About the book
— Signage at airports worldwide
Analysis of airport wayfinding concepts · Examples from
the past and present · Authors are specialists in the field
· Harmonizing identity and functionality · The most
important topics related to Covid-19
In the course of the first one hundred years of commercial aviation, airports have undergone a remarkable evolution from single-building ports to complex structures with multi-layered identities and capacity for millions of travellers from diverse cultures to pass through. On the one hand, airports embody the architectural and design tradition of the country or region they serve. On the other, they are hi-tech environments where internationally standardised processes are expected to operate at maximum efficiency. Today, airports are increasingly evolving into lifestyle destinations in their own rite, often offering captivating entertainment and commercial attractions.
Wayfinding systems do more than simply guide travellers from one point in an airport to the next. In fact, wayfinding is the visual language used to convey each airport’s unique identity using colours, fonts and pictograms. In the book Airport Wayfinfing, the authors Heike Nehl and Sibylle Schlaich, two leading information designers and wayfinding specialists, set out on a quest to decipher the unique identities in the wayfinding systems of over one hundred different airports, examining along the way he storied past, present challenges and promising future of wayfinding across the globe.
This book celebrates the centenary of aviation, providing a snapshot of what has been and what is yet to come. Especially in light of the challenges facing the transport sector due to climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, our aim has been to draw on the lessons learned over the past 100 years to clearly point in an entirely new and innovative direction.
A constant state of evolution
The first chapter, Evolving, is a journey through 100 years of airport history. We look at how airport typologies have changed during this time and what impact these changes have had on passenger flows and on-site information requirements.
An airport is a building complex which is never “finished”. It is in a constant state of evolution which often takes a completely different direction than originally planned. To understand this process of perpetual change and how to plan for it, we explore the societal, political and local contexts influencing the evolution of some of the most interesting airports around the world. We also examine historical linkages as well as the developments that influence passenger air travel to this day.
Airports as expressions of spirit
The second chapter, Identity, focuses on how airports have become architectural expressions of a country’s character and identity. Indeed, airports have developed into unique brands closely intertwined with the image of the country they serve. The wayfinding system at an airport is a key element in expressing that airport’s brand identity, yet it must be equally user-friendly for international as well as local visitors and passengers.
An airport’s identity is conveyed through its architecture, but also through the wayfinding system—with its colours, fonts and pictograms. These three elements represent the design tradition and history of a specific geographic and cultural region. In this chapter, inspired by our many years of experience as information designers at Moniteurs, we pay special attention to font design and its unique ability to transport both identity and cultural heritage. We also shine a spotlight on pictograms, which perform the challenging task of fulfilling clear functions, while also visualising and reflecting the distinctive characteristics and traditions of a specific location and airport brand.
The passenger experience
In our third chapter, Digital, we examine how airports are constantly innovating and integrating the use of digital technology and tools to ensure an excellent passenger experience. As digital technology has permeated all aspects of our daily lives, it has become essential to navigating complex environments such as airports. In this chapter, we explore how airports around the world have become smart and how technology can play a role in achieving cleaner, safer and more efficient transport in the future.
The proliferation of digital technologies in global societies has been as rapid as the expansion of the air travel industry and these technologies have transformed the travel industry overall human mobility. It is impossible to predict how airports will function in the future or how many of the processes and protocols for handling global health crises will remain in place in the long term.
How airports connect
The final chapter, Beyond, explores the interdependent relationship between airports and the cities and regions they serve. We take a look at how airports function as key economic drivers and take stock of how well they connect to other parts of the transport infrastructure. After the boom years of the Jet Age in Europe and the United States and rapid expansion in Asia, we are now entering a new phase where airports will take on additional roles and fulfil new functions.
Airports are complex structures that constitute much more than just air traffic. Once outside the terminal, the focus shifts to what happens in the area
directly surrounding the terminal and how the airport connects with the city it serves. Here too, orientation is key. Airports are a crucial part of the mobility infrastructure that connect a city to the world. They make a large contribution to the attractiveness of a city for residents, visitors and investors. Good planning ensures that the airport and the city are successful together and make a positive impact on the regional economy.
The authors talk about their motivation for writing the book and give insights into the four chapters of Airport Wayfinding.
About the authors
The authors Heike Nehl and Sibylle Schlaich have been
working on airport wayfinding systems for 15 years. They
founded Moniteurs in 1994 and today, as information
designers, they develop, together with their team, analogue
and digital wayfinding systems for international airports.
At home and abroad they regularly give lectures on the topic
of orientation at airports and have taught at several
Heike Nehl studied Visual Communication at the FH Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences, completing a thesis on contemporary British graphic design. In 1990, she began working at MetaDesign in Berlin, which was followed in 1993 by a period in the USA at MetaWest in San Francisco. At MetaDesign she met Sibylle Schlaich and worked with her on the wayfinding for the Berlin Public Transport Operator. After founding Moniteurs communication design with Sibylle Schlaich and another partner in 1994, they focused their work on information design and wayfinding after a few years.
The experience gained from working on numerous wayfinding projects—a selection: Berlin Brandenburg Airport, Hannover Airport, Zurich Airport, Kulturpalast Dresden, BMW FIZ Future, Merck group—and dealing with mobility projects has made her an expert in the field of information design.
Heike Nehl has taught at different design universities, Typography and Information Design at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and Interaction Design at the FH Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences. In 2013 she taught as guest professor at the Chinese German Academy of the Arts in Hangzhou, China. She has given talks at conferences such as Creative Mornings, Typographic Design Munich, Day of Typography Bern, Dimensions of Mobility/Dessau, or at the Smart Airport conference in Singapore.
She is the co-author of the books “emotional digital—A Sourcebook of Contemporary Typographics”, “Look Book Informationsdesign” and “1:1 Orientation, Signage, Identity”.
Sibylle Schlaich studied Visual Communication at the
HfG University of Design Schwäbisch Gmünd and at the Berlin University of the Arts, the diploma was the thesis
on the use of renewable energies, visualised with data and information graphics. She worked for MetaDesign in Berlin, where she met Heike Nehl and worked with her on the wayfinding for the Berlin Public Transport Operator. After founding Moniteurs communication design with Heike Nehl and another partner in 1994, they focused their work on information design and wayfinding after a few years.
The experience gained from working on numerous way finding projects – a selection: Berlin Brandenburg Airport, Munich Airport, Stuttgart Airport, Kunsthalle Mannheim, BMW plant Leipzig, Continental company and dealing with mobility projects has made her an expert in the field of information design.
Since 2000, Sibylle Schlaich has taught in the fields of Information Design and Typography, among others at the Leibniz University in Hanover at Faculty of Architecture,
at the Bauhaus University in Weimar and she has been a guest professor at the CDK, the Chinese German Academy of the Arts in Hangzhou. She has given numerous talks, such as at the international design conference TYPO Berlin, at Goethe Institute in Krakow, Poland or at the Nirma University in Ahmedabad, India. She has also been a jury member of various selection panels.
She is the co-author of the books “1:1 Orientation, Signage, Identity”, “Look Book Informationsdesign” and “emotional digital—A Sourcebook of Contemporary Typographics” and “Erneuerbare Energien nutzen”.