Guiding the Way
The Role of Lighting in Wayfinding and Navigation in Commercial Spaces

Navigating large and complex commercial spaces can often be a daunting experience for visitors and occupants alike. 

As design professionals, it is our responsibility to create environments that facilitate efficient wayfinding and ensure a positive user experience. One key aspect of effective wayfinding is strategic lighting design. 

In this article, we will explore the role of lighting in wayfinding and navigation, and discuss various techniques and best practices for implementing lighting solutions in commercial spaces.

The Importance of Lighting in Wayfinding

Effective lighting is essential for wayfinding, as it enhances the visibility of pathways, signage, and architectural features, enabling users to navigate large properties with ease. By creating a visual hierarchy, strategic lighting highlights key areas, landmarks, and points of interest, guiding users towards their intended destinations. 

Carefully planned lighting helps to establish ambiance and mood, fostering a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that instills confidence in users as they navigate the space. 

A well-lit space also ensures safety and security, reducing the risk of accidents and making users feel safer in unfamiliar environments.

Techniques for Effective Wayfinding Lighting

Pathway illumination: Clearly illuminate outdoor walkways, hallways, corridors, and ramps to ensure users can easily navigate from one area to another. Consider using pathway lighting, linear architectural lighting, step lights, deck lights or low-level lighting to guide users along the desired route.

Accent lighting for landmarks: Use accent lighting to draw attention to significant architectural features, artwork, or other landmarks that can serve as orientation points for users.

Signage visibility: Ensure that directional and informational signage is well-lit and easily visible from a distance. Use backlighting, front lighting, or halo lighting to make signs stand out. Make sure to choose a reliable vendor so that you count on brightness and color being consistent over time.

Transition zones: Pay special attention to areas where users transition between different lighting conditions, such as entrances and exits, stairwells, and elevators. Gradual changes in light levels can help users adapt more easily and maintain their sense of direction.

Consistent color temperature: Maintain a consistent color temperature throughout an area to create a cohesive visual experience and avoid disorienting users. You can try using a different color temperatures for different areas to visually separate large spaces.

Emergency and egress lighting: Clearly illuminate emergency exits and egress pathways with appropriate signage and lighting, ensuring users can quickly and safely evacuate the space in the event of an emergency.

Strategies for Effective Lighting in Wayfinding

To make the most of lighting in wayfinding and navigation, consider the following strategies:

Hierarchy of Illumination: Establish a hierarchy of illumination, with different levels of lighting for primary, secondary, and tertiary spaces. Primary spaces should have the brightest lighting, while secondary and tertiary spaces can have more subdued lighting. This approach helps to guide people through a space by making it clear which areas are most important.

Contrast and Color Temperature: Use contrast and varying color temperatures to guide people through a space. For example, a warm, inviting light can be used in gathering areas, while cooler, more focused light can be used to illuminate stairs and pathways.

Directional Lighting: Utilize directional lighting to emphasize important elements, such as signs, exits, and stairways. This can be achieved through the use of wall sconces, spotlights, or even integrated LED strips.

Consistency: Maintain consistency in your lighting design throughout the space. This ensures a cohesive and intuitive experience for visitors.

Sustainability and energy efficiency: Incorporate energy-efficient lighting solutions, such as LED technology, and consider using smart controls and sensors to optimize energy consumption while maintaining effective wayfinding.

Recommendations for Lighting in Wayfinding

Understand user needs: Consider the specific needs and preferences of your target audience, including individuals with visual impairments or mobility challenges.

Collaborate with other design professionals: Work closely with architects, space designers, and graphic designers to develop a comprehensive wayfinding strategy that integrates lighting, architecture, and signage.

Plan for maintenance and updates: Ensure that lighting fixtures and systems are easily accessible and maintainable, and plan for future updates or expansions to the space.

Real-World Examples

Successful lighting designs in commercial spaces have led to more enjoyable and efficient experiences for visitors. Here are a few examples:

Airport lighting design


Lighting plays a critical role in guiding travelers through complex airport terminals. Bright, high-contrast lighting is used to highlight essential navigation elements, such as gates, baggage claim areas, and security checkpoints.

Office building lighting for wayfinding

Office Buildings

In office buildings, lighting can be used to create a sense of hierarchy and organization, guiding employees and visitors through different zones such as reception areas, workspaces, entrances, hallways, elevators, stairs, and meeting rooms.

Brand Lighting Installation of Restaurant Navigation lighting


In the food and hospitality industries, lighting is a crucial element in creating the right ambiance while guiding guests through the space. Upon entering a restaurant, strategic lighting directs patrons to the host station or waiting area. Inside the dining room, various lighting levels are used to create a comfortable and intimate atmosphere, while still ensuring that menus are easily readable. In larger restaurants or establishments with multiple dining areas, lighting can be used to distinguish between different sections, such as a bar area, private dining rooms, and outdoor seating. Additionally, well-lit signage and directional lighting are essential in helping guests locate restrooms and exits.

Wayfinding lighting for hotels


Hotels often use lighting to create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere while guiding guests through the space. From the moment guests enter the lobby, strategic lighting directs them to reception, elevators, and other amenities. Hallways and corridors feature consistent lighting to emphasize room numbers and exit signs, ensuring guests can find their rooms with ease.

Museum and art gallery navigation lighting

Museums and Art Galleries

In these spaces, lighting plays a crucial role in guiding visitors through exhibits and enhancing the overall experience. Directional and accent lighting is used to draw attention to specific artworks or artifacts, while ambient lighting maintains a comfortable atmosphere for visitors to explore.

