the "Analyze" phase.

The best part of this initial process was the cross-disciplinary collaboration we facilitated among UTMB professionals. Together we defined wayfinding guiding principles, identified user groups, recognized strengths in the current system, voiced pain points, and imagined a better future state for how people could navigate UTMB.

The second "Synthesize" phase produced the building blocks of the Wayfinding Strategy. We declared public parking and patient drop-off would be the strategy's priority, and a color strategy would be our primary organizational methodology. The third "Visualize" phase resulted in wayfinding concepts and options for how to execute the strategy across all waypoints on the typical user journey. The final, fourth phase, "Realize", produced the final Wayfinding Master Plan which summarized the insights of the previous phases and documented the chosen direction in detail.

 Overview of the Wayfinding Master Plan process
Overview of the Wayfinding Master Plan process

The Solution

The UTMB Wayfinding Master Plan orients people by focusing on their first major destination: the best place to exit or leave their transportation in order to reach their final destination quickly and easily. By providing clarity around the best public drop-off and parking options for all final destinations, patients and visitors minimize walking distance and benefit from a second tier of the masterplan: a comprehensive color strategy. Successful user journeys are organized around a color strategy that connects parking and drop-off options to final destinations, and back.

The color strategy was the strongest organizational option because it provides the clearest orientation for the greatest number of user types. It also aids those who do not directly benefit from the dual language English / Spanish signs that were concurrently developed in the signage scope.

In designing this solution, we thought about colorblindness, which effects 1 in 12 men, 1 in 200 women, and increases in frequency and intensity as individuals age. That is why the Wayfinding Master Plan's color strategy is supported by other tools in the wayfinding toolbelt: nomenclature, signage, landscaping, architecture, and landmarks and placemaking. The plan is a system of solutions with tools and guidelines at-the-ready for design teams to put to the best use.

For the woman going to the OB/GYN with her three children in tow, for the immigrant father taking his son to the ER, for the husband taking his wheelchair-bound wife with dementia to a regular check-up, for the patient going to her first chemo treatment alonefor everyone connected to UTMB—it is my hope that this wayfinding plan will help people get to where they need to go faster, easier, and in a way that never distracts them from what is most important—their health and wellbeing.


Project Co-Lead - Lead Wayfinding Strategist, Content Writer and Designer


Jackie Wheat, Lauri Lampson, Nate Preg, Diana Galvan, Shreya Thakkar, Emily McDougald, Olivia Gray


University of Texas Medical Branch Facilities Portfolio Management Team

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