How Branding at Logan International Airport is Making a Difference

For full article, click here and flip to page 9 of November issue

It’s not unusual for a bustling international airport to routinely conduct research to gauge customer satisfaction, secure feedback and identify areas of improvement. But in 2011 when the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) conducted its annual satisfaction study at Boston Logan International Airport, it got a surprise.

The “wish list” service recommendations cited by leisure and business passengers gauged in the Boston Logan survey looked awfully familiar. The issue? Most of them – such as free wifi and electricity power-up stations, among others – were already offered at Boston Logan. In some cases, they had been free services provided at the airport for years.

The issue wasn’t a services gap or operations challenge but, rather, a communications issue. All efforts made by the airport to provide amenities to better the passenger experience simply did not matter if they didn’t know about them.

The result? Massport initiated an integrated effort that included the marketing team responsible for the research working with its Capital Programs counterparts, which manage all development of infrastructure for all Massport transportation arms. Together, they tested, designed and ultimately produced an innovative, airport-wide signage system that is one part branding, one part way finding and one part services notification.

Boston Logan is a busy public transit hub, with approximately 27 million passengers every year. They don’t always have the time or inclination to stop and research an amenity or service, even if they need it. The job was to make it utterly clear and immediately apparent that these services are available for them, right there in the terminal environment.

The program, initiated in 2011, is currently being piloted and will be in several airport terminals by the end of 2014.

To make it happen, Massport’s outside branding and research agency, CerconeBrownCompany (CBC), selected Cambridge-based communications studio, 96pt., to design the system because of the firm’s strong expertise in placemaking, wayfinding, and branded environments. The design team coordinated with the integrated Massport team as well as Logan’s Aviation Operations team to design a unified series of on-site graphic communications that identifies the free public services provided by Massport at Logan. Separately, CBC created a public transit and billboard advertising campaign to announce and support the program.

First, CBC/96pt. conducted a site review of Logan Airport’s terminals and the final list of amenities offered by Massport that would be highlighted – wifi, gadget powering stations, hand sanitizing, courtesy phone, mail drop-box, automotive assistance and recycling services.

Many of these services had existing signage in the terminals, but because they weren’t conceived as a family and were placed at different times they didn’t have a unified look/feel or voice. This is not untypical for airports, according to Linda Kondo Chapman from 96pt. In fact, in this initial research, CBC/96pt. could not find examples other U.S. airport that had, to date, branded its public amenities in this way. Logan, it seemed, would be the first.

96pt. reviewed various terminal site conditions – from cavernous spaces with 20-foot ceilings and glass surfaces, to narrow corridors with 8-foot ceilings and cinderblock walls – to develop a design vocabulary that would address a clear way of communicating to the public at various scales. Iconography was developed for each amenity, a quick-read description, a color palette and font style, uniquely cropped black and white photography featuring Boston city landmarks and the Boston Logan identity to tie it all together.

“The opportunity was to let passengers know there was a system of support there for their use and comfort,” said Michele Phelan from 96pt. “And there was an opportunity to show off the beauty and pride of Boston, not just list specific available amenities but to give them a comforting sense of place, so we anchored all the pieces in photography from our region.”

The result is a series of amenity panels with standard heights and widths produced on durable digital high-pressure laminate that could withstand high traffic airport use. Stand-alone signs highlighting each amenity were mapped to where the amenity would be most in demand (such as the gate areas) while groupings of amenities were integrated into larger stations adjacent to “you are here” airport orientation maps located at strategic points of the airport.

Terminal C at Boston Logan was selected as a pilot site to test the design of the “amenity panels”. Boston-based Fennick McCreedie Architecture (FMA), already under contract with Massport for terminal renovations, provided measured elevations and floorplans for strategically located panel installations throughout the terminal. Poyant Signs installed the program; IZONE was the selected DHPL vendor.

The 65 amenity panels are easy to spot without being intrusive. They carry the Boston Logan brand and themes of color, texture, and form systematically throughout the terminal, helping travelers locate and make use of the range of free services.

But the biggest reward can be seen in satisfaction research that initially triggered the design effort. While it’s still early in the project, the latest round of feedback from passengers gauged in terminal surveys in Summer 2013 indicates people recognize that there is a system of services in place at the airport that is designed to support them as they get on their way to their destination.

A second stage of work at Terminal B is currently in development for rollout in Spring 2014.