Information Design in Practice

Ben Gurion Airport – Tel Aviv, Israel

Over spring break my husband and I took a vacation to Budapest, departing from Israel. I decided to use Ben Gurion Airport (BGA) as the public space to carry out my analysis of the information design practices.

Travelers need consistent, concise, accurate and timely information when they are in the airport environment. If a traveler is unable to find their way it can lead to frustration and a poor experience. Good wayfinding can offer a number of benefits, including:

  • traveler satisfaction
  • reduce clutter and unnecessary information in the airport environment
  • aid traveler flow and reduce airport crowding
  • assist travelers get to their flights on time
  • allows travelers to reach their destination easily and quickly, allowing them time to explore their environment (e.g. shopping, eating and relaxing). This in turn may benefit airports and retailers with increased revenue, and
  • reduce inquiries to airport staff.

As I arrived at the airport I noticed that there were many different wayfinding tools and methods used to make navigation easier for travelers. I specifically noticed that there was a predominate use of symbols, color and  lighting in order to make the signage more noticeable and understandable by different travelers regardless of culture or background. The languages used in the signs were Hebrew (the official language of Israel), Arabic and English. It was apparent that much thought was put into the text information as it was very clear and legible. The text, which was white over a dark grey background, was lit up on the signs, and appeared to be a bold sans serif type of font. The symbols, which were mostly colored yellow or red, were pretty obvious to me and I believe that they are universally understood. What I also thought was really clever, was the use of different themes for different parking levels and areas, instead of numbers or letters which could get confusing and are forgettable. For instance, as shown in the first image on the left, the Vineyard & Orchard parking lots are opposite Terminal 3. I could see how this system would be much more effective for travelers as opposed to numbers or letters, which are easily forgettable.

Below are pictures of some of the signs and wayfinding tools that I found on the ground floor, which were aimed at helping travelers fulfill different tasks, such as finding the arrivals/departures hall, information desk, toilet, elevators, currency exchange, etc. Overall, I found the signs to be consistently designed, they were clear and draw attention and positioned well through the space. There was also a minimal use of wording as to not  create information overload or confusion to the traveler.

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Once I reached the departures hall, I needed to find my way to the correct check out counter, which is usually the most overwhelming and confusing task for any traveler. In the hall, I was able to find two different types of directories. The one on the left was placed at a decision point next to an escalator. The map directory was placed near the center of the hall. A map is a valuable navigation aid when navigating in complex environments. A map directory is a stop and read resource, while a sign is used to confirm to the traveler that they are on the right path.

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After doing a quick scan of the environment, I was able to find a digital ‘departures’ sign that listed flight information such as flight number, destination, scheduled time and check-in zone. I was able to determine that the zone I needed to reach for my flight to Budapest was zone A. Next to the digital sign was a ‘zones’ sign to help my navigate to the correct zone. It was also color coded. I was able to find the A zone easily as the sign was large and bright, and was placed high up in view.

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While my experience at Ben Gurion Airport was very good, and I found that the wayfinding tools certainly helped me to navigate well in the unfamiliar environment, there was one thing that I would recommend to enhance the ease of navigation. The departures hall was very large, and although I was able to find the digital departures screen that told me which zone to go to for check-in, this method of finding out where to go may not be so direct for other travelers. I would also recommend placing a sign or monitor outside of each zone, which would  display which airlines and/or flight numbers are being served at that particular zone. Below are some examples I found online:

  

References:

Wayfinding Good Practice Guide for Australian International Airports. Rep. The Wayfinding Guide National Passenger Facilitation Committee, Apr. 2011. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/WayfindingGuide.pdf&gt;.

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6 thoughts on “Information Design in Practice

  1. I think as most do, I always look at the pictures first and I was saying to myself “I would have freaked out”! Then as I started reading your post and found you had a pleasant experience. I think anxiety for me would have kicked in if I had not seen any English! I do sometimes wonder what we have gotten ourselves into with all the technology but thank goodness we have it for this very reason. Great post! 🙂

  2. You included a lot of photos in your post that really helped me to visualize your experience at this airport. I have to agree that digital signage in front of each departure or arrival area should be marked. It reminds me of an experience I had at the Detroit International airport. Although they did have a large digital screen offering information about where each flight was departing from without the digital signs in front of each terminal I would have been lost. The airport is extremely large and it would take at least 15 minutes to walk one level. Often travelers are in a time crunch so signage is vital to the function of the airport.

    Elaine Grabowski

  3. It looks as though Ben Gurion Airport has implemented a comprehensive plan that coordinates 100%. This is much more effective than some public spaces that merely tack new information design onto old design to “improve” it, resulting in a crazy quilt that can be confusing or tedious to understand. I particularly like the lights inside the signs. That seems to achieve the best visibility possible. The zone signs were particularly effective. Very good images, excellent post, and I hope you enjoyed your vacation to Budapest.

  4. Excellent work! It’s funny now for some of us we are noticing all these little design tools all over the place. I think this course has made us more aware of the messages around us and what a specific design’s goals are for us the audience.

  5. Nice Blog, thank you for including us in your trip to Israel it seems they have most of the wayfinding issues down pat as I am sure they have found a need with so many travelers asking for information through the years. I truly liked your suggestion about the signs/monitors at each zone because a traveler can’t help but wonder if they have truly reached the right destination if there is no verification when they arrive. Imagine yourself having gone to the number or letter area you believed was correct only to find it’s not and you just missed your flight that had its boarding area 100 feet away and you’ve been standing there for an hour and never knew? So yes I think an end destination verification method would definitely be helpful to travelers.
    ~Sandra Solomon

  6. Great post. I myself have only been on an airplane once and the terminal scares me! I have traveled by train many times and even that makes me overwhelmed and flustered. There is so much to take in and figure out it is hard to not get confused, especially if it’s a large terminal. I think you did a great job explaining how the designs helped you. Being in an airport in a different country has to be very confusing but I am glad that the one you visited was designed so well!

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