Semiotics for Airports. Travel Pictograms between Visual Identities and the Opening to the Alterities

  • Salvatore Zingale
  • Daniela D’Avanzo


The semiotic perspective on the tourism cannot forget to take into consideration the places of travel and the places of transit. Among these, the airports have a particular relevance, being one of the main access points for the touristic flows. They are often seen as small self-standing citadels, with their own identity given by being a place of intra- and intercultural exchange. Both small and big hubs see the intertwining of different cultures and the necessity to communicate efficiently for each of them. One of the inevitable communication tools in an airport is wayfinding, the orientation system that guides passengers both in functional places and in places to rest, helping travelers during all their journey, from the entrance in the airport to their final destination. To succeed in a way of communicating that has to be linguistical and cultural transversal, wayfinding systems are made of an intertwining of elements, related to each other to facilitate the comprehension beyond the national languages. One of the main elements that goes in this direction is the pictogram. The aim of this paper is to investigate the communicative efficiency of the pictogram systems in airports located in different places, with different cultures and languages, in order to observe (i) to which extent the tendency towards a universalization of the pictographic language is affirming itself, (ii) on the other side, how far the preservation and display of aspects of identity persists, (iii) if and how there may be possible developments for a more efficient translinguistical communication, between the affirmation of the cultural identities and the opening to the alterities that the tourism brings together. To this extent three case studies have been considered: the wayfinding systems and related pictographic systems of Schipol Airport, Koln-Bonn Airport and Hamad Airport.

How to Cite
Zingale, S., & D’Avanzo, D. (2022). Semiotics for Airports. Travel Pictograms between Visual Identities and the Opening to the Alterities. E|C, (36), 36-51. Retrieved from