Looking for ways to upgrade and improve its existing wayfinding and signage system, Denver International Airport (DEN) enlisted the services of Gresham Smith. To address the airport’s needs, our firm conducted a comprehensive wayfinding assessment of all areas of the airport to determine how to improve the customer wayfinding experience as well as safety on the DEN roadway network. The resulting recommendations became the foundation for Gresham Smith’s design of the first phase of improvements, which included replacement of existing roadway, parking and building sign systems at DEN.

One of the highest-priority areas identified for signage improvements was Peña Boulevard—an 11.1-mile stretch of high-speed, access-controlled roadway that provides the primary vehicular access into the airport. Originally installed in 1993 and remodeled in 2000, the outdated signage along the last few miles of the airport approach had reached the end of its useful life and was no longer providing the efficient, comprehensive wayfinding that DEN desired.

As part of Gresham Smith’s sustainable design solution, 23 roadside signs and 22 overhead signs were replaced with a new signage system along Peña Boulevard, which features cost-effective, retroreflective sign faces that require little to no routine maintenance or electricity, unlike the airport’s previous internally and externally illuminated signage. Larger font sizes were incorporated into the new signs for improved visibility, legibility and safety, while simple and consistent messaging helps avoid confusion and directs passengers to their primary destinations in the most effective way.

The scope of work also included a structural analysis of existing overhead roadway signage by Gresham Smith engineers that revealed the sign structures and foundations were still structurally sound after more than two decades and could be reused with minimal repair and maintenance. This yielded the client an estimated cost savings of $3 million to $4 million.

Along with exterior signage upgrades, Gresham Smith provided design services for an interim signage overlay inside DEN’s Jeppesen Terminal to coincide with the opening of the new Westin Denver Airport Hotel and Transit Center. Intended as a temporary pilot test fit over existing directional signage, the overlay incorporated new interior sign standards at the airport.

Transforming the passenger experience, Gresham Smith’s comprehensive signage and wayfinding upgrades at DEN create a welcoming and enjoyable environment that is reassuring to travelers and provides the world-class airport with an effective, intuitive and sustainable signage solution that contributes to its green mission.


City and County of Denver Department of Aviation


Denver, Colorado

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