Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (Tampa International Airport)


Tampa, FL




Experiential Design & Wayfinding

With a footprint that covers 3,300 acres, finding your way around Tampa International Airport (TPA) is not an easy task. In order to support the airport’s ongoing commitment a positive wayfinding experience for passengers and guests, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority tasked Gresham Smith with developing the Tampa International Airport Wayfinding Standards Manual.

page document
acre site

Prior to the wayfinding standards manual, wayfinding updates at TPA were carried out on a project-by-project basis. Although the results were mostly positive, this approach lacked consistency in ways that were not always obvious. We developed three guiding principles for the airport’s wayfinding: safety supersedes all other design criteria, apply fundamental of transportation engineering to support TPA’s roadways, and maintain operational flexibility.

a woman using a digital flight information kiosk in the main terminal at Tampa International Airport

Within the manual, Chapter 3: Wayfinding Strategy provides the key that unlocks the wayfinding logic at TPA. For example, TPA is only one of a few airports that features a dual curbside, with a terminal that is basically a mirror image on both sides. The upside? The dual red and blue curbside design provides efficient circulation. The downside? There is increased demand placed on the wayfinding. This chapter explains how the color-coded wayfinding is hardwired into the airport’s DNA, with detailed journey segment diagrams illustrating the horizontal and vertical transitions.

The manual also suggests that the overall airport wayfinding system should be viewed as a “wayfinding web”—similar to that of a spider web—in that every strand of the wayfinding web is connected, making it virtually impossible to touch any strand without disturbing the rest of the web. Therefore, airport planners and designers need to consider how making changes to one part of an airport has a ripple effect on the rest of the wayfinding system. We developed logic diagrams for departing, arriving and connecting passengers, which serve as a quick reference tool to check for any wayfinding disconnects.

a logic diagram explaining the departing passenger journey at Tampa International Airport

Supporting TPA’s ongoing commitment to customer satisfaction, the Tampa International Airport Wayfinding Standards Manual takes a deep dive into how the airport campus is wired to help deliver a positive wayfinding experience. The manual is designed to serve as a living document in which updates can be made to keep pace with both the physical and operational changes at an airport that is growing exponentially.