‹‹ Back to Showcase Home Viewing Showcase 10

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) - Wayfinding and Signage Upgrade

Opened in 1940, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) ranks among the top 20 busiest airports worldwide. As with many large, complex airports that have undergone one-off improvements and renovations over the years, the signage system at PHL had become disjointed and difficult for passengers to use. In 2007, PHL hired GS&P to conduct a study review of its existing airport signage and wayfinding and identify areas for improvement. The resulting report addressed airport terminals, concourses, ticketing, bridges, baggage claims, curbsides and garages, evaluating each area based on key wayfinding characteristics including aesthetics, circulation, sign placement, messaging, symbols, terminology and safety. The report included a list of recommendations to address wayfinding gaps and issues, and outlined a step-by-step implementation process. 

Showcase TEN Talk | PHL Wayfinding and Signage Upgrade: The Art and Science of Information Design from Gresham, Smith and Partners on Vimeo.

Working with airport management, planners and engineers, GS&P’s Environmental Graphic Design group used the results of the 2007 study to design and implement a new sign standards program at PHL—one that features a clean, consistent look, and uses a clear wayfinding logic to help departing, arriving and connecting passengers navigate the often-maze-like circulation that is a hallmark of the airport’s physical layout. The program focused on key signage elements including terminology, message hierarchy, color coding, the use of symbols and arrows, font style and sizing, sign placement and mounting, sign design and layout, materials and fabrication, and illumination. The team also created a comprehensive signage inventory that can be easily updated and incorporated into the airport’s GIS system as well as a future PHL wayfinding app for smartphones.

As the final step in the signage upgrade project, the new sign program was documented in a Sign Standards and Guidelines manual for use by PHL for ongoing management and maintenance of the sign program. Aimed at helping airport staff plan and execute signage-related projects of all types, the manual contains sections on the basic wayfinding process and circulation analysis, visual and message hierarchies, sign placement, graphic standards, sign types, and guidance for sign management and maintenance policies and procedures. Designed by GS&P for ease of use, the manual includes descriptive drawings and specifications for all sign types in the program, along with guidelines on when and how each sign type is intended to be used. The combination of the sign standards with the GIS sign inventory and database equips PHL with the necessary tools to perpetuate the integrity of the program and preserve their investment. 

Bringing the airport into a new era with a cohesive, efficient and low-maintenance wayfinding system, PHL’s new sign standards program reduces visual clutter and delivers a vastly improved passenger experience in every area of the airport—from the curbside to the terminal to baggage claim. Implemented on time and under budget, the new standardized sign family is not only visually consistent but has the built-in flexibility to meet the diverse airport architecture and ongoing need for changeability at PHL.



Send us a message
Hidden Fields - Do not change.

Download PDF

Download project PDF
Hidden Fields

After clicking SUBMIT, an email will be sent to you with a link to the PDF. Don't worry, we will not share your information with anyone.

Project Info

  • Client: Philadelphia International Airport
  • Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • Market: Aviation
  • Services: Environmental Graphics and Wayfinding
  • Team:
    • James R. Harding , SEGD PIC
    • Jim Alderman, SEGD PM, PP
    • David P. Park , SEGD PD
    • Glenn T. Davis
    • Cindy Lucente, LEED AP
    • Elaine McDowall
    • Tim A. Rucker, SEGD
Share This Page: