Airport logo debate morphs into larger discussion of operational, architecture issues

Some point to recent issues with the new baggage handling system, lack of parking, and passenger check-in delays as evidence that the powers in charge should slow down their pursuit of growth.
The exterior of Palm Springs international Airport sometimes after its opening in the 1960s. (Photo: Palm Springs Historical Society)

What started as a subjective question over proposed changes to the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) logo has now evolved into a deeper discussion about the airport’s future.

Catch up: On Sept. 1, the Palm Springs City Council was set to approve, without further discussion, a significant change to PSP’s logo and branding. That is until eagle-eyed locals, many of them professional designers, noticed the topic on the agenda and aired their concerns on social media. 

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  • The item was subsequently pulled from the Council’s agenda and kicked back to the Airport Commission. The Commission’s Marketing and Business Development Committee was scheduled to meet Thursday.

  • However, that meeting was canceled. Soon afterward, the city sent notice that two public input meetings would be held on Sept. 28 and Oct 6. Those meetings will offer an opportunity to address the branding work.

At issue: The goal of the brand redesign was to attract more vacationers and inspire airlines to add new routes so the airport could continue its streak of record-breaking passenger numbers.

  • However, some locals point to recent issues reported with the new baggage handling system, lack of parking, and passenger check-in delays as evidence that the powers in charge should slow down their pursuit of growth and address structural issues instead of marketing.

Bigger picture: Others have noted the airport’s aesthetics have veered far from the original intentions of the building’s midcentury modern architect, Donald Wexler.

What they’re saying: “It was so beautifully designed so that when you left the plane, you’d meet a wall of windows in the terminal, carefully crafted to frame the best views,” said Steven Keylon, vice president of the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation (PSPF). “Wexler was giving visitors the thrill of Palm Springs in one big moment. Now, you’re just beat over the head with advertising and clutter and chaos.”

  • “It has the distinct feel of an urban bus depot. Everything looks dated and cheap. …No color, no life, no flair.” – Tom Dolle, graphic designer and creative director

Up next: Keylon said he’s working with Wexler’s son, Gary, on a presentation on the history and importance of the airport. A study is also under consideration to see if it would be feasible to restore the airport using some of the original expansion plans. For now, however, city officials will be focusing only the branding.

  • Design priorities For Keylon and others include the second-floor cocktail lounge, the original terrazzo flooring covered up by “acres of hideous carpet;” and the open-beamed ceiling and Brutalist columns that are currently covered. 

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