City and County of Denver Department of Aviation


Denver, CO




Experiential Design and Wayfinding, Structural Engineering

When Denver International Airport (DEN) was looking for ways to upgrade its existing signage and wayfinding system, the airport enlisted Gresham Smith to develop a comprehensive approach. To address the airport’s needs, the firm conducted an assessment of all areas of the airport to determine how to improve the passenger wayfinding experience, as well as safety on the DEN roadway network.

The resulting recommendations became the foundation for Gresham Smith’s design of the improvements, which included the replacement of signage along the existing roadway and parking structures. Transforming the passenger experience, the new signage and wayfinding design provides clarity, enhances safety and matches the airport’s elevated brand experience.

roadside signs
mile stretch
million estimated cost savings

One of the highest-priority areas identified for signage improvements was Peña Boulevard, an 11.1-mile stretch of high-speed roadway that provides the primary vehicular access into the airport. Originally installed in 1993 and remodeled in 2000, the roadway signage was outdated and was no longer providing the efficient, comprehensive wayfinding that DEN desired.

overhead directional signage on the roadway leading to Denver International Airport

As part of Gresham Smith’s sustainable design solution, we replaced 23 roadside signs and 22 overhead signs along Peña Boulevard with 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 improve visibility, legibility and safety, while simple and consistent messaging helps avoid confusion and directs passengers to their primary destination. Our structural engineers also conducted a structural analysis of existing overhead roadway signage and confirmed that the structures and foundations were still structurally sound yielding the client an estimated $3 to $4 million cost savings.

overhead wayfinding signage in the terminal at Denver International Airport

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.