Some sketches for airports
Our modern lifestyle includes spending time in airports: counters, concourses, lounges, food kiosks, baggage claim. Due to government inefficiency and panic fear among some Americans, some of that time is spent in lines and waiting. While frustrating, it is still amazing to later step into a metal cylinder and soar through the skies to another city in a matter of minutes or hours. Often, while waiting, I will sketch improvements to the experience.

During some free time in the Chicago airport

I realized a while back that I was a 'noticer'. I notice things. Example: At O'Hare airport in Chicago, I couldn't help but spot how the base of the sign outside the Brookstone kiosk did not respect the patterns in the terrazzo floor. So, of course, I moved the sign. Didn't bother to check with anybody, even though there were several people nearby watching. In its new position, it creates an arrangement that is more orderly, more connected to its environment, and more respectful of the viewer and our innate desire for order.
Lessons
1. An orderly environment is often preferable to one of chaos.
2. Seemingly disparate elements can respect each other, often in subtle ways.
3. If you act like you know what you're doing, you can get by with almost anything.
4. It's often easier to ask forgiveness than to seek permission.

Although I didn't need to do either in this case. The Brookstone employee did not care about me or what unusual stuff I was doing to their sign.

Simple great idea

I suspect, if you've flown much at all, you have searched an airport waiting lounge looking for an outlet to plug in your charger. Some new airports and remodeled lounges are installing more outlets, but these pictures were shot at Newark airport. There are a few charging stations, but each one only had 4 outlets and each was occupied. Then I noticed the ring of pay phones - there were 4 or 5 of these in this lounge. I walked around several times to check - never was a single phone ever in use. Not one. Of course not. People were standing nearby using their cellphones.

So, it seems quite easy to replace the phone banks with a similar circular structure that contains banks of outlets above a worksurface. The electrical power is already there which, I assume is one of the main deterrents to adding more outlets in an airport lounge. No waiting area or floor space would be lost as the new structure would not be any larger than the existing one. Sketches:


Love Field in Dallas

Love Field was once one of the busiest airports in the nation. Then, DFW airport opened and to minimize competition, laws were passed to limit traffic at Love Field. Southwest airlines was founded and used Love Field as it's home base, but much of the terminal was repurposed or just abandoned. While traffic has increased (including other airlines also), many areas were outdated. An extensive reconstruction of the entire terminal is taking place in 2012-13. The map above left shows the new terminal in coral and the old in the tan. The new wings of the terminal seemed awkward and inefficient. Got me to thinking and sketching. What if small airports (not hubs) were redesigned around a more centralized node.
Concepts
1. Instead of spread out thru concourses, one centralized area with all services in the 4 corners:
    a. Restaurant, sit-down for those with time.
    b. Food court, with several options and shared seating areas.
    c. Store: several outlets: snacks, magazines, books, electronics, souvenirs, all together like department store.
    d. Entry and exit.
2. Shorter concourses.
3. Minimal ticketing area. Trend is to pre-ticket online and print boarding pass or download it to smartphone. Fewer checked bags.
4. Better area for security lines - more room for queue lines, wider aisles, more scanning stations, larger area for retrieving belongings, and more seats for redressing.


New concourse at San Francisco airport


Notice the chaotic hallways and aisles on the left. Imagine arriving and deplaning at one of the gates (grey dots) and trying to find your way to baggage claim or ground transportation. What a maze of options. And, you'd be battling the passengers trying to find their gate. For the visitor, there will need to be extensive wayfinding signage.
On the right, simple main pathways out of the terminal. Also, the food options are grouped in a court. Have you ever bought food at an airport, then walked a bit farther and found some other, even better options? Here, like in a mall food court, the diner can see all the options before deciding.

Easy navigation is crucial in an airport. Many users in an airport aren't comfortable - they're stressed over time, meeting people, upcoming meetings and presentations, and maybe even a fear of flying. Some people in a hubport may not be familiar with that airport or it's facilities.

This symbol version emphasizes how chaotic and confusing the new terminal is compared to the revised terminal layout.

Proposal for new traffic control sign at the OKC airport
In 2005, the airport in Oklahoma City, Will Rogers World Airport (one of the few airports named after someone who died in a plane crash), closed a large parking lot in order to build a new multi-story garage on the site. A remote lot was opened to compensate for the lost spaces. The airport needed a way to communicate to drivers where all of the parking lots were located. Like many airports, Will Rogers faced increasing competition from off-site lots and increased vehicular traffic as the number of flying passengers increased.
Funnel Design Group was the airport design firm. The banners inside the terminal, some of the signage, and the airport graphic pieces were designed by Funnel. I was hired as a team member to work on this project to improve the environmental graphics and wayfinding at the airport.

We explored the entire system of environmental graphics - signage, labels, wayfinding, placement, size, colors - from the exit off of the freeway to Meridian Road, the roadways towards the terminal and parking, and the entrances to the lots and the terminal. We explored user needs - the primary target market would be rushed, ignorant of the airport layout, and possibly a bit stressed. The new signs would need to provide assurance, guidance, and comfort. Details of exits, specific sizes and relative scale were not important. Just show the user how to get to the parking options - that's all the motorist is concerned about. The exit information is communicated by wayfinding signs inside the lots.

The map sign, lot signs, and other wayfinding signs were submitted to the director of the airport. Some were accepted and implemented, other proposals may wait for implementation until the new garage is finished. The map wayfinding sign was built and installed.



Concept
A map-like plan of the parking options at the airport; color-coded and clearly marked with type and labels.

Objectives
1. Get attention of motorist - large sign, bright colors, recognizable type and symbols
2. Communicate quickly - use standard parking symbol to convey that this is about parking and black arrow to show 'You are here' and direction of travel
3. Show that there are several options for parking - lots, garage, and hourly
4. Guide the user accurately - show roadways, direction of travel, and lot entrances
5. Easy to read and understand - high contrast, sans serif type, bright colors, minimum of detail and clutter
6. Relate to existing system of color-coded signs in use at the airport - red for parking, blue for terminal
7. Easy to build and maintain - use existing standards and signboards and airport construction staff

Comp rendering of sign superimposed on site


Photos of finished installed sign



Side-by-side comparison

Original sketch. Computer-built comp. Finished installed sign.

Dates
Concept/Art Direction: Jim Watson
Design: Jim Watson and Sean Cobb
Production: Sean Cobb
Fabrication: Airport staff
Designed: September 18, 2005
Plan drafted: September 20-25, 2005
Sign installed: late fall, 2005

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/airportsketches.html