The ways in which passengers use and interact with airports is changing. These large-scale facilities are no longer simply a place to catch a flight; they are increasingly becoming a destination unto themselves, a locale where individuals enjoy spending their time, by offering everything from retail to dining to entertainment in one place.
As airport planning evolves and is no longer solely focused on air travel, there are effects that relate to wayfinding, i.e. how individuals orient themselves in the physical space and navigate from place to place. Sign design needs to acknowledge the shifts affecting today’s airports and the role these facilities will play in the future.
A changing setting
In a broad context, multi-use space is at the forefront of many building developments. For airports in particular, both large and small, there has been a cultural shift to focus on the principles of the hospitality industry, which in turn is influencing their design.
As destinations intended to meet all of a traveller’s needs, after all, airports have added more options for shopping, dining, entertainment, fitness, relaxation and accommodation. And for an airport’s operators, these amenities contribute to greater potential revenue generation.
Another key factor that drives change in airports is a focus on efficiency. With advances in technology, operators seek to hone their methods for improving the overall travel experience.
To some degree, airports have led the way in providing a common experience to users no matter where they are. Airports around the world appear relatively similar—and thus comfortingly familiar—to visitors. Similarly, future applications of wayfinding technology in airports are likely to embrace universality, which could affect the design and role of physical signs.
There will always be individuals, after all, who do not use mobile devices in an airport. Their wayfinding experience must be taken into account. Physical signage is essential for the utility and function of the space, since it applies to all types of users.
Changes in industrial design will also have an effect on signage and displays. These may include new lighting technologies, alternative methods for applying graphics, refinements to materials (such as aluminum and acrylic) and thinner, smaller digital signage displays, among others.
With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), physical wayfinding signs could also be encoded with digital capabilities.
Large-scale digital signage displays are already a common sight in airports, of course, because they can provide real-time information, based on flight data tracking, weather conditions and other contextual content. When they are placed in appropriate locations with maximum visibility, they help offer peace of mind to travellers and reduce their anxiety.
The passenger journey
Given the evolution of airports, the sequence of events for a passenger’s journey is likely to change. Security screening, for example, could be done immediately upon entry to the airport, rather than after checking in and dropping off bags. The process could be streamlined for all user groups, including passengers, non-travelling visitors and staff members.
Some airports have already rejigged their baggage handling systems to allow for remote drop-offs, which directly affects how and when a passenger checks in. Similarly, the increased presence of ‘swing conditions’ (i.e. flexible-use spaces) for multiple functions will affect when, where and how passengers form queues for flights.
Given these changes, digital signs could be leveraged for their versatility, familiarity for users and future affordability. These displays can play a central role in wayfinding as part of a cohesive system.
By being involved in the early stages of a project, signage consultants are better-positioned to provide an overarching wayfinding strategy. When a major expansion was planned at Calgary International Airport, for example, early involvement helped influence a logical and effective ordering and naming scheme for 24 new gates and two new concourses, setting the stage for more intuitive navigation.
Airport as destination
With the proliferation of air travel, airports have become bigger, a trend that is likely to continue in the future. Like many large cities’ central train stations, they could become cultural and social destinations in their own right.
Indeed, many airports are becoming multimodal hubs, where flying is just one of many types of transportation, from taxis and shuttles to buses and trains. And as these forms of transportation become more readily available, parking lots will become less necessary and, in turn, occupy less space. The same space could be repurposed for other means.
In this sense, airports are somewhat like cities unto themselves, with the surrounding infrastructure synthesizing into a larger, interconnected system, while the core elements can evolve to meet changing needs.
Airports also feel more like destinations unto themselves when they create a true sense of place. There are numerous means for such placemaking, from the colourful pictographics of Germany’s Cologne Bonn Airport to the central waterfall feature of Singapore’s Changi Airport to local artists’ installations at Calgary International Airport.
Providing a seamless experience is the basic precept of ‘integrated mobility,’ which is the common goal for most future-focused transportation services. Through early planning, rigorous consideration and analysis of pedestrian traffic flow and a willingness to adapt signage to anticipate and accommodate users’ needs, it is possible to tailor airport wayfinding to everyone’s benefit.
