In support of Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s mission to enhance the passenger experience, Gresham Smith was selected to develop and implement an airportwide master plan for wayfinding and signage. Helping passengers find their way without getting lost or confused, our solution addresses the airport’s entire wayfinding experience—from the gateway to the gate areas—improving how customers navigate this busy airport.

In 2018, CLT opened the first phase of its Concourse A expansion, representing the first implementation of their comprehensive signage and wayfinding program.

Client

Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Location

Charlotte, NC

Project Type

Aviation

Accolades

Showcase

44M+

passengers annually

2,000

CLT customers surveyed

80%

of customers are connecting passengers

Listening to Customers

Listening to Customers

Utilizing best practices identified within the Gresham Smith-authored ACRP Research Report 52: Wayfinding and Signing Guidelines for Airport Terminals and Landside, the master plan serves the needs of departing, arriving and connecting passengers. To better understand these user groups, we surveyed 2,000 CLT customers to determine what mattered most to them when it came to navigating the airport.
A Touch of Southern Hospitality, Charlotte style

A Touch of Southern Hospitality, Charlotte style

Wayfinding plays a vital role in how an airport communicates with its customers. When seeking a wayfinding solution for CLT, the client conveyed their “voice” to us in four simple words: “Southern hospitality, Charlotte Style.” Our signage and wayfinding master plan contributes to CLT’s voice in a number of ways, including a distinctive gingham pattern—or checkered pattern—that serves as a visual reference to the historical textile mill industry of the Carolinas.

A key program design element, the gingham pattern formulates a grid of how information is delineated and organized at CLT for easy comprehension. Along with serving as a graphic device in which signage layout is developed, the unique gingham configuration also adds a texture that creates visual interest.

More Engaging, Playful & User Friendly

More Engaging, Playful & User Friendly

Another way our design extends CLT’s Southern hospitality to its customers is through implementing a new signage font style that’s more user friendly while remaining highly legible. Easy to read from a distance, large international symbols and pictograms featuring warmer and friendlier color tones were also designed to be more engaging as well as playful.

Additionally, a central information center that bundles flight information, airport directories and important airport marketing messages provides a customer-friendly single unit.

Encouraging Repeat Business

Encouraging Repeat Business

CLT is the second-largest American Airlines hub after Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), which translates into almost 80% of the airport’s customers being a connecting passenger. Our research, which included 2,000 customer surveys, discovered there is a negative perception among passengers regarding long walk times from gate to gate. Therefore, a key part of the wayfinding solution includes walk times to any gate at the airport.
This Is How We Do It!

This Is How We Do It!

Our design equips travelers with access to airportwide knowledge along key points of the gate-to-gate journey. This has not only resulted in positive customer-experience feedback, but has also helped encourage connecting passengers to make CLT their airport of choice.

Visual Hierarchy

Every airport has visual elements that tend to compete for space and place, e.g., art, advertising, concessions, CLT marketing, retail and wayfinding. Gresham Smith worked with each of the various airport departments to develop a thoughtful strategy to effectively manage these visual elements so they can all live in harmony. Examples include dedicating space next to FIDS and directories for CLT to share important messages with customers.

Advertising messages are important because they generate valuable airport revenue. Conversely, while art may not generate revenue, it can be both memorable and inspiring. For this reason, the wayfinding master plan also identified the best locations for landmarks and works of art such as “INTERCONNECTED” by Refik Anadol—a distinctive digital artwork that dramatically portrays the hidden troves of operational data at CLT.

Not Just “Any Airport USA”

Not Just “Any Airport USA”

Creating a unique navigation experience at CLT, the comprehensive Signage and Wayfinding Master Plan provides customers with clear and intuitive signs and wayfinding, and a sense of place that leaves a long-lasting, positive impression.

Testimonials

“Gresham Smith helped us understand how to organize all of the elements that are in the space: how we designate specific areas for signage; for advertising and art to be placed where they actually complement each other versus creating crazy visual clutter that makes it confusing.”

Regina Czerr, Airport Sign Manager, Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Gallery

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) Terminal Lobby Expansion Designed by Gresham Smith
Customer Takes Survey at CLT Airport

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) Terminal Lobby Expansion Designed by Gresham Smith

Project Contact

Our team designs with genuine care for ingenious solutions.

Design with us.

Jim Harding, SEGD
Jim Harding, SEGD
Director of Experiential Design & Wayfinding