Research Projects

Aviation Symbol System & Guidelines

Research and develop a universal Aviation Symbol Signs System for the airport/travel sector that is comprehensive, rigorously tested, and industry accepted, as well as provide guidelines for their best use in airports. The focus will be on pedestrian wayfinding and safety related symbols. Process should be based on a global approach with U.S. airport application.

 

The objective is to produce an aviation symbol library and report that can provide:

 

o Consistent application of a symbol system with high comprehension to travelers.

o Practical Solutions to problems faced every day by airport operators.

o Bridge Communication Language Barriers for non-English speaking travelers.

o Royalty-free Resource materials that exist in the public domain.

o Non-Mandatory, Up-to-date Reference Work with the potential to inform future, as well as current sign implementations.

o Simple, Low-cost Documentation and high-resolution source material/artwork for accurate reproduction & easy dissemination.

o Standards & Protocols for ongoing R&D to meet rapidly evolving airport technologies & needs.

o Encourage & Commence Contact between airports, agencies, companies, designers, & sign-makers to address needs as they arise in a more timely manner.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

There currently exists no truly universal system of accepted symbols for the aviation industry. The result is inconsistent application and use of symbols and, even more problematic, the widespread misconception that such a system exists, when in fact there is none. Many of the symbols currently in use come from American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) materials developed in the early 1970s, or have been developed by the ISO and others incrementally over the past few decades, but as a whole they do not satisfactorily address many current and rapidly changing airport/customer needs.
ACRP Report 52: Wayfinding and Signing Guidelines for Airport Terminals and Landside addressed all aspects of aviation wayfinding in the guidebook. However, as stated in Section 6.5.2 Symbology – "…it was not the purpose of the guidebook to develop a new family of aviation symbol standards, or to recommend changes to the existing currently accepted standards. Rather, this section gives a brief historical overview of symbol development, talks about the ways in which symbols should and should not be used, and provides a visual inventory of the most widely accepted symbol standards in current use" when the Report was published in 2011. Further research indicates that no other standards organizations, including the AAAE, ACI, ATA, ICAO, ADA, and ANSI, have developed comprehensive, up-to-date airport symbol standards.
Research has shown that there are statistically significant differences among wayfinding comprehension rates for different cultures, along with differences between groups as to which symbols are preferred. The research results indicate that there is indeed an influence of culture on the ways in which people find their way using symbols, and there is clearly a need for further study. (Leib, S. 2012)
Furthermore, recent research from ACRP Report 161: Guidelines for Improving Airport Services for International Customers demonstrates the need and value assigned to symbols by international travelers; 57% of all international passengers surveyed rated universal symbols on signs as "Very Important" (survey results based 1,000 respondents from the top 8 U.S. gateway airports - 2015).
Airports searching for symbols to meet their needs and those of their customers often resort to creating their own symbols, which only adds to the existing confusion. Without proper standards for vetting and testing for comprehension, legibility, visual and message content consistency, etc., the symbols' longevity and effectiveness are compromised, with associated negative socioeconomic impacts.
Also, there is a lack of detailed research about 'WHO' does not understand existing symbols, and more importantly, 'WHY' some symbols are not understood. Using human factors research to dig deeper into this issue will contribute to an essential understanding of how various subsets of the traveling population—e.g. seniors, foreign language speakers, students, and tourists—respond to symbols.
An aviation symbol system and guidelines will produce the following benefits and results:
• Immediate Use: Provide results that every airport can immediately put into practice.
• Enhance ACRP's Research Mission: Establish a research-based set of universal symbols and application guidelines.
• Improve Customer Service: A primary concern which is becoming increasingly important to airport directors.
• Reduce Passenger Confusion: Better comprehension will make for a much improved, less stressful passenger experience.
• Improve Comprehension & Overall Travel Experience: Provide a significant benefit for travelers with limited English proficiency and/or foreign travelers.
• Clarify & Enhance Overall Connectivity & Communications: Benefits include improved safety/warning, regulatory, directional, informational, and public service messaging while ensuring more efficient signage planning.
• Terminology Consolidation: As an additional benefit, development of common terminology that is paired with symbol testing can help to establish preferred nomenclature use in airports.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

"Research and develop a universal Aviation Symbol Signs System for the airport/travel sector that is comprehensive, rigorously tested, and industry accepted, as well as provide guidelines for their best use in airports. The focus will be on pedestrian wayfinding and safety related symbols. Process should be based on a global approach with U.S. airport application.

The objective is to produce an aviation symbol library and report that can provide:

o Consistent application of a symbol system with high comprehension to travelers.
o Practical Solutions to problems faced every day by airport operators.
o Bridge Communication Language Barriers for non-English speaking travelers.
o Royalty-free Resource materials that exist in the public domain.
o Non-Mandatory, Up-to-date Reference Work with the potential to inform future, as well as current sign implementations.
o Simple, Low-cost Documentation and high-resolution source material/artwork for accurate reproduction & easy dissemination.
o Standards & Protocols for ongoing R&D to meet rapidly evolving airport technologies & needs.
o Encourage & Commence Contact between airports, agencies, companies, designers, & sign-makers to address needs as they arise in a more timely manner."

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Idea No. 13