Airports have a high-density traffic flow that’s concentrated through a series of bottlenecks against a background of constant time pressure and security checks, creating what could be one of the most stressful experiences enjoyed on a routine daily basis.
A study carried out in 2007 by Dr. David Lewis shows that stress levels of passengers navigating through an international airport could exceed those of sky divers and Formula One race drivers. Increased stress levels can cause serious health risks; and furthermore, stressed, hurried, and lost passengers will be far less inclined to spend time in airport shops.
The challenge for airport operators is to enable passengers to find their way through various check-in systems, through security, and to their gate as easily and stress-free as possible.
As airports have expanded to accommodate the growth of mass transportation, effective signage has become paramount for efficient operations.
Good wayfinding signage inspires trust in passengers, making them feel at ease and in control of their situation and confident that they will make it to their required destination without trouble.
It isn’t just wayfinding signage that needs to be adequate. Each airline carrier also uses signage to assert their presence, competing with other carriers in a bid to direct its customers and to attract attention to its brand.
Signs need to be conspicuous, contrasting to their surrounding environment, and must help users complete their task. They must also be consistent in style and message, and be clear and easily recognizable.
For both airports and carriers, there is a strong need for rugged yet simple and flexible signs, which is where Modular Curved Frame Technology (MCFT) sign systems come in. MCFT sign systems fill the gap between modular sign systems and custom-designed sign solutions, as they offer a wide selection of modular sign solutions which can be customized to meet specific requirements.
A well-designed MCFT sign system will offer an airport a complete solution for the entire facility. Above all, the MCFT sign system enables users to change the graphics easily and cost effectively, which is always important in an environment as fluid as an airport.
An effective MCFT sign system also allows users to maintain strong consistency in look and feel. It is interesting to note that Heathrow recently asked its airlines in the newly refurbished T4 to use only signage that conformed to a very tight specification. The guidelines were produced by Heathrow Airport so that there would no longer be a plethora of banners, totems, mini-totems, etc. all competing and producing a very confused image at the check-in concourse.
The specification that Heathrow issued was almost identical to the new totems that had been developed for British Airways in its new T5: elegant, strong units, easy to move, and secure from most passenger abuse.
The trend of airports dictating what can and cannot be used will almost certainly continue as airports strive to continually improve passenger experience.
Choosing a system
It would be wise to invest some time and research when choosing a favored system, as switching systems too often can prove to be a waste of time and money spent on training, planning, and correction of errors.
Samples. The first step is to ask for free samples. A sign fabricator that will not offer free samples indicates that their marketing strategy and overall level of awareness to service may be low, and should be avoided.
Design. Although there are exceptions, in most cases, whether the system is flat concave or convex-shaped, it’s important that it has a modern, contemporary, and clean look.
Quality of materials. Request data sheets that reflect the specifications of the system, its ability to withstand the elements, and its compatibility with indoor/outdoor use. Check the stability of the components before and after assembly.
Simplicity. Try to choose a system that is simple to use, assemble, and install.
Wide range of sizes. Using a modular system naturally limits the design options to the number of sizes offered by a particular system. Choosing a system with a wide range of sizes will reduce the chance of your system being rejected by the customer or designer. It’s advantageous to use a single product line per project. Look for a comprehensive system that can cover signs from the parking lot to the boarding gates.
Braille compatibility. There are a number of technologies available today to create compliant Braille signage, each with its own special features and price. It’s imperative that the system is compatible with as many Braille/ADA/DDA signage methods as possible, in order to maintain both cost effectiveness and versatility when competing on projects.
Service and support. Pay special attention to the level of service received in the early stages. Talk to colleagues to get their opinions and impressions and ask about their experiences with the products. Check to see what fabrication services are offered by the vendor. Sometimes, it will prove cost-effective to have some of the fabrication done by the vendor. Also, check the delivery times; it’s important to work with a vendor that can deliver as quoted.
Price. The best system does not necessarily have to be the most expensive one. Shop around and remember to compare the amount of work involved in the fabrication, which can ultimately translate into expensive labor dollars.
About the Authors
Director, Clockhouse Marketing
Wheeler has been involved with brand development and implementation, website and graphic design, and strategic consulting, including business plan & sales strategy development. In 2007, the company implemented Delta Air Lines’ global rebrand into 122 cities.
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Director of Business Development for Vista System International
Schneider is an active member of the sign industry and a ‘green’ enthusiast. Internally, Schneider is working closely with Vista System supply chain members to design and manufacture a durable, recyclable, and reusable modular sign system.
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