Indoor Wayfinding in Airports for Visually Impaired
Wayfinding in airport environments is the final project for my masters degree in Design Management. I am in the process of individually exploring a subject of my interest - Wayfinding issues, especially for travelers. This is a 10-week research project demonstrating my learnings at SCAD. The goal is to generate concept and prototype a solution. This project will also span towards defining a business plan with the probability of executing my solution in the future.
1 Project + 10 weeks + 450 data points = 1 working Prototype
Objective : This study focuses on re-imagining way-finding systems within the boundary of airport environments (i.e. From parking to exit)
My role : Having complete autonomy over the project, I am involved in every step of the design process from the discovering the problem to offering a solution.
The problem : Several researchers have identified that passengers can have difficulty navigating through airport terminals (Cave, Blackler, Popovic, & Kraal, 2013; Fewings, 2001; Tam & Lam, 2004) which can result in a less than optimal airport experiences.
There are two main factors that influence navigation - the design of the airport and the way-finding systems.
“The vast structure of the passenger terminal creates a complexity that most airport planners and architects are not equipped to simplify; that is, they lack a formal, theoretical framework for understanding human spatial cognition and for relating its implications to the design of the terminal or its way-finding system (e.g., signs, maps, directions) “(Andre, 1991).
The vastness and inaccuracy of information usually influence passengers’ airport experience from the point they enter the airport environment – in the parking area, to the point that they leave the airport – looking for a rental car or being picked up. Thus, there is a problem in developing human spatial cognition through easily accessible way-finding systems.
Using the double-diamong framework, I am exploring all the facets of a research process to get actionable insights. Thus, I aim to deliver a well-iterated product/service solution.
Scope of Study
I aim to study the entire experience of the airport environment holistically. The process of wayfinding starts when one enters the airport vicinity with the aim of either reaching their airline check-in counter or parking their car in the vast airport parking spaces. The issue of navigation does not end when one boards a flight, deplaning, baggage collection and looking for the right exit are also added to the scope. Passengers have various pain points considering an aiport environment, but wayfinding is one area that touches each point of their experience.
Context : The airport and airline industry who are the providers and enablers of navigational issues in airports environments.
Content : The airports and airline industry will be studied to understand the factors affecting passenger traffic on airports. This understanding will be used to re-imagine the problem and provide solutions through an improved framework.
Subjects : Operational staff on airports, air-travelers, airline companies, airport management along with wayfinding technology and environmental graphic consultants.
This project is strongly anchored by contextual research using the ethnographic lens of research. There were various tools used to study the context through secondary research. This gave a strong understanding of the subject and validated it. Looking into the Buzzfeed reports, keywords bibliometrics and doing a popular media scan gave some insights regarding the ongoing concerns regarding wayfinding amongst researchers and designers especially in airport environments.
This shaped the inquiry and helped formed a problem statement to focus the study.
How might we re-imagine indoor wayfinding systems for visually and non-visually impaired passengers in airport environments?
Please find the entire Research Questions document here.