The Way Out (POI vs Routing)

This post is a bit more technical, but it is in pure admiration for that green sign above!

First, I have been fascinated by directions, maps, and signage around the world since I was young. I even tracked how movies and sci-fi showed how you would navigate in the future.


One of the signs that I have always loved and found just perfect is shown above. “The Way Out” sign, literally depicts perfectly what it means. Either that, or its someone running into a school locker to try and dent it with their head, which, incidentally also has its own major motion picture. Finch!

The debate over the use of “Exit” signs or the use of the “Way Out” signs has been raging for a long time. TripAdvisor has a great write up and debate between people which demonstrates the classic issue.

To summarize the debate, some say the “way out” sign is strictly a British thing, while others explain that its a navigational aid, not a sign depicting where the door is (known as a Point of Interest, or POI , to us location data geeks).

That said, if “way out” signs are, in fact, and as described, designed to help in a path or navigation to an actual Exit sign, then they are some of the first waypoint markers ever used inside of buildings and have a definite benefit in location.

This is often a debate between “Routing” and “Points of Interest” in databases and can be seen as the basic difference between seeing all the restaurants in a Google Maps view, vs the actual “route” you should take to get to a particular restaurant from a particular location the way Waze does.

Bottom line, signs need to convey informational value and they need to be visible but not so visible that they are a waste of time. The same is true of map data and indoor map data. After all, no one wants to see this.