Built in 2001, JFK International Air Terminal — officially Terminal 4 at JFK airport in New York, NY — is one of the busiest terminals in the U.S., serving 32 international and domestic airlines with an annual passenger volume of 19.5 million travelers. Originally opened in 1957 and known as International Arrivals Building, Terminal four received a $1.4 billion redevelopment with its new building designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and is now the only non-airline, privately-operated terminal at JFK by JFKIAT, a subsidiary of the Schiphol Group (of Amsterdam’s airport fame). With a recent expansion in 2015 and the endless pursuit of making the process of air travel less mind-numbing — that last part is not part of the official brief, just my own contribution — Terminal 4, has introduced an identity designed by the New York office of Base Design.
Embracing and reflecting the terminal’s large physical space, Base designed a modern, open and light visual system that was simple, but with a distinguished personality. The team developed a custom typeface and focused on the number “4” to serve as the iconic pinnacle and foundation for the identity. Base extended the meaning of the number to personify the terminal experience being “4 all” - for all people and aspects of travel. The logo and typeface were paired with a vibrant, joyful color palette to render the terminal environment fresh, fun, approachable, and eye-catching. Base also partnered with illustrator Tomi Um on the thematic illustrations, which will be visible throughout the terminal.
Base Design provided text
The new logo takes cues from the terminal’s exterior grid to develop a multiline “T4” monogram that looks contemporary and dynamic while also displaying some volume as the 4 wraps around itself. It’s an, um, airy logo with plenty of personality and ability to establish a recurring recognizable visual device along the terminal. The accompanying typography on the logo is fine and plays a very secondary role with the addition of a custom display typeface that drives the rest of the identity.
While I am a bigger fan of the single-color, black version of the “T4” logo, the pastel-hued gradient running through it brightens some of the print materials and strikes a good balance between being festive and consumer friendly with the fact that it’s operating a highly volatile environment (in terms of stress levels).
The custom typeface works great with color running through it and pairs really well with the happy illustrations and other dingbats that adorn walls, columns, screens, and banners. The white backgrounds on all the applications kind of helps keeps the identity on the sidelines of the terminal, not being the loudest thing screaming for your attention but a constant, calming, happy voice throughout. Overall, this exceeds any expectations one might have about airport terminal identities (if there were any to begin with) and this manages to be both fun and serious while doing it in a distinctive way.