How a leading London airport was rebranded for the future

Behind the scenes on ico Design's signage for London Luton Airport

Vivek Bhatia: We knew that whatever identity we came up with, it had to be future-focused. It had to represent the ambitions and aspirations of the airport and also the idea that airports are incredible spaces, in the sense that they're not just meeting points, they're crossroads of cultures.

LLA will become a destination in its own right, and the identity should reflect that. Rather than it being a static identity, the new brand is something that has a core form but can be manipulated in lots of different ways.

The advantage of that is that we can use it in ways that work on a corporate level, on a local level, in print, in three dimensions and digitally, but also to speak to passengers in a more interesting, engaging and memorable way. Here's how we did the signage...

01. Balance personality with legibility

When it came to the typeface, initially it was about what felt appropriate; we wanted a sense of modernity but also something that would feel welcoming to passengers.

On a more functional level it had to be highly legible at different sizes, so we did many tests across notional signage, advertising and online applications. We also wanted something with sufficient personality that would unite all communication from the airport.

02. Talk to a type foundry

We approached Spanish type foundry Atipo as their typefaces had a sensibility that felt right for what we were trying to achieve. The LLA typeface was inspired by DIN, which has become a standard across the German transport system.

03. Develop the iconography

We were always keen for iconography to be coherent with the typeface and be part of it. We initially created a series of icons in the studio to get a feel for what we were after, before collaborating with Atipo to complete the full set.

04. Focus on the fine details

There was some back and forth, but they totally understood. A few icons have more personality to add a little bit of delight without compromising legibility or understanding – the food and drink icon uses a fish and a mug, and the toilet signs have duplicates that work as wayfinding but also as graphics on arrival.

Words: Anna Richardson Taylor

The full version of this article first appeared inside Computer Arts 238. Computer Arts 241, a character design special, is on sale now.

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