Which way to the North Pole?
Exploring the signage in Santa’s Grotto
It’s been a long and treacherous flight on Air Rudolph to get here; the night was foggy so I was lucky that the glowing red nose that hallmarks this enchanted sleigh kept us safely on the flight path. As we disembarked, it is clear that Santa has taken branding and communication most seriously…
Along the sides of the Air, Rudolph passenger sleigh is placed red and gold sparkling branded vehicle graphics, the silhouette of the famous reindeer himself is enhanced with trails of shooting stars. Festive stripes wrap in vinyl around the vehicle like a giant candy cane.
Moving into the airport, the large directional signage overhead seems at first glance to be standard acrylic panels. There is no route through customs here – just a sign directing passengers to walk through either the ‘Naughty’ or ‘Nice’ tunnel. If you go through the wrong one the air comes alive with jingle bells (perhaps there is some magic in those signs…) and staff Elves appear to sternly request that you consider the truth of your declaration. It’s lucky that I’ve been good this year…
To The Grotto
As I wander along the snow-dusted path I come across the first of many ‘This way to the Grotto’ signs. Placed atop glittering candy canes, they are illuminated from the inside with the magic of the Northern Lights: a colour slowly advancing from green to pink so that it is visible even through the most howling snowstorm.
Entering the engine room, I am struck by the number of wall graphics that Santa has chosen. Motivational quotes sing from the walls: ‘Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting’ and ‘It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air’. To be honest, if I was spending the majority of the year making toys for kids I’d never met, then I’d probably need a wall full of inspiration too…
Ever Changing Lists
Getting near to the main man, I find that Santa has gone super tech and installed a fabulous interactive kiosk with which you can update Christmas lists. Simply enter your details and your Christmas list appears (even if you’ve not written one…) to be edited as you see fit. When he’s at work on the site, Santa’s not so keen on hearing demands so he’s cleverly outsourced to a touchscreen.
There are windows EVERYWHERE in this place – internal and external. During the Summer months this means that Team Santa don’t need to use any electric lighting whatsoever, which makes up for the fact that during the winter months, it’s electric lighting all the way. Santa is clever though and has taken inspiration from shopfront design so that the windows illuminate throughout the grotto giving it a cosy and warm ambience. Then there are the embellishments. With so much glass, there needs to be some privacy – especially when Santa is consulting his naughty and nice lists away from prying eyes! The frosting and etching are spectacular, with bells, stars, Christmas trees and candy canes all arranged across panels of sparkling frosted glass.
And then, finally, we see the big man himself. Santa, Father Christmas, St Nic, Kris Kringle. His office is reminiscent of an exhibition display; with a counter, funky red seats, and a crosswire system designed to look like a massive pile of presents. He looks up: “You’ve come a long way, welcome to the Grotto”. It’s more, um, modern than I’d imagined, I reply. Santa laughs “If I didn’t run it like a corporation then the Elves would revolt and I’d go under!” He continues to chuckle and as his jolly tones fade into the distance, I stir and wake and look around to the stocking dangling from my bed, full to bursting this Christmas day.