While airports have not typically been seen as stand-alone destinations in their own right, the simplification of their purpose need not relegate them to serving exclusively as character-free gateways for passengers travelling from point A to point B. If the practical and artistic philosophies behind the design and operation of today’s airports are re-evaluated and refreshed, then they can become places worth going to, not just going through.
Indeed, many of today’s airport executives are seeking to optimize the value of the public’s time in their facilities, not only to make them stand out, but also to maximize their generation of additional revenue, through versatile and sustainable means. As they re-engineer the way their terminals look, feel and operate, light-emitting diode (LED) display technology is particularly well-positioned to help them reach their goals.
Improving the passenger experience
A recent study showed 83 per cent of airport travellers sought out flight information prior to transit, but only 58 per cent of airports were doing an adequate job of providing that information. Solving this problem requires a better understanding of how the travellers move throughout the airports.
Flight information display systems (FIDSs) use data that is constantly in flux, as planes encounter delays, change gates, etc. Simply by increasing the visibility and accessibility of these digital screens, e.g. by making them bigger and brighter, airports can better-inform their passengers.
The Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), for example, recently commissioned Stantec to design and Eventscape to manufacture a 7.6-m (25-ft) tall steel structure, shaped like a flower. Each of its four ‘petals’ supports a 3.7 x 1.5-m (12 x 5-ft) liquid crystal display (LCD), which displays flight information.
例如，多伦多机场管理局最近委托Stantec设计和制造一个7.6米（25英尺）高的钢结构，形状像一朵花，四个“花瓣”中每一个都支持3.7 x 1.5米（12 x 5英尺）的液晶显示屏（LCD）显示航班信息。 还有一个LED环形显示屏，覆盖花朵茎的两个中心连接环，显示当前天气。
This unique project dominates a central gathering area of Terminal 1 at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. It has transformed what was once dead space into one of the busiest locations in the entire concourse. Airport personnel say they frequently overhear travellers telling each other, “Meet me at the flower.” As such, in addition to serving the practical purpose of providing flight information, it has enlivened the passenger experience by creating a new landmark within the airport.
Of course, travellers in an airport are not always going to be standing still, nor will they be viewing each FIDS from a single, predictable point. To minimize this problem, today’s LED displays include models that can be seen clearly at a wider variety of distances and angles, keeping content legible for a non-stationary, off-axis audience.
At Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, for example, a dimly lit LCD that used to force passengers to congregate in a scrum to read flight information was recently replaced with a much brighter LED display. As crowds can read it from further distances and wider angles, they are more dispersed and foot traffic flows more efficiently.
Beyond flight updates, wayfinding directions are also more clearly visible when displayed on LED screens. When Vancouver International Airport’s international arrival customs terminal was renovated, a 9.8 x 2.7-m (32 x 9-ft) LED display was added to help welcome first-time visitors by providing clear and relevant information about where to proceed from their gate.
除了航班信息更新之外，在LED屏幕上显示的路径方向也清晰可见。当温哥华国际机场的国际到达海关终端进行了翻新时，新增了一个9.8 x 2.7米（32 x 9英尺）的LED显示屏，以帮助第一次来访者提供从登机口出发的相关信息。
The dynamic nature of digital signage is also helpful where more than one language is needed. By way of example, on-screen content could be changed based on the primary language(s) of the country of origin for flights arriving at a certain gate.
In all of these ways, LED displays can improve the passenger experience, presenting information in an attractive fashion that lets visitors glance and be on their way.
As airports are often the first thing a traveller sees upon arriving in a new city, they also serve an important role in communicating and celebrating the culture of the regions they service. Modern airport design has embraced the cultivation of an immersive and local sense of place, incorporating elements of art and heritage.
