It is estimated that by the year 2018, more than 75 million foreigners will travel to the United States annually. 65% of those visitors will not speak English and, with this large influx of non-native speaking visitors, many cities will be faced with the challenge of creating environmental and experiential graphic systems that can help direct and assist those who do not speak the language. If your city is in need of multilingual signage elements, consider the following:

  • A picture is worth a thousand words –Using symbols can overcome many obstacles in wayfinding systems, but a major benefit to symbol use is overcoming the language barrier. Cities throughout the U.S. are continually faced with the need of accommodating visitors that don’t speak English. Working to accommodate these visitors can be very costly, especially when the need arises to implement wayfinding systems. One very cost effective way of dealing with this issue is the use of universally recognized icons of transportation modalities such as bikes, cars trains and airplanes, as well as directional arrows, can all work to direct people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) regardless of their primary language.
  • Follow the map to success- Using maps is a simple and effective way to direct non-English speaking patrons to certain locations. Color-coded directional lines with arrows on a map will work to denote certain landmarks and how to get to each of these locations. Keep in mind that pictures the landmarks on the map can also streamline the wayfinding experience for each visitor.
  • Let your fingers do the walking- Interactive touch screens can overcome many language barriers because these digital wayfinding devices can be easily programed to communicate any multiple languages at very little cost. Although this technology is still very new to most cities, this integrated approach to experience design utilizes an easily programmable web based system to provide multiple language directions.
  • Don’t forget the supporting material- If you plan on installing a multi-lingual wayfinding system, any supportive material to the system also needs to be considered. Printed guides, city newsletters, promotional materials and maps should work to compliment the above-mentioned maps and picture symbols. Keep in mind that each visitor’s experience doesn’t end once they arrive at their desired location. In all actuality, the wayfinding system is nothing more than a facilitator for your visitor’s experience.

If you’d like more information on directional signage for multilingual visitors, please feel free to reach us at or by calling (888) 982-1234.