Experiencing New York at the airport

Wayfinding standards manual for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

In a team at Mijksenaar with W&CO

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the mayor airports in the NY / NJ region, including JFK, Newark and LaGuardia. Mijksenaar has been tasked to develop a wayfinding standards manual already in the early 2000s, which was implemented at all the PA airports. Two decades later the wayfinding system needed updating as part of a large investment to bring the passenger experience to the top of the class. 

The team of Mijksenaar and W&CO was tasked to explore what a 21st century wayfinding experience should be. We decided to build on what was good and brought the complete wayfinding standards to a new level that matches modern airport experiences, but also brought sense of place into the wayfinding journey.  
As part of a multi-disciplinary team of 12, in my role as senior designer I developed the product and spatial design, worked on strategy, user experience and graphic design. I was involved in the development of various elements of the standards manual, joining the process from the early stages of analysis, concepting and strategic direction until implementation of the online manual. 

Towards a world-class wayfinding system
Our project kicked off by exploring top-rated airports experiences and wayfinding standards in order to extract priciples for development. In order to deliver a manual that covers more than just signage we looked into connections, spatial zoning, spatial improvements and implementing a sense of place. With these principles we shaped a project that lead from analysis and strategy to concept and design. 

Ultimately we delivered a manual that includes graphic design of information, 3D product design of objects, spatial implementation, use of digital elements, connections between modes of transport, floorplans, implementation and governance. 

Development of an iconic design

A sign is not only two-dimensional information on a surface, it is an object strategically placed in a certain context. The team and I introduced the colour wrap around the edge of the sign — introducing three dimensionality to  otherwise two dimensional information. Opening up the sides of the signs for the use of colour makes the wayfinding recognizable from more angles and starts to act as beacons. In combination with the colour coding this enables passengers for quick and intuitive sorting of information. Purple was introduced to highlight connections

Functional graphics with sense of place

During a visit to New York one will notice the presence of Helvetica in the public domain. We commissioned Monotype to update their recent Helvetica Now into a typeface that is functional for wayfinding. The characteristic typeface is embedded in a graphic layout that is bold, confident and bright, bringing a sense of New York into the wayfinding design. This is also embodied in the design of the pictogram set to match the overall appearance of signage. The pictograms reflect local identity, match the typeface and both follow and contribute to international standards.

Implementation and results

We worked towards a responsive online environment, replacing the traditional single document manual. The online manual allows easy access for all stakeholders, accessible updating and a single platform for all resources, principles, assets and guidelines. It also serves as a platform for communication where questions can be asked. Over the coming years the platform will grow and evolve, serving the Port Authority in implementing a world-class wayfinding system.

The project was rewarded the 2021 SEGD Honor Award (Strategy/Research/Planning category).

The manual can be visited here: https://wayfinding.panynj.gov

Newark Terminal A was the first terminal to implement the new wayfinding standards. Other terminals will follow over the course of several years. Photos by Zach Griff, @thepointsguy
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