Blog Task 2: Observation

Syracuse Hancock International Airport Observation


Traffic (foot and vehicle) in both directions, although more congested at the drop-off area. Airport employees/security guards hurry people along brusquely. They continue to reiterate that cars should not park in front, even to unpack the car and say goodbye to passengers. They encourage people to pay for parking in an airport parking lot far removed from the main building. People seem tired, hurried and cranky.

Check In

Upon entering the airport, I am greeted by copious amounts of empty space, haphazardly arranged potted plants, thin gray carpeting and a stray piece of furniture every couple of feet. Lighting is harsh and fluorescent. The environment feels slapdash and makes me somewhat uneasy. There is a long row of rental car vendors to my left and a few DIY check-in kiosks and a check-in counter to my right. The employees of the rental car vendors don’t smile or say anything as I walk past, although they are staring directly at me. The DIY check-in kiosks are all broken, and no airport employees are currently at or near the check-in desk. Directional signage is relatively non-existent as far as I can tell. Due to lack of proper signage it seems that people are moving from one check-in desk to the next, lugging their bags along with them. Again, people seem tired and increasingly more frustrated.


There is one line for security until you get closer to the front where it splits off into 2-3 checkpoints. Lighting is still harsh, maybe even more so than in the check-in area. People who didn’t say goodbye to friends/family/loved ones outside, are doing it now, albeit hurriedly, as no one but plane passengers are allowed beyond the security checkpoint. The security area has some informative signage, although the placement of said signage is at the front of the line. People seem to be scrambling to take out their laptops, and take off their shoes at the last second. They are also reorganizing their carry-on luggage, as well as scarfing down the last of whatever food they have on them. Perhaps as a result of the signage placement? The children seem impatient and whiny. They are crying a lot, or running around.


Terminal has places to eat, drink and sit as well as lots of empty, unused space. People seem a bit more relaxed here, as they settle in with their carry-ons and wait for their planes to arrive. Lots of people are reading physical books, or ereaders, using their laptops, or listening to music. Others are napping. Many kids are still running around, or crying while others sleep, or play games on digital devices.

Sketch of my observations (click to enlarge): SKMBT_42114080811460

Comments on other blog posts:

1. Shannon’s blog post 

2. Jo’s blog post

3. Margo’s blog post

5 Comments on Blog Task 2: Observation

  1. Shannon Campbell
    August 8, 2014 at 8:00 pm (6 years ago)

    I’ve been to this airport many times as I am a Syracuse native. It’s strength: the fact that it’s rarely overwhelmingly crowded. You don’t normally have to get their too early, and it’s relatively easy to find your way around. That’s mostly because Syracuse isn’t a huge hub. It’s weakness: all the empty spaces you were talking about. The airport is incredibly outdated. The parking especially needs to be addressed. People never follow those rules; I’m one of them who always parks out front, unpacks, and says goodbye to whomever. MOST of the time, airport staff do not care because it is not a busy airport. But it is something that should be addressed to keep up with user needs.

  2. Etam
    August 9, 2014 at 2:20 am (6 years ago)

    Hi Elizabeth,

    For mind, I love the correlation between an airport and school space. Prior to even checking in at school, their is pedestrian and vehicular congestion just to get the kids to school. There is never enough drop off space, people are always in a hurry and their patience is always tried in the process.

    Upon checking into school and walking across the concourse that is our quadrangle copious amounts of empty space is also traversed.

    Signage to be observed are those of our PBL initiative (Respect, Responsibility, Commitment); as well as those of ‘Keep Left’ and ‘Keep Calm’.

    Elizabeth, does your group for Task 3 have room for me?


  3. Matt
    August 9, 2014 at 10:30 pm (6 years ago)

    Hi Liz,

    There is something about airports which is both exciting and frustrating isn’t there? Exciting in that you are going some place, on a journey, and the expectation of that, but also that (as you mention) people can be tired, grumpy, and cranky. Airports always seem to cheap out on things which would help you relax too – customer service, places to lie down, quiet places away from the constant announcements, children’s play areas etc etc. A great candidate for some design thinking!

  4. moniquemcqueen
    August 12, 2014 at 11:39 am (6 years ago)

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I like the way you looked at the four important physical sections of the airport; outside, check in, security and the terminal. They do all have a separate job to do, but the relations and the transitions from one section to the other is important. The design of this airport doesn’t seem very human-centered from your observations and is having a negative impact of the behaviour of some customers- no good for anybody. I have used rural airports in the past, there is a lot of potential for a personalised and friendly experience for all. If one was to apply design thinking to the development of this environment they should take into consideration the connections between all stakeholders’ minds, bodies, objects, conversations, knowledge & processes (Kimbell,L. 2012).
    Kimbell, L. (2012). Rethinking design thinking: Part II. Design and Culture, 4(2), 129-148.

  5. Ewan McIntosh
    August 13, 2014 at 12:52 pm (6 years ago)

    Beautiful observations in every sense, even if the space is familiarly frustrating. I’m intrigued, too, about how you might approach a brief for this, or part of this. Plenty of lessons that could transfer to a learning space, too.


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