Cannes Lions

Southwest Airlines’ Digital Wayfinding Design & Prototype

CONTINUUM, Boston / SOUTHWEST AIRLINES / 2018

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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Description

Based on customer and employee feedback, we redesigned all of the existing signage and added new sign types at key locations throughout the airport. Each sign in the new system was fully digital and location-aware, so that we could tailor each based on time of day, flight status, and customer needs.

We designed signage to display only absolutely relevant information at each step of the customer journey. If early, signs redirect travelers to food and empty gates to power devices. If running late, the enhanced wayfinding helps travelers through the airport faster with directional arrows, walking times, and an easy-to-understand signage system.

We also saw a need to celebrate Southwest’s employees. When customers understood the effort that went into getting to their destination on time, they were more understanding of delays. With the right language and recognition of employees, Southwest could create moments of joy in a stressful airport experience.

Execution

Knowing that installing new hardware in a highly regulated airport and developing a functional back-end is a costly and logistically complicated task, we made sure to test the system responsibly before moving into a live in-market prototype. This included mocking up a full-scale airport, using foam-core and projectors, in order to conduct user testing and modeling the entire airport in virtual reality to better understand sight lines and sizing.

After successfully trying out our concept with consumers via a low-fidelity mock-up, the team brought the experience to real users, live, at Dallas Love Field Airport, during the busiest travel time of the year.

We spent seven weeks testing this new experience live in Dallas Love Field—with more than 300,000 passengers. Southwest’s positive reputation gave the signs added credibility, and the added information improved the overall usability of the airport and the digital signage dramatically helped those with visual impairments.

Outcome

Customers recognized and responded positively to the natural language and personality of Southwest throughout the system: 96% of customers said the new signs made it easier to navigate the airport, and rated the usefulness as 4.77 on a 5-point scale.

Employees have already noticed a reduced number of repetitive questions—specifically, about connecting flights and flight capacity, and general confusion regarding active flights in each gate area has decreased appreciably.

This work was beneficial not only for customers, but also for employees. In fact, employees liked it so much, that they asked to extend the pilot through the busy Thanksgiving holiday. The technology took the redundancy out of customer-employee transactions and allowed Southwest to take care of customers in truly meaningful ways.

Overall, the feedback from customers and employees was extremely positive, and Southwest is planning pilot deployments of the entire system in three airports by the end of 2018.

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