Zaans Medical Center

Hospital wayfinding

Hospitals are most complex buildings because of a wide range of users, services and functional units. For the new Zaans Medical Center SILO developed an effective wayfinding system, providing direction and empowerment for patients and visitors moving to find their destination.

Supportive starting point

Patients and visitors, inside and outside the facility, are usually in a heightened state of anxiety and are thus worried about finding their way to their intended destination. For first-time visitors and patients, this heightened state of anxiety is multiplied. Our project started with analyzing and mapping all types of users, locations and movements into the new Zaans Medical Center. With the aim of effective healthcare wayfinding providing direction and empowerment for visitors moving to find their destination.


SILO/Geerdes – Bestemmingen en flow, Analyse wayfinding ZMC, Niveau 0/BG

Signage is essential

The frustration that comes from getting lost is ranked among the top complaints by visitors to healthcare facilities. Studies have shown that if visitors do not have direction every 10 meter while traveling through a facility, they will likely stop and ask an employee for directions. Together with Geerdes SILO developed an effective wayfinding signage system, crucial to patients and visitors finding their way to their intended destination, and keeping the hospital staff focused, productive, and free from interruptions.


SILO/Geerdes – Strategie wayfinding ZMC, Scenario Longgeneeskunde

Route system

Since a hospital only get one chance to make a good first impression, the wayfinding system has been designed with the first-time visitor in mind. The wayfinding system for the Zaans Medical Centre reveals layers of information for the visitor to get to their destination – a process called progressive disclosure, which provides only enough information necessary to get the visitor to the next decision-making point. Providing too much information to go to anywhere from everywhere is overcomplicated and can lead to information overload. In this case less is more.


ZMC bewegwijzering, volgens ‘progressive disclosure’ systematiek

ZMC wayfinding bewegwijzering

ZMC bewegwijzering, centrale hal

Flow: from appointment to treatment

For an appointment at the Zaans Medical Center patients receive an invitation at home by mail. The annex to the invitation instructs with text and image step by step how to reach the correct destination. At the main entrance of the hospital visitors can scan their ID and receive a day ticket with information such as appointments, call number and route number. 

ZMC Bijlage brief

Flow: van afspraak tot behandeling

The route number system consists of the coding North/South wing.floor.poli number. This coding can be followed on wayfinding positions throughout the hospital. Depending on the time remaining before the appointment, patients or visitors can wait at the main reception hall or in the more intimate areas at specific policlinics.

ZMC wayfinding bewegwijzering

ZMC bewegwijzering, aanmeldzuil, eerste verdieping

A visual tracking system with icons is developed for visitors with low literacy.



Any reference sign consists of a number of hierarchical layers of information. The yellow strip at the top indicates the position where you are at that moment, for example in ‘North Floor 1’. The blue strip at the bottom refers to facilities nearby destinations, such as toilets. The dark middle part is intended for the main navigation to the different destinations.


ZMC wayfinding bewegwijzering

ZMC bewegwijzering, informatie zuil, centrale hal

Especially for children a separate signage is applied, divided into three animals to follow: the green woodpecker, the yellow squirrel and blue rabbit.


For external signage on the outside area of  the Zaans Medical Center we developed a signage system based on flag signs.

ZMC wayfinding bewegwijzering

ZMC bewegwijzering, extern, buitenzijde Koningin Julianaweg

Development process wayfinding

Universal rules apply to effective wayfinding. With each project our challenge is to both help the user move quickly, safe and comfortable, as to fit seamlessly within the architecture and environment. Concerning a hospital, the use of a clear process is very important. Moving patients and equipment is a huge operation which runs to military precision. Depending on the complexity of the project, we use the following development process:

  1. The new building is analyzed, the various user and visitor groups are accommodated in scenarios.Based on the various scenarios, traffic to all destinations is defined and drawn. These traffic flows make clear where the key decision points are located. We will take into account the visit and host process, the central and local reception areas and the use of dynamic media here.
  2. Together with the client we determine the terminology of destinations, the coding, the symbols and color coding. We list all the type wayfinding elements by drawing up a sign plan. In this plan, all signs are subscribed in floorplans, and linked to a database. Based on the sign plan a provisional production budget can be calculated.
  3. We design the look and feel of the signage system (Preliminary Design). All types of information is divided to hierarchy, and given a clear and legible place.
  4. With the use of prototyping, we determine the Final Design (DO): the materialization, construction and installation, the size and the final color palette to match the environment and conspicuous to users. A selection of locations are 1:1 sample tested.
  5. After completion of the DO standard sheets are developed for each type of sign. All signs (720 pcs for ZMC) are designed and collected in the product sheets, suitable to a clear method of manufacture and assembly.
  6. A handbook is composed of the description of the wayfinding strategy and standard specification sheets, enable it to be consulted by the internal organization on possible modifications or extensions in the future.

ZMC bewegwijzering, thematische nummering liftpleinen


ZMC bewegwijzering, thematische nummering liftpleinen


ZMC bewegwijzering, lichtwanden tbv orientatie


ZMC bewegwijzering, lichtwanden tbv orientatie

We enhance spatial environments through wayfinding systems and graphic identities, in order to improve the sense of comfort, quality and safety for its users. Our designs are closely linked with the relevant architectural context and atmosphere. They complete or provide contrast to the architectural surroundings, aiming to be of service to users from a functional point of view and to stimulate them emotionally. Fot the new Zaans Medical Center we developed spatial branding, a new corporate identity and wayfinding for quick navigation and orientation.

ZMC bewegwijzering wayfinding

ZMC bewegwijzering, kamernummering, 1e verdieping

Delivery on time and budget

Designing a new hospital is a tightly scheduled process in which architects, directors and designers work closely together. Each phase must be fully completed before the next can start. That means working with tough deadlines and tight alignment. The new ZMC is delivered on the agreed date and within budget. SILO created a total experience that not only is effective but also consistent with the history of the region, it pays special attention to children patients, and is processed in narrative charts on glass facades and walls.

ZMC wayfinding bewegwijzering

ZMC bewegwijzering, polikliniek Verloskunde, eerste verdieping


  • Client
    Zaans Medical Center
  • Year
  • Activities
    Spatial design
  • Photography
    Thijs Wolzak
  • Floor area
  • Awards
    D&AD London Yellow Pencil, ADC New York 2x Gold Cube, ADC Designism Award, ADCN Lamp Bronze, 2x Gold European Design Award, Sign+ Award 2018

More info?


Rene Toneman
+31 (0)70 3856 946
+31 (0)6 24 66 07 37

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