So, as you may or may not know I love love LOVE to travel. I don’t get to do it much (because of budgets) but when I do get the chance, I love to do a deep dive into cultures and places and foods and of course design. One of the things I always find interesting is how different countries handle how their airport is designed. Now my whole thing is that travel, by and large, is a stressful thing right? There is so much that is out of your control as a traveler. But what if the airport was designed to put you at ease? To actually make traveling a more pleasant experience?
So I thought to myself, self, you’re a designer why don’t you ask the people that design airports how they do it and what criteria do they use to come up with the design? Could I get people together to design the ideal airport? My guinea pig for this project is my home airport the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Now the reason I picked this airport is that it’s becoming pretty international, is mid-construction and actually has a pretty comprehensive plan in terms of what they want to do to make the airport look amazing.
Here’s the kicker though, as I’m looking at the people making the decisions on that last page I don’t see anyone like me? Do the folks who perform maintenance on a bathroom regularly get to chime in? What about a social engineer to determine exactly where the kiosk should go so that it doesn’t hold up traffic in the airport? What about the UX/UI designer who needs to design way-finding or digital displays? Does the UX researcher get to even present to the stakeholders the actual pain points of actual users of the airport? We all have different expertise and knowledge but I don’t know that we ever get to ask each other as professionals these types of questions. And so I wonder, wouldn’t it be great if we got in on the ground floor to really help to shape the efficiency of how well an airport could work? So, I want to put out a call to people who would probably never get to talk to the “money folks” to see if we could get together and design an airport that serves everyone’s needs, is efficient AND is well designed.
Now several points here:
1) Airports are massive so we’re going to have break this down into small chunks. I also want to be clear that I am specifically referring to this airport’s innards. The must-haves vs the it-would-be-nice-to-haves.
2) I think designs like this have a cultural point as well right? So for example, the airport in Madrid is GORGEOUS. There’s nothing in it and you HAVE to show up two hours early because they do not give you the gate information on your ticket and so you must go and wait in your terminal until your gate is shown to you. Now would that work in the US? I don’t know. Currently, I find that when I travel in the US to the larger international airports they have iPads on every surface and my initial reaction is, WHY?!?!?!?! Now, could the design of the airport change travel behavior in the US? Possibly, but that’s a whole other conversation for another day.
3) As far as I understand TSA and its management is handled by Homeland Security so unfortunately, we can only guesstimate as to what would be the ideal way that they would need to process large groups of people passing through this kind of space AND take into consideration how long it takes vs connecting flights, if that. Again I am relying on the expertise of those who know better than me and can provide insight that I do not have.
4) Airport bathrooms…. to be more specific for this use-case, airport bathrooms in the US. I have a myriad of accessibility questions…… LIKE A LOT!!
5) Accessibility in general….what do the folks who are blind, deaf, or mobility impaired do??? How do we accommodate for that functionality?
So if you’d like to explore some of these questions and just get together and see if we can come up with stuff, holler at me. I’m genuinely interested in this type of design and would love to document the process.