“She is known as someone who gets things done,” Pat Williams wrote in 2002 for her column in the Palm Beach Post.
Williams was referring to Jane Davis Doggett, a woman who was organizing a charity tennis tournament. For about 30 minutes the day Williams visited Doggett at her Jupiter Island home, the two talked about the tournament. For another 2½ hours, they talked about Doggett’s career.
“That day, I left and I said, there’s a story there that is beyond this column I’m going to write,” said Williams, who now runs Pat Williams Productions and was the executive producer of a documentary about Doggett’s work. “Every time we go to an airport, it is her ideas that move us through large public places.”
“And guess what,” Williams added, “she did this in the ’50s and ’60s.”
Doggett, who eventually moved to Sun City Center to be close to family, died April 10 at 93 of natural causes.
In an era that had just started booming for aviation and remained still quite limited for women, Doggett was a pioneer for both. She integrated graphic design with architecture to move people through 40 international airports, including Tampa International, and major institutions, including Madison Square Garden.
And she did it using an approach that was so simple, it was radical.
As easy as A, B, C
In the late 1950s, air travel started changing rapidly. Bigger jet planes meant that the tiny airfields and outdoor luggage terminals had to be replaced.
In her first job out of Yale University, Doggett got a call from a former classmate who was about to submit a final bid to work on the airport in Memphis, Tennessee. He wanted a graphic artist on the team. And she wanted graphic design to be part of the initial process, not something slapped on at the end. Doggett created a san serif typeface, “Alphabet A,” that was easy to see from a distance.
At the time, each airline used its own logo and typeface in airports. Doggett and her team made the case for a common typeface with logos and branding behind the ticket counter.
“We got them to agree to that,” she said in the documentary. “That was a breakthrough in the industry.”
And that was only her first.
The union of architecture and graphics at the Memphis airport won several awards, and Doggett was on to her next project in Houston. That airport had four terminals. Doggett named them A, B, C and D and used the same graphic with different colors and letters to help people find where they were going. She also convinced the engineers who were building the roadways into the airport to use her system to better help traffic flow.
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Next, she came to Tampa.
Doggett made the logo that the airport still uses today and the two-color system, red and blue, for the two sides of the terminal, as well as the A, B, C lettering system for the gates and the elevators named after famous aviators.
“She was a visionary,” said Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano.
Doggett didn’t think like an engineer, she thought like someone who had to find their way through a large space.
“What do people remember? People remember red and blue,” he said. “You’re in terminal one west, you’re in terminal one east, they look exactly the same, and you get lost every time.”
After Tampa, Doggett’s firm, Architectural Graphics Associates, went on to work at major airports and public institutions around the world.
“This field is now known as Wayfinding,” Doggett’s nephew, Bob Lochte, wrote in a remembrance. “And she was in its vanguard.”
Jane and Phoebe
Tampa was Doggett’s favorite airport, she told the Society for Experiential Graphic Design in an interview.
“They have taken such good care of it,” she said, “even today.”
She lived, at various times, in Connecticut, Maine and Florida and won multiple awards for her work, including being inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Doggett created a digital technique called iconochrome to create images, and she showed her work at galleries.
“She was pretty vivacious,” said her nephew, Lochte, whom she took on his first trip to Europe. Doggett liked good food, wine, travel and her white Labradors. “She also worked really hard.”
In 2022, Tampa’s airport gave Doggett the first Spirit of Flight Award, which celebrates women who were pioneers in aviation. For her 93rd birthday last year, the woman who made the airport make sense went to see the 21-foot flamingo sculpture that, itself, serves as another kind of wayfinder.
If somehow you can’t find Phoebe the flamingo, it sits in the main terminal, on the blue side, close to gate F.
We can thank the original wayfinder for making that so easy.
Poynter news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.
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