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Mediocre Experiences Are Everywhere

March 12, 2015
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When have you had a visceral reaction to a space, time or event that was so terrible, no matter how hard you tried to file it away in some dark sticky corner of your brain, you just couldn’t.

Was it at the DMV? A hospital? Riding public transit?

For me, it’s airports. While some are headed in the right direction, like Dallas Love Field, most are still stuck in the past.

Next time you travel, you’ll likely notice some of these environmental surroundings:

  • A robotic soprano voice reminding you not to leave your bags unattended or to be cautious at the end of a moving walkway
  • The operating room-esque fluorescent lights that are most certainly emitting some kind of dangerous something
  • Lines. More lines.
  • Uncomfortable chairs with power outlets
  • Comfortable chairs without power outlets
  • Bad carpet that was rejected by the local movie theatre
  • Cold, monochromatic surfaces

airport-432527_1280Airports are the gateway to commerce, culture and adventure. If you’d never experienced one, you might think, “How incredible, a gateway to the world!” But in reality, you’d probably be let down.

What better way to geo-brand a city or region? Airports are a huge opportunity to set the bar for visitors and make a great first impression.

We’ve seen evolution in retail design, web design, even grocery store design, so applying what’s worked elsewhere, here are a few ideas for improvement:

  • Incorporate local materials – woods, stone and locally-sourced products
  • Infuse culture – I’ve seen this a few places, but let’s take it a step further – bring in live music, hang art, host cooking/mixology demos, have a pop-up bookstore of location-specific literature
  • Update the chairs and give people what they want: power outlets, free wifi and intuitive wayfinding
  • Plan for better user flow and personal space
  • Install comfortable lighting
  • Create more outdoor waiting areas, where it makes sense of course

Airports, like sports stadiums, corporate offices and theatres have the potential to be branded environments. Bring on visual continuity, storytelling and comfortable, smart design. As you head out for spring break or your next business trip, take note.

Can you think of a user experience that should be improved? We’d love to hear from you.


About the Author: Kathryn Orlowski is a Brand Strategist at Dimensional Innovations working to blend a user-centric approach with client objectives, resulting in experiences that are anything but mediocre.