The aforementioned flower-shaped structure at Pearson International Airport, for example, somewhat resembles the white trillium, the provincial flower of Ontario. At Singapore’s Changi Airport, meanwhile, two prominent LED-based ‘digital murals’ that display ../images of the city-state’s history and culture recently won a 2018 In AVation Award in the transport category for Electronics & Engineering (E&E), which developed them in partnership with Montreal-based Moment Factory.
“We are honoured to receive this international award and thank the Changi Airport team, who had the vision and commitment to create a totally new standard for the passenger experience,” says Gary Goh, E&E’s deputy managing director.
Most recently, at Vancouver International Airport, a 3.8 x 2.4-m (12.5 x 7.8-ft) LED display was installed to entertain travellers waiting in line with ../images of the city’s scenery that move in response to their gestures, as captured by a Microsoft Kinect system and camera. Montreal-based Float4 developed the interactive content for the display, which replaces an earlier, printed map of select flight paths.
最近，在温哥华国际机场，安装了一个3.8 x 2.4米（12.5 x 7.8英尺）的LED显示屏，用于招待游客，为他们展示他们即将到往城市景色的图像，这些图像能根据他们的手势进行移动，由Microsoft Kinect系统和相机合成，这种交互式的内容取代了先前印刷选定飞行路径的地图。
“Passengers and employees are loving it,” says Lynette DuJohn, the Vancouver Airport Authority’s (VAA’s) vice-president (VP) of information technology (IT) and chief digital officer (CDO). “We are seeing a lot of smiles on people’s faces!”
Some airports’ art directors are given annual budgets for beautifying their concourses and terminals with art installations. Increasingly, they realize this capital can be more efficiently spent on dynamic digital signage content than on changing out static artwork time and again.
Unlike LCDs, LED displays can be custom-built in any size, shape or curvature, allowing for creative designs and for seamless integration with existing architecture. At Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, for example, two 360-degree ‘halo’ displays, each measuring 7.3 x 0.6 m (24 x 2 ft), were installed at the U.S. transborder departure gate to transform unadorned building columns into eye-catching attractions.
与LCD不同，LED显示屏可以按照任何尺寸、形状或曲率定制，从而实现新的设计，并与现有架构无缝集成。例如，在蒙特利尔的Pierre Elliott Trudeau国际机场，美国跨境登机门安装了两个360度的显示屏，每个显示屏的尺寸为7.3 x 0.6 m（24 x 2英尺），它的设计成为了机场中最醒目的焦点。
Further, the brightness of LED displays means they can be installed in airport concourses that are flooded with natural light and still be seen clearly enough.
Beyond their practical use in displaying flight information and wayfinding directions and their cultural and artistic potential, LED displays can be effective in generating new revenue for airports through digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising.
Airport displays are typically quite large, with plenty of room for a combination of information and advertising. An installation at Terminal 4 of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, for example, primarily displays flight information on one side for people waiting outside for arriving travellers, while the other side often showcases ads to those travellers as they arrive.
A major redesign of the duty-free shopping area of Terminal D at Texas’ Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has added three huge, curved LED displays that allow ads to better capture the attention of passersby. Among these is a 5.5 x 3.2-m (18 x 10.5-ft) screen surrounding a ‘promo pod,’ where advertisers can showcase their product with exclusivity.
在德克萨斯州达拉斯沃斯堡国际机场终端D免税购物区，他们重新设计了三个巨大的弧形LED显示屏，让广告更好地捕捉路人的注意力。其中一个尺寸为5.5 x 3.2米（18 x 10.5英尺）的屏幕，为广告客户独家展示他们的产品。
“Nothing compares to a display so big you can walk inside it,” says Sean Kupiec, project manager for Ford AV, the technology integrator.
The other two displays, each measuring 3.7 x 2.1 m (12 x 7 ft), adorn the top of a product kiosk along the main terminal walkway.
另外两台LED显示屏，每台显示器的尺寸为3.7 x 2.1 m（12 x 7英尺），沿主终端通道装饰在产品专栏的顶部。
“They can be seen from 30.5 m (100 ft) away,” says Kupiec. “Such eye-catching technology brings more people in and makes them excited to experience the store.”