Navigating the Skies: The Crucial Role of
Wayfinding, Signage, and User Experience in Airports

Over the years, airport wayfinding has evolved significantly, shifting from a purely utilitarian approach, to one that places humans at its core.

Today, our expectations extend beyond efficiently moving large crowds from landside to airside; we now seek a sense of connection to our surroundings.


Sung Chua – Senior Designer

A sense
of place

How often have you found yourself at an airport, weary from travel, unable to discern it from any other airport you’ve ever landed in? Airports are often situated far from city centres due to planning and zoning restrictions. It may be halfway through your taxi ride before you fully grasp your new location and the characteristics that are unique to it.

The perceived
paradox of time

Airports have an uncanny ability to distort our sense of time. Waiting in security queues and processing can feel like an eternity, yet it suddenly becomes a race against the clock when we need to reach our gates, grab a coffee, or visit the restroom before boarding. This reference to time is constant. What time is the flight? How long is it to get there? Have a good time. See you next time.


Airports come in various shapes and sizes, each reflecting a distinct approach to their purpose. Some are colossal ‘human warehouses’ defined by spacious, iconic megastructures. Hong Kong International Airport has been described as a ‘fully harmonious and integrated machine’. The use of the term ‘machine’ is telling enough.

Others, like smaller airports reminiscent of a bygone era, aim for an exclusive and personal air travel experience. Our recent engagement with Hamilton Airport in New Zealand embodies an ingrained sense of place in its architecture and wayfinding, incorporating te reo Māori language, motifs, and cultural narratives.

Hamilton Airport

and identity

Larger airports have started embracing the idea of placemaking. We now desire airports that embody the essence of our cities. When we step into an airport terminal, do we instinctively know that we’ve arrived in Melbourne, Adelaide, or Singapore? Singapore Changi Airport, renowned worldwide for its remarkable indoor waterfall, entices travellers to explore the airport precinct by creating shopping malls, entertainment venues, and attractions adjacent to the airport. In land-scarce tropical Singapore, the airport becomes a destination in its own right—a shopping and dining haven.

For Adelaide Airport, our team proposed several placemaking devices. These included rising and falling sun-like spheres, symbolising departure and arrival and a large overhead digital screen celebrating truly South Australian imagery. Each airport should find its own identity to suit its specific context, differentiating it from its competitors.

Adelaide Airport

Time and place: enhancing
the airport experience

Can we make our time at the airport more meaningful? Airports are not mere gateways to the skies; they are vibrant hubs of human interaction, uniting people, cultures, and destinations. Ensuring a seamless journey through these complex spaces requires a masterful blend of wayfinding, signage, and user experience design. It’s about connecting people with the essence of a place and making their time at the airport an enriching part of their travel experience.

At Diadem, we consider every angle.

Wayfinding, signage, and user experience are the unsung heroes that orchestrate the intricate symphony of airport operations. They minimize stress, enhance safety, drive revenue, and leave a lasting impact on travellers.

The next time you navigate an airport seamlessly, remember that it’s the result of careful planning and design, contributing to the magic of air travel. Successful environments require a multidisciplinary team with a deep understanding of spatial awareness, communication design, product design, architecture, manufacturing, and much more.

At Diadem, our integrated service model ensures every element is considered, from strategy and design to installation and maintenance. Talk to us about your next project and how we can help guide it to success.


Get in touch to start
a conversation.

Multistep Form