Signage Elements, From Static To Interactive

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.

This integration with mobile devices can be taken one step further by including QR codes on existing static or digital advertising, driving more users to the airport websites or the airport partners app.  Due to its wide adoption rate, and the level of service it can provide, mobile should be included in a fully developed digital signage program.


The integration of the information provided to the passenger in a terminal environment can be taken even one step further with Interactive Digital Signage (Interactive Kiosks). Like mobile, Interactive Kiosks have the benefit of allowing the user to choose what information is displayed at any given time. Unlike mobile, the interactive kiosks are static in the facility; the information can be presented in a large format; can be accessed directly by the users of a facility; can push the information to the passenger, either through print or to their mobile device; and Interactive Kiosks can even provide a connection to social media. 

In 2012 at Port Columbus International Airport, two versions of interactive kiosks were installed. The first installation was completed by Clear Channel Airports as a replacement of their existing digital courtesy phone board. These new kiosks provided bright, responsive ads for hotels, ground transportation, and other local amenities and attractions.

Like Clear Channel Airports’ previous phone boards, these interactive kiosks contained detailed information on each paying client. Unlike the previous boards, upon request, these new kiosks included a “text to phone” feature to replace legacy printers. This new level of integration provided an added benefit to the passenger by allowing them to easily access the information from their mobile device.

The second installation of interactive digital kiosks at Port Columbus International Airport was managed directly by the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. These most recent Interactive Kiosks were replacements of static information directories, and installation was completed in late 2012. 

While specifics of the interactive kiosks will be covered in detail in a future feature article, they do represent a complete integration of all the elements found in the other signage in the terminal. Wayfinding is provided through a digital map, but unlike static signs it also includes graphically detailed directions and estimated walking times to the locations chosen by the user. Checkpoint information, weather, advertising elements, and terminal concession marketing is all available in an easily navigable interactive format.

This level of choice also allows each user to select from several languages to help our increasingly diverse traveling population find the needed information. Additionally, most of the key information on the kiosk can be printed from the kiosk or sent directly to the user's mobile device by scanning a QR code directly from the screen.

Finally, users of the Interactive Kiosk are able to utilize a “photo and frame” feature built into the kiosk to take a photo of themselves, and either email that photo, or load the photo directly to their phone for easy upload to their social media application of choice. 


Like other areas of an airport, balance and attention to each element of a digital signage program will maximize information flow to those who use our airports. Digital signage plays an important role in helping the facility owner connect with the passenger (or other user of the facility) to the information they need, when, where, and in the format needed.

Author David Saleme, a DSE Advisory Board Member, will be co-presenting "Mobile Technology & Its Implications for Digital Signage," at Digital Signage Expo 2013 in Las Vegas on Tuesday, February 26, 1:30-5pm.

For more information about DSE or to register to join this or any other seminar and learn more about digital signage, go to"

About the Author:

David Saleme joined the Columbus Regional Airport Authority in October 1996. David is a member of the Digital Signage Expo’s Advisory Board representing the transportation section.

Throughout his time with CRAA he has been responsible for terminal and concession development at Port Columbus International Airport which includes terminal advertising and marketing. David is primarily responsible for managing the in-airport advertising program, which includes, in addition to the award winning 72-screen video wall system, over 30 additional digital advertising screens throughout the terminal, including multiple advertising supported interactive digital courtesy phone kiosks, and the external digital billboard program.

David’s additional efforts at Port Columbus International Airport include the negotiating and drafting of concession agreements, bid packages, requests for proposal, land and building leases, airline lease amendments, minimum standards, and other agreements with a broad spectrum of airport tenants and operators.