What is Environmental Graphic Design?

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  • 3/19/2021
    With 20+ years of experience as an integrated digital marketing agency, we’ve worked on more branding projects than we can compile together. We certainly don’t doubt our abilities to create strong logos, detailed visual standards and powerful messaging. Once we have a great foundation, we love kicking a brand into high gear with Environmental Graphic Design , or in short, EGD. This service is often new to our clients, but the possibilities it provides to take their brand to the next level are limitless.
    In the past two to three years, we’ve explored multidisciplinary approaches to help add more value to our clients’ brands, through special experiences. Whether it’s the way visitors get around a brand's headquarters, the way they interact with a digital display at a trade show or how they learn about the history of an organization through a visual timeline, our goal is to create inspiring spaces and experiences.  
    So before we dive in to EGD, we need to know what it actually is.

    What is Environmental Graphic Design?

    According to the Society for Environmental Graphic Design, EGD embraces many different design disciplines including graphic, architectural, interior, landscape and industrial design, all concerned with the visual aspects of wayfinding, communicating identity and information and shaping the idea of creating experiences that connect people to place.
    While new to a lot of our clients, Environmental Graphic Design  is really nothing new. If you think about it, it’s been around for centuries in many cultures. Some even consider the first type of EGD to be cave paintings, with people using them to share stories with each other. But over the past 40-50 years,  EGD has become an area of professional focus.. During this time, improving one’s experience of a place has become a distinct concentration and it continues to grow exponentially, especially with emerging technology.
    There are several types of EGD that are used to enhance one’s experience inside or outside of a place. The following are the main types of EGD:
    1. Placemaking & Identity
    2. Wayfinding Systems
    3. Exhibition Design
    4. Interactive Experiences

    1. Placemaking and Identity Design

    When it comes to enforcing your visual brand, the use of proper placemaking and identity are crucial to your customer experience. Nothing says “you are here” like successful identity signage. From a dimensional back-lit corporate logo to the signage that highlights your key services and the color of the walls and furniture within the space, every consideration must be made to ensure your brand identity is reflected.
    When we developed a full brand evolution for Lube Stop, a chain of quick-lube oil change locations, we thought well beyond their logo and web and print presences. As theit business grew, we helped brand the waiting areas in their new stores. Prior to their brand expansion, customers waited in their cars while they were being worked on. In the new waiting area space, we installed illuminated backlit signs and mounted panels featuring the company’s mission. Additionally we painted the walls with Lube Stop's brand colors and even selected furniture to match.

    2. Wayfinding System Design

    Once a person arrives at your location, how do they find what they’re looking for? The way people get around and find their location or destination is essential to any environment. The type of design implemented here is more than just directional signage. Whenever someone enters an environment, they have to make decisions on where to go or what to do. Visual cues, such as maps, directions and iconography, help guide people to their desired location.
    As part of a building expansion for Transport Services, a leasing, sales, service and parts provider for semi trailers, we rethought how their interior space worked for their employees and customers. Each pillar of their four service areas is located in a distinctive section of the building. Exterior signage on the building helps customers find the area they need. Once inside, signage, floor to-ceiling wall graphics and wall panels assist in the customer experience.

    3. Exhibition Design

    Enrivonmental Graphic Design embraces storytelling through impactful visuals that complement the brand's story. For environments like museums and visitor centers, this is a great way to create engaging experiences that tell a compelling story.
    We recently helped John Carroll University (JCU) in the creation of a timeline installation that highlighted the 100-Year Anniversary of their Football Program. This included a new logo lock-up that was fabricated from thick acrylic creating dimensional letters. Additionally, 23 off-set panels were mounted to the wall. These panels highlighted each decade with an introduction panel followed by a more descriptive panel that focused on key moments from that time period. The entire experience spanned the length of a 130-foot hallway within the workout/locker room area of the JCU stadium  and acts not just as a timeline, but as a motivational tool for current players. It  encourages them by showing that they are part of something special spanning the past, present and future.


    4. Interactive and Tradeshow Experience Design

    Over the past decade, Enrivonmental Graphic Design has gone beyond dimensional, static signage. People can now engage with your brand through interactive objects. Now brands are evoking amazing customer experiences through digital displays and screens that are dynamic and can be physically engaged with. These incredible technological advances bring User Experience Design to another level by enhancing user ease. To be as useful for as many folks as possible, these displays need to be designed not just for sight, but touch and sound as well. Accessibility is crucial to the success of interactive experiences.
    Recently, we designed an interactive experience for PSS Innovations, which creates traffic safety equipment for road construction workers. At the company’s trade show space, we developed and installed large touchscreen displays that included a library of products, each containing detailed information for users such as highlight videos, spec sheets and articles. In a busy trade show floor environment, this allowed users to learn about and interact with the brand in an effective way. It also freed up space and time for PSS employees to focus on generating the hottest possible leads.

    Environmental Graphic Design isn’t a new idea, it’s been in plain sight all along. But extending your brand experience into physical spaces you allow people to gain a better sense of who you are. When it’s done right it’s natural and unobtrusive, effortlessly giving people a sense of space, allowing them to navigate that space and enriching their brand experience.

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of March 19, 2021.

    In need of environmental graphic design services for your headquarters, trade show booth or other physical space? Learn more about thunder::tech's expert design services here.
    About the author::Joe Cola, who sadly has no connection to the world famous brand, Coca-Cola, is the Art Director at thunder::tech. When he isn't designing, Joe loves going to the zoo or the metroparks. He also considers himself a "dinosaur expert."
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