Counterproductive Airport Signage
When leaving for San Francisco yesterday I noticed some very ill-conceived airport signage in the departure hall of Brussels International Airport. Yet most of the wayfinding uses Adrian Frutiger’s eponymous typeface, a shining example of almost scientifically developed type for signage. Frutiger sought solutions for the multiple readability problems Helvetica presented when he was commissioned to design a way-finding signage alphabet for the new Charles de Gaulle International Airport. This type family would subsequently be named after him when the Mergenthaler Linotype Company released it for public use in 1976. Since then it has become almost as ubiquitous as Helvetica itself and knows many adepts; most notably Erik Spiekermann. When asked to redesign the graphic identity and information architecture for the Berlin public transport company BVG Spiekermann’s MetaDesign adapted Frutiger Condensed version and added true italics for his FF Transit.
Now you can imagine my dismay when I noticed the backlit signs above the check-in counters in the Brussels Airport departure hall. They are in Helvetica which already in itself is an incredibly poor choice for signage. It looks like they were cut out in metal and then stuck on light boxes. And therein lies the problem. Apparently the glue started to deteriorate – possibly from the heat of the lamps in the lightboxes – which made the counters slide down. With embarrassing results…
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