Top 40 Under 40: Matt Johnson

The idea of how crowds move through a facility has always intrigued Matt Johnson, AIA, LEED AP, one of Gensler’s rising aviation designers. He got his start in this field studying mass movement of people in sports stadiums, but once he got a taste of how people moved within an airport, he was hooked for real. “A stadium is only used once a day, 60 days a year for sporting events, but a terminal is used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so it’s a living building,” he explains. “When when you’re pushing 20 million passengers through a building, how can you make the passenger experience better?”

At 34, Johnson has worked on airport projects to better passenger experiences across the globe. He’s been an instrumental team member for key global airport design projects including Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine; JetBlue Terminal at JFK International Airport; and Chennai International Airport, in Chennai, India.

When Johnson joined Gensler in 2004 he immediately started working on the JetBlue Terminal at JFK. Nine years later, he has worked with JetBlue at six different airports helping the airline improve the traveler experience and maintain brand standards.

“JetBlue to me was a great achievement … it was a great moment for my career from a learning standpoint as well as well as an operational moment,” he says. “But all of the projects I’ve worked on have their own unique story to them and all are great achievements.”

Johnson’s focus on the passenger experience has extended into a research effort for Gensler, where he developed a diagnostic tool to gauge the passenger experience. With his interest in the passenger experience, his airline and airport clients see Johnson as someone “who gets things done.” This drive for execution and excellence has made him a trusted advisor to many of the most well-known airline companies.

His advice to others in the industry is to be “nimble and flexible.” He explains often the design side comes into a project with a vision and some preconceived notions, but a decade later when the project is finished, it might not be exactly as originally envisioned. “Being nimble helps you through the changes,” he says.