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Signage and moving walkways between CDG terminals 2C and 2E. Airports are (or should be) a kind of disposable place, purpose-built to be friendly to single-use. As the transience of a building’s expected audience increase, wayfinding grows in importance, to the point where wayfinding becomes the singular purpose of the building. The airport as transit gateway is also space for transit itself, and should structure itself accordingly.

Good wayfinding is intuitive wayfinding, to paraphrase Jane Davis Doggett; people find CDG confusing because it is an non-intuitive airport. The sign in the above photo includes only labels.

To its credit, the signage at CDG speaks in a consistent visual language (dark blue for intra-airport circulation, light blue to leave the airport; French in white, [British] English in yellow; elements left-justified and separated by a half-height white line, then right-justified). The pictograms aren’t DOT pictograms, although (interestingly) the arrow in the moving-walkway-arrow compound pictograms is “DOT arrow pointing down”. (Although the DOT pictograms were released in the early 1970s, when the inclusion of moving walkways in airports was, while not ubiquitous, well-known, the DOT pictograms do not include a pictogram for moving walkways.)

If these French pictograms act as a visual vocabulary, what does it say that one of them is based on an American pictogram? Can we see a parallel here between remixed American pictograms how the Toulon Law and the Académie française treat verbal language? Are le weekend and the moving-walkway-arrow compound pictogram cousins of a sort?

The three different train pictograms on this sign hit on the cultural assumptions behind a set of standardized pictograms. Different cultures need different vocabularies.

Note also HSBC’s red line, running at about chest-level on the windows on both sides of this corridor.

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