How to · 3 Min read

Sep 14, 2022

Sign of the (airport) times

There is nowhere quite like an airport – it’s the scene of both joy and sadness, excitement and stress and well, heightened emotions in general. Especially post-Covid, navigating airports both physically and yes, emotionally, has become, to put it simply, more intense.

As a space where people from all over the world find themselves gathered, for (hopefully) a short while, having a language that is easily understood by all travelers is essential. Without wanting to sound too much like the Da Vinci Code, the symbols and signage at the airport play an important role in navigating the airport space as smoothly as possible.

Both how the airport itself operates and the people who use it experience its operation must be streamlined into an experience that minimizes friction and stress. Heathrow, for example, facilitates 475,624 flight departures a year through 84 airlines to 203 destinations, with 213,000 passengers landing or departing every single day. The logistical headache of smoothly moving all these people through check-in, security, shopping areas and more is one that requires an extremely comprehensive and clever design solution.

The history of how this solution came about is pretty cool. And we have the Dutch to thank for it.

Benno Wissing, a graphic designer, and interior architect Kho Liang Le were hired by Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in 1967 to expand on previous efforts and create the first "passenger-first" signage system. With this technique, unnecessary information was eliminated and crucial information was categorized by color. The signage system used at Schiphol became known as the "Schiphol Standard," and the airport is frequently cited as one of the best designed in the world.

Since 1967, airport signage has posed an ongoing design and engineering challenge for airports all over the world that has taken decades to perfect. What we all experience today is a  monument to the dedication of facilities managers, architects, graphic designers, and sign makers to produce the best product and enhance the airport experience for each traveler.

Remember those “flipping” boards that told you when your flights were scheduled for? In the days of Pan Am, TWA, BOAC, Varig and Sabena? Although we kind of miss them for purely nostalgic reasons, today we are lucky to have more efficient, digitized signage to keep us informed. This is thanks to the dedication of the teams mentioned above.

These experts are often overlooked by the millions of travelers who go through airports every day and here at shoopit, we salute them! Thank you for making the airport experience less stressful and for allowing us to focus on the excitement of the journey!

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