TD60 Icon - Schiphol

Wayfinding Schiphol

We are excited to share the remarkable achievements of Total Design in the design of Schiphol Airport’s signage during the 1960s. This groundbreaking navigation system, distinguished by its distinct yellow and green signs, remains a timeless icon that continues to guide and inspire travelers to this day. As we celebrate this month’s TD60 icon, we take pride in presenting the influential work of Total Design just in time for the summer holidays.

In the early 1960s, signage at airports was often unclear and confusing, with poorly readable signs and an overuse of icons. Total Design was given the challenge of creating a clear and legible signage system for Schiphol Airport. Benno Wissing, of Total Design, developed a revolutionary approach. Signs were placed above the heads of travelers, right-angled to the main direction. Colors were used strategically to structure the information, with yellow signs indicating main directions and green signs used for secondary information. Interestingly, no pictograms were chosen and the highly legible Akzidenz Grotesk font was chosen. The signage system at Schiphol served as a model for many other airports worldwide.

In the mid-1990s, Schiphol replaced Total Design’s signage with a new design by Bureau Mijksenaar, which reintroduced pictograms because of the different language skills of arriving and transferring passengers. Nevertheless, the lasting impact of Total Design’s original signage system remains unmistakable.

Total Design’s contribution to Schiphol Airport’s navigation system demonstrates their meticulous attention to detail. The signs were strategically placed to facilitate wayfinding and were designed to be visible from a distance. The use of colors and typography ensured optimal legibility, while the lack of external advertising outside the shopping area prioritized clarity for travelers. Total Design’s design transformed the airport experience by making it more efficient and user-friendly.

Today, when travelers navigate through Schiphol, they are guided by the legacy of Total Design’s iconic signage system. The clarity, legibility and structuring principles they implemented continue to improve the journey of millions of passengers. This work is an excellent example of the power of timeless design and has a lasting impact on the way we experience and navigate airports.

We are proud that Total Design has made an extraordinary contribution to the signage at Schiphol Airport. Let’s start the summer together in style and enjoy the fluid and effortless navigation provided by the Total Design signage system.