The concept of environmental design has been there for decades. Still, you’ll find that a lot of stores, factories, and malls lack signs, labels, and any form of visual cues. That’s where environmental graphic design comes in – helping make environmental design easier, visually pleasing, and efficient.
You might have heard about the concept of Kaizen – it’s a Japanese belief in continuous improvement. Factories and massive stores regularly use the concept to make things more efficient, reduce wastage, and improve productivity. While getting an idea is one thing, it’s usually implemented through environmental graphic design.
Today, EGD has evolved to offer more than just utility; today, it tells stories, offers value, and is entertaining in some cases.
In this article, we’ll go over what environmental graphic design is, what it’s important, different types of EGD, and the key to mastering the concept.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What is Environmental Graphic Design?
Environmental graphic design is a multidisciplinary field of design that incorporates environmental design, graphic design, art, lighting, landscape, and architecture. It’s a layered experience that’s triggered through imagery, identity, and a sense of place by focusing on the touchpoints and triggers within a spatial experience.
While the proper term for EGD has been environmental graphic design, there has been a greater focus on the experiential side of things recently. That’s why the Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD) changed its name to the Society for Experiential Graphic Design in 2013. This shift toward experiential graphic design (XGD) hasn’t changed the nature of EGD; it has further enhanced the concept.
The evolution of EGD has allowed graphic designers and companies to enhance their brand identity, interior design, visitor’s experience, workspace, and other touchpoints using digital technology and graphic elements.
Each graphic element plays a certain role in designing people’s experiences. The following design elements are crucial to EGD of all types.
- Color – has the power to energize an entire room, change moods, trigger memories, and cause positive reactions. It’s also a great tool for psychological cues, especially memory cues. That’s why you can use color to highlight, categorize, contextualize, and differentiate certain spaces and areas. The brain can easily associate things and places with color, making it a great design element for EGD.
- Imagery – is the use of graphics, images, and animations to convey information. The idea is to invoke emotion visually.
- Typography – is the use of text for labeling, marketing, selling, and identification.
- Texture – aims to include depth for enhanced sensory perception. It can help people connect and relate to a place while also evoking their emotions. This is also where landscapes play a role.
All of these design elements help develop your environmental graphic design.
What Makes Environmental Graphic Design So Significant?
Nowadays, environmental graphic design has become a crucial part of companies, stories, and customers. It plays a critical role in determining how people react to different visual cues.
Visual cues are any visual concept, design, or imagery that imparts information while communicating a certain identity. At times, they serve as mini-information centers, and at other times, they serve as verification cues that tell people where they need to be or if they’re at the right place.
For example, boards that show you different platform numbers in a subway or train station are crucial because they serve as visual cues for the customers. Similarly, visual cues can also be used to create an entire brand identity; for example, if you see a yellow arch, you’re immediately reminded of McDonald’s.
Recently, the Gensler Research Institute released their Experience Index report that takes various visual cues, design elements, and EGD into account. Surveying over 4,000 people across the US, the institute found that the design of any physical space has a quantifiable impact on the quality of a visitor’s experience.
These are some of the key statistics from the report.
- If your store has unique design features, infrastructure, and visual cues, people are ten times more likely to share it on social media.
- People rated their experience two times higher at places that were well-designed as opposed to poorly designed places.
- Employees reported a great experience 7 times more often in workspaces that employed the latest technology, leveraging it for EGD.
In short, environmental graphic design can have a significant impact on both the customers and the employees.
EGD’s Influence On the Workplace
Since environmental graphic design is just as important in the workplace, it’s important to understand what it does for your employees. Each person is influenced by things they’ve seen on media outlets, TV, social media, or stores. You can bring the same kind of user experiences in the workplace, and it will help you do the following.
- Encourage Creative Thinking – A fluid and open environment with tons of visual cues and design elements is bound to stifle creativity. Design teams tend to work the best in environments that make them feel open, creative, flexible, relaxed, and most importantly, happy. When you develop specific areas where people can meet and discuss ideas while being surrounded by thought-inducing elements, you’re bound to improve creative thinking.
- Promote Positive Thinking – Stress and tension are some of the most destructive things in the workplace. Tons of phone calls, emails, messaging, and meetings can drain people and demotivate them. That’s why enhanced and supportive environments tend to put them at ease, helping them relieve some of their stress.
- Improve Brand Identity – Along with an edgy environment, incorporating design elements related to your brand can help improve brand identity and brand authenticity. That’s especially true if you can combine your mission, vision, position, and values in that brand space.
- Create a Positive Image – It can also help show your workspace and company in a positive image, especially from a recruitment standpoint (you might have heard about Google’s corporate headquarters).
- Develop a Lax Yet Highly Motivate Environment – You can essentially create cooperative areas while giving the employees all the relevant opportunities they need.
When you’re done, you’ll have created a balanced physical space for all employees; thus, increasing employee satisfaction and engagement while fostering brand loyalty and retention.
8 Types of Environment Graphic Design
Understanding EGD is one thing, but you also have to know about the different forms of environmental graphic design. While there’s no clear limit to it, the following eight types of EGD can usually be found near you and are the most common ones.
1. Branded Environments
Branded environments are physical places where customers and employees interact daily. Through EGD, the physical space comes to life as it tells a certain story about the brand, the place, and anything of relevance.
It helps set the mood for the customers while also giving you an opportunity to control how they navigate the space. The idea is that as soon as a customer walks in, they should feel a sense of belonging within your brand’s space.
There are a lot of ways to create branded environments; however, the most common placemaking methods include:
- Using your logo in smart spaces
- Massive banners with relevant text and images
- Wall paintings depicting the brand
- Wall and furniture design depicting the brand
- Hanging minimalist posters
- Everyday objects like chairs, tables, lifts, plants, and other things designed according to the brand
By the end of the customer’s journey, they should have gone through an entire brand experience.
2. Glass, Doors, and Wall Graphics
All the glass, doors, and walls in your spaces are blank pages that can be easily filled up to improve user experience and create a sense of place. A custom-built environment with intelligently used doors, walls, and glass offers a great way of messaging.
You can use doodles, pictures, illustrations, words of wisdom, and more to create a certain mood. Ideally, you want something that has a lasting impact on one-time visitors while not being hard on the eyes of everyday employees.
3. Wayfinding Systems
Wayfinding systems are simply used to help guide visitors, employees, and guests. Everything from wayfinding signage to arrows and illustrations helps people navigate through your space without any hassle.
It’s crucial to have a wayfinding system if you work in healthcare, garages, big offices, and similar spaces. You can make it as simple as labeling and lettering each room; meanwhile, some places go as far as to put guiding colored lines on the floor to help people navigate with ease.
4. Interactive Experiences
Interactive media has been rising in popularity with the ease of designing real-time experiences. Using motion graphics, content, and interactive surfaces, brands can design an entire user experience.
That has allowed people to directly interact with brands through video games, VR, AR, videos, and animations. This two-way communication model helps the customers accustom to the brand and helps the brand understand the customers better.
Meanwhile, the brand gets to leave a lasting impact on the customer if they nail their interactive experiