Awaken your...

Are you a guilty sleepwalker? Modulex, an internationally renouwned signage supplier will guide you through this year's Sleep with ease, and ensure that you don't metaphorically 'sleep walk' throughout the show. Between Our Sheets speaks to Eric Kirwan, CEO of Modulex to get underneath the skin of 'Awaken'...


How do you vision the Sleep visitor journey and what behaviour patterns would you like to challenge?

Sleep has been so successful that most visitors return each year. So, just like when you visit a hotel for the second or third time, you know where everything is and whilst this makes it comfortable to stay in and navigate, you can also fall into the trap of following the routes you know, taking short cuts which is great but perhaps leaves you at risk missing something.  So we would like to awaken people to the full Sleep experience, make sure they don’t miss anything and perhaps encourage them to visit parts of the hall that they may otherwise have missed.

Where has the Sleep Walking concept come from?

We were discussing how often we walk or drive somewhere and at the end of the journey we have little recollection of the journey.  The distraction of mobile technology, thinking about your next meeting or what you are going to eat that night all contribute towards a disconnection with the present.

Research tells us that 15% of the population experience sleepwalking, but how many more spend some of their waking moments ‘metaphorically’ sleepwalking?  Moving through spaces whilst drifting from being consciously aware of surroundings to unconsciously passing through spaces, hotels or even trade shows oblivious to what is happening around them.

It is this unconscious state which inspired ‘Sleepwalking with Modulex’ with the goal to awaken Sleep 2016 attendees to what is going on around them through intelligent wayfinding. 

What main challenges do hotel’s face with wayfinding?

Probably the most challenging areas are around conferencing and meeting room management.  Event and Conference organisors book hotels which they trust and can handle demanding clients, often arriving in large numbers and all wanting to find their room quickly. They are often first time visitors to the hotel, city or even country so they may arrive with very little knowledge.   Effective wayfinding can take the pressure off hotel staff by making it easy to find your conference or meeting space without needing to speak to staff. 

Trade events and hotels. Any wayfinding similarities?

We think there are several similarities.  Visitors to both can be quite diverse – age groups, nationalities and more interesting perhaps is why and what people want from their visit. Our challenge for those who have visited before is how to gently ‘disrupt’ their normal behaviour, to encourage them to try something new, in a hotel that may be about encouraging them to use the hotel bar and restaurant rather than going outside; whereas Sleep is about encouraging people to explore areas which they perhaps may have missed in the past.   

What buzz words do you think are disruptive enough to disrupt ones Sleep Walking?

I’m not sure it is just words that will disrupt, but a combination of graphics, colour, message, tone of voice and logical positioning.  It is easy to ‘shock’ people into a response, but more difficult to gently nudge them towards the desired outcome.  

We actually really like the ‘nudge’ design principle, whereby you can encourage and reward the right behaviour.  As an example, speed warning signs which flash a smiley face when you are within the speed limit positively encourage the right behaviour and are much better received than one which simply ‘tell you off’ for breaking the limit. 

Appealing to the senses and emotions also has the potential to disrupt – Hungry, Thirsty, Tired all directly raise questions and have an appeal in a way that Café, Bar and Seating Area don’t.  We’re also intrigued by the idea of ‘sensory nudging’ – the smell of baking bread, fresh coffee or perhaps in hotels where the smells of aromatherapy oils from the spa can actively encourage guests into booking in for treatments.

Do individuals react in similar ways to wayfinding techniques?

Yes, I think there is a human tendency for people to ‘follow the herd’.  Just watch what happens when people are crossing the road – regardless of if the green man pops up, if one person starts to walk others will follow. 

Architecture and Interior Design can greatly aid wayfinding by making entrances and routes obvious, creating landmarks, using colours etc. One group who are bucking this trend are millennials who have grown up with an almost total digital experience so they are used to being addressed or communicated with on a personal level – whether that be personalised online marketing or wayfinding – they have an expectation that the information they need will be accessible to them in a way that is totally personalised to their journey – like google maps or sat nav.

How do wayfinding solutions differ for a guest enjoying leisurely break to a business traveller on a tight schedule?

I think this is a really interesting one, in that our whole mindest can change between a workday and a weekend or holiday.   Business travellers are typically under more time pressure, they need or want information quickly, they may not have time for a friendly chat to ask directions; put simply they just want to get to their destination on time and with as little effort as possible.  If you can take a little stress away by making sure they can park the car, find their way to reception or meeting place without having to think about it, then they can focus on what they are there for.  Wayfinding therefore has to be very clear and simple, highlighting key destinations for the business user. 

Leisure travellers can of course be just as demanding, but most of us would normally be more relaxed and be under less time pressure and ‘exploring’ rather than ‘finding’ might be the priority. Key locations still need to be signed but their focus will be on eating, drinking and relaxation.

Do you have any examples of quirky human directional behaviour, or wayfinding challenges?

Formal wayfinding concentrates on identifying decision making points in a journey, like road junctions if you like.  We quite like to explore what we call ‘dither points’ which may not be as obvious but where gentle re-assurance or a ‘nudge’ can reduce stress and improve the visitor experience.  Watching for these points of hesitation tell you where a little extra information may be needed.

Watch how people behave in lifts – first of all they occupy the four corners, then the space in between and finally the final space to be filled is in the middle.  Then the lift starts and you frequently question yourself as to which floor you have been told to get out at as half of the time we aren’t really listening to what we have been told – sleepwalking again.  So you look for reassurance – your key card will hopefully have the floor number on which most of us will glance at in the lift to remind us of our destination.  

When the lift door opens you see a slight hesitation amongst the occupants, almost a tiny panic setting in in case it is your floor, some will automatically start to move towards the door before realising it isn’t actually their floor and will then settle back into their position.  It usually leads to a shuffling of feet and people avoiding eye contact.  So you need re-assurance – a large floor numeral opposite the lift door helps, the lift talking to you also helps (another sensory aid) as do over the door indicators.  (Indicators on the lift wall are often hidden from view by other users).  

Don't be a guilty 'Sleepwalker' and register for Sleep 16 today.