Since my involvement with this class I have learnt to look beyond mere aesthetic. I have come to appreciate design that serves a purpose; design that through forethought produces results that affect human behavior quietly, aiding in ease of use and comfort while itself taking up no space.
Ben Gurion Tel Aviv Airport
After my engagement to a really nice guy I met in Israel, I was on my way back to New York for wedding preparations. I hadn’t slept in maybe two weeks and we (my sister and I) arrived to the airport with not a moment to spare.
Ben Gurion international airport in Tel Aviv is currently the only international airport in Israel and although it was four o’clock in the morning, the airport was teeming with passengers. An overhead electronic board clearly indicated what flights were departing from which gates when but our question was, where is the Lufthansa check-in?
This was swiftly answered by a security detail. Take the elevator down. The elevator area was clearly marked. Once in the elevator we saw that we were currently on the third floor and we had to choose a floor for egress. The buttons to choose from contained a number or letter indicating a floor, 1,2,G,3 along with an inscription of what each floor contained. Thanks to this Information Design Class, I actually read what each button said. Parking was on G. Check-in for Lufthansa and some other airlines were on the first floor.
The first floor had only one area for passenger check-in making it easy to find and follow. Security personnel asked us all the standard security questions and quicly moved us to the front of the line to have our luggage screened – apparently we were late… The check-in counters were right beyond that and clearly marked with an overhead back-lit sign. At the ticket desk we received boarding passes and the ticket agent circled the gate number in pen. This was an effective low-tech manor of cutting through the boarding pass clutter, helping us to focus on where we needed to go after check-in.
As all departures take place on the 3rd floor, an airport employee was posted at the exit of the check-in area, directing passengers back to the elevator area. We quickly ascended to the third floor and a clearly marked yellow sign indicated direction to the Departure Area. Here there was slight confusion as there were many doorways marked by a Departure sign but in actuality, there was only one opened pathway, most likely for security purposes.
The Departure sign led us to a clearly marked security check-point. There are a few entrances to the security area each separated by metal gates. We entered one of them and once our flight documents were scanned by a wall scanner we passed into the screening area. The screening area had numerous screening lines that were staggered along the two walls allowing a narrow area to contain many booths and not cause confusion or extra walking.
Once past screening we entered a room with booths that clearly stated in LSD lights, Israeli Passports or Foreign Passports. We handed our passports to security, had them stamped, and exited into a large circular hall with a water fountain in the center and many brightly colored duty-free shops vying for our attention. As I mentioned, we were in a slight rush and my head was entirely elsewhere. That did not stop us from quickly seeing the large gate letters posted atop the doorways.
Once we spotted C, we weaved our way through the concourse and entered the designated corridor. There was an option of a moving walk way. Along the corridor there were clearly indicated gate numbers to our left and right. There were also clearly indicated restrooms with yellow signage and traditional international design.
Our gate was located at the end of the corridor and once there we found out that boarding was delayed which was fine. We sat down and ate sandwiches.
Since I have family in Israel, I have been in this airport before but this trip was different. I now was able to appreciate the symbiosis I was experiencing with the airport space. I was able to understand how subconsciously color and design were working on my psyche to allow me to almost effortlessly navigate a huge, maze-like space and reach my destination almost automatically. I was able to appreciate the sign-age, colors, numbering system and sense of movement that made my journey as smooth as possible – even in my addled state:)
I also noticed that no matter how well designed and thought out a space might be – man is still indebted to human beings to point him in the necessary direction or to circle the gate on the boarding pass in order to help him on his way.
And maybe that is the ultimate meaning of Human Centered Design.