Hospital lighting for navigation

Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

Effective lighting is essential for wayfinding in hospitals and healthcare facilities. Bright, clear lighting is used in main corridors and reception areas, with directional lighting highlighting critical locations such as emergency rooms, patient rooms, and nursing stations. Calmer, more subdued lighting is often used in waiting areas and patient rooms to create a soothing environment.

Wayfinding lighting in shopping malls

Shopping Malls

In shopping malls, lighting is used to create a hierarchy of spaces, with bright illumination for main corridors and more subdued lighting for individual stores. This approach helps visitors navigate the space and find their desired destinations.

Lighting for navigation at train stations and public transport

Public Transportation Hubs

Train stations, bus stations, and subway stations all rely on effective lighting design to guide passengers through the space. High-contrast lighting is used to make key information, such as schedules and platform numbers, easily visible. Additionally, different lighting levels are used to designate various zones, such as ticketing areas, waiting areas, and platforms.

Wayfinding lighting for universities and educational facilities

Universities and Educational

On campuses, lighting is used to create a sense of hierarchy and organization, guiding students, faculty, and visitors through various zones, such as classrooms, lecture halls, libraries, and recreational areas. Pathway lighting and illuminated signage help people navigate the campus, while ambient lighting in study and social spaces fosters a comfortable atmosphere.

Sports arenas navigation and user navigation lighting

Sports Arenas and Stadiums

In these large-scale venues, lighting plays a crucial role in directing the flow of attendees. Bright, clear lighting is used in concourses and walkways, with directional lighting guiding visitors to their seats, restrooms, and concession areas. Exterior lighting, such as illuminated signs and pathways, helps to guide visitors to entrances and parking areas.

Wayfinding lighting in public spaces and parks

Parks and Public Spaces

Lighting is used in outdoor spaces to enhance safety and guide visitors through various zones, such as playgrounds, seating areas, and walking paths. Landscape and area lighting can highlight landmarks and points of interest, while bollards and path lights create safe and easily navigable walkways.

Navigation Lighting for Religious venues

Religious Buildings 

In religious spaces, (Churches, Synagogues, etc) lighting plays a significant role in setting the atmosphere for worship, reflection, and community gatherings while guiding visitors through the building. Upon entering, strategic lighting leads people to the main worship area or sanctuary, emphasizing important architectural elements, symbols, and focal points such as altars, pulpits, and stained-glass windows.

These real-world examples demonstrate how integral lighting is in wayfinding and navigation across a variety of commercial spaces, indoors and out. 

Incorporating thoughtful and effective lighting strategies in your designs can greatly improve the user experience, enhance safety, and reinforce branding.

High-quality indoor wayfinding lighting Manufacturers

There are numerous lighting manufacturers that offer high-quality indoor wayfinding lighting solutions. Here are some popular and reputable options that we represent here at Brand Lighting:

Philips Lighting (Signify): Philips Lighting, now known as Signify, is a global leader in lighting products, systems, and services. They offer a wide range of innovative and energy-efficient indoor lighting solutions suitable for wayfinding, including LED fixtures, smart lighting systems, and customizable options.

Acuity Brands: Acuity Brands is a North American market leader in lighting and building management solutions. Their extensive product portfolio includes several brands that offer indoor wayfinding lighting, such as Lithonia Lighting, Juno, and Mark Architectural Lighting.

WAC Lighting: WAC Lighting is a US-based company that offers a wide range of innovative and high-quality lighting solutions, including indoor wayfinding lighting. Their product portfolio features energy-efficient LED fixtures, track lighting, recessed downlights, and wall-mounted luminaires, which can be effectively used in wayfinding applications.

Bega Lights: Bega Lights, a German-based company, is known for its high-quality and durable lighting solutions, including indoor wayfinding lighting. Their product range consists of energy-efficient LED fixtures, recessed downlights, wall-mounted luminaires, and decorative lighting, all of which can be effectively used for wayfinding applications.

Zumtobel Group: Zumtobel Group is an Austrian-based company specializing in innovative and energy-efficient lighting solutions. Their product portfolio includes a variety of indoor wayfinding lighting options, such as recessed luminaires, wall-mounted fixtures, and integrated lighting systems.

FLOS Architectural: FLOS Architectural, part of the Italian design lighting company FLOS, offers a variety of high-end indoor wayfinding lighting solutions, such as linear systems, recessed downlights, and directional spotlights.

National Specialty Lighting (NSL): National Specialty Lighting is a North American-based company specializing in high-quality and innovative lighting solutions. Their product offerings encompass energy-efficient LED fixtures, linear lighting systems, and accent lights for indoors and out.

Lutron Electronics: Lutron Electronics is a US-based company specializing in lighting control systems and energy-saving solutions. While primarily known for their control systems, they also offer a range of high-quality indoor wayfinding lighting options that can be easily integrated with their controls.

When selecting indoor wayfinding lighting, it's essential to consider factors such as energy efficiency, durability, and the integration of control systems. These manufacturers offer reliable and innovative solutions that can be tailored to meet the specific needs of your indoor navigation design project.


Effective wayfinding lighting is an essential aspect of commercial design that can significantly improve the user experience and overall functionality of a space. By understanding the role of lighting in wayfinding and implementing strategic solutions, design professionals can create commercial spaces that are not only visually appealing but also intuitive and user-friendly, ensuring a positive experience for all occupants.

At Brand Lighting our family of lighting experts have been helping architects and designers find the right lighting for navigation and wayfinding for some of the countries most notable locations. If you need help finding the right lighting for your next commercial property contact us today!

Guiding the Way
Brand Lighting, Joshua Berkowitz 17 April, 2023
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