Designing airports to be the gateways to society
NEC's airport solutions solve various problems that face airports. The role that NEC's designs play in those solutions are not limited to just designing the information systems. We have made it a major goal to create value for society by examining them with a broader scope that asks, "What should airports really be like?"
Our main focus is to create airports that are user friendly. Because airports are used by a wide variety of people such as overseas visitors, the elderly, children, people in wheelchairs, and color blind people, the facilities must be designed in a way that is easy to understand and use for everyone. Universal design is an inclusive philosophy that says all spaces should be easy to understand, and safe and secure for every one regardless of age, gender, or ability. NEC was an early adopter of this philosophy and we have many specialists in the area. We are leveraging this strength to help create user-friendly airports that can deliver easy-to-understand information to a diverse range of users.
It is also important to look at airports from the viewpoint of society as well as that of people. NEC believes it is necessary to base design on the inherent characteristic of airports as well as the needs of the local community. For example, are the majority of the passengers at a given airport domestic passengers or are they foreign passengers? What kind of airport should it be in the future? The NEC design department helps create new value for airports by conducting local surveys and interviews in order to propose concepts that incorporate characteristics of the local community.
Providing fast, accurate, and easy-to-understand information
One of the most important systems for the passengers and airport staff who use the airport is the Flight Information System (FIS). An FIS provides airport users with flight information, but it also provides transportation access information, weather information, news, and other information on a large display.
NEC's designs incorporate many innovative features that allow airport users to acquire accurate information quickly from an FIS. One feature is how the information is displayed and presented in a layout that focuses on order of importance and ease of use. One example is the FIS at Tokyo Haneda International Airport. There, the information is provided in such a way that passengers can use information that they already have on hand to find additional information. As such, the information is displayed starting with the departure time (scheduled), followed by schedule changes, destination, and flight number. Additionally, this display order is uniform throughout the airport, so users can find the information they need without having to hunt for it.
Providing information in an easy-to-understand way to a diverse range of people
NEC considers the diverse range of airport users in designing effective output. Deciding on where to place displays is one example. Information must be easy to read for all users whether they are standing or sitting in wheelchairs. We have created specific design guidelines based on official guidelines for the height and position of displays, the size of the characters, and other factors.
In addition, we use fonts that are larger than usual for our information displays and also adjust the contrast between the characters and background to make it easier for elderly people to read. We have also achieved "color universal design" by using color combinations that make it easier to read by people who are color blind.
We have not forgotten the needs of our foreign travelers. In addition to English and Japanese language displays, the information is displayed in many different languages, such as Chinese and Korean. We use various design techniques to make it easier for different users to find the information they need.
Guiding users to their destinations in an easy-to-understand way
NEC’s designs also help guide airport users to their destinations in an easy-to-understand way. For instance, we think about the line of flow of users to determine the best location and angle to place the displays so they are easy to read. In addition, NEC provides a comprehensive solution that also focuses on the design of arrows, guideposts, and signs.
Design of signs that guide users to their destinations
In order to understand and realize the true essence of how airports should work, it is necessary to think about design from the perspective of the people who use airports and how to make information easier to understand. To that end, the NEC design department uses the four following processes that are based on human-centered design.
1. Conducting field observations to understand the users and airport conditions
First, in order to acquire information about airport users, we conduct field observations. During observations, we examine the information displays, passenger counter conditions, how users are guided, and other aspects from the perspective of the users. In addition to interviewing people who work at the airport, we also conduct studies at airports that are using cutting-edge systems, and try to find problems by comparing the two.
2. Setting the goals and concepts that the airport should target
We clarify what the users want, and set design concept and goals accordingly. In the case of the new terminal at Tokyo Haneda International Airport, based on the project’s concept of making the airport "the air gateway to Tokyo," we focused our main design concept on achieving an attractive and comfortable design, making the necessary information intuitive and easy to understand, and fulfilling the tenets of universal design.
3. Providing solutions through design
A prototype is made based on the design concepts, and then verification is repeated. To take flight information displays as an example, a full-scale sample is displayed to assess the readability and legibility of characters.
4. Acquiring feedback from a diverse range of users
We acquire feedback from users who evaluate such factors as the readability of fonts, color universal design, and legibility and simplicity of the display boards. This survey is conducted on a diverse range of users, and the results are used to refine the design.
By repeating these steps, NEC’s designs help create attractive airports that are user friendly and better equipped to meet the needs of the local community.
Design is refined through feedback provided from repeated surveys conducted on a diverse range of users.