Environmental Graphics

I heart this space resized

 

A fundamental component in our practice is environmental graphic design. This takes the form of wall graphics, signage, way finding, exhibition and information design. Most importantly, environmental graphics are a primary tool that we use to solve design problems and create spaces which are legible and memorable.
 
Key to this is the concept of identity and our team take a holistic approach, bringing together the architecture and interior design of a space along with environmental graphics that are created by exploring and unearthing the ‘real’ rather than ‘perceived’ identity of each place and the folk who inhabit it.
 
Our research into learning spaces highlights the importance of making places that offer choice as well as meeting more specific needs, such as casual meeting spaces, flexible group work spaces or simple contemplative spaces which both inspire environmental artwork while simultaneously being strengthened and united by it. Although the installation of graphics is typically the final stage in a project it should not be regarded as a finishing touch or afterthought as it is often the critical thread joining all aspects of the concept from start to finish.

When we see examples of environmental graphics that we dislike, it is usually on the basis of poorly communicating identity. Perhaps it is rushed or generic, communicates indifference, or at worst patronising, in often ambitious projects that seek to raise aspirations within its communities.

We also often see examples of a modernist heritage that results in simple, bright and bold visuals that communicate little identity beyond its neutral position. The original moral of objectivity in modernism has been warped into a safe approach whose visual language is one of apathy rather than innovation, uniqueness and passion.

In commercial graphic design, identity equates to branding. This frequently equates to a path clouded by different interpretations of what branding actually is, resulting in confused or inappropriate spaces when translated into environmental graphics and interior design. Designers and businesses will continue to battle on the flux of branding, but at the heart of a brand is the design of a strong and appropriate identity.

For us, this is often a case of distinguishing existing identities rather than forging an entirely new one, and so this leads us to consulting closely with users. The secret is that this happens in tandem with every other element of the design process as part of our holistic approach.

Sometimes our dedication to honesty and representing a true voice within an identity can run into contest from those who would rather fabricate reality to how they would rather see it. But rather than posturing or creating a false representation for an identity we are driven to creating environments that speak for the people and users that it claims to represent.

Often this involves delving into the good, bad and ugly of a complex community of people, exploring their history, attitudes, aspirations and natural setting. In Kevin Lynch’s seminal book ‘The Image Of The City’, he concludes that “clarity of structure and vividness of identity are first steps to the development of strong symbols” when discussing improving upon the sense of place of a space. Ultimately we aim to clarify an identity that is lasting and meaningful to a given space and its users.

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