Signage in an airport environment serves many different purposes, such as: flight Information, wayfinding, concession location, identifying amenities, airport marketing, and paid advertising, just to name a few. A mature program will meet the signage needs of the user of the facility in many different formats, some of which until recently would have been considered non-traditional.
An efficient signage program maximizes the dissemination of information to passengers in a manner and time appropriate for that passenger. This article will focus on how static, digital, mobile, and most recently interactive digital signage all work together to maximize the information provided to passengers.
Static (or printed) signage is the foundation of any signage program at an airport. The individual elements can be broadly described to include wayfinding, regulatory, detailed facility information, paid advertising, and airport marketing. These elements are not exhaustive, but serve to highlight a uniform subset of elements in any airport directed signage program, regardless of size.
Each type of sign has a purpose that ranges from guiding passengers through major decision points in a terminal, to maximizing revenue opportunities. A general guideline for static signs is that they are best used at points in the facility where passengers are moving, alternatively, signs that incorporate motion are generally best used in locations where passengers are dwelling (holdrooms/baggage claim).
Traditionally, static signs have included soffit mounted wayfinding signs, wall-mounted and free standing informational directories, guidelines for security checkpoints on stanchions, standard wall-mounted advertising dioramas, and hanging banners.
Recent trends, for advertising and marketing have expanded beyond the standard sized diorama or banner ads and include large format vinyl wall wraps, column covers, large format tension fabric, and even grand wallscapes that utilize a mixture of these different signage formats. These larger format designs utilize brilliant photos, textures, and lively colors to grab the attention of the passenger in the busy airport environment.
Digital signs also have a long history in an airport environment based on their use for Flight Information Displays (FIDs) and Baggage Information Displays (BIDs). These initial uses developed primarily because of the benefits of digital displays; they are instantly changeable, have relatively low lifecycle cost, and allow for the consistent delivery of information across multiple locations.
Beyond displays that communicate flight information, these benefits are also important because terminal environments routinely change. A network of digital signs, either individual units or grouped as a large format video wall, can be updated and modified from a single remote location.
These signs can be connected and work together to provide flight information, paid advertising, airport marketing, and even if necessary, regulatory and emergency information. These signs help boost non-aviation revenues for the airport, and increase communication to the passengers. For these reasons, you will find dozens, if not hundreds of digital signs within most modern terminal environments.
Recent surveys show that approximately 80% of airline passengers are carrying at least one smartphone. Based on this almost uniform level of adoption, mobile devices can now be considered one form of digital signage that airports can rely on to provide information to passengers. In fact, most airports do take advantage of this trend by designing web pages tailored to mobile devices or utilize apps designed specifically for the airport industry (or the specific airport). The scaled down web pages or airport specific apps typically provide all of the same information that can be found on traditional in-terminal signage. For example, Clear Channel Airports’ FlySmart App contains detailed terminal maps that can locate your position in an airport, find a nearby restaurant, track a flight, provide ground transportation information, as well as create ad revenue for the airport from advertising integrated into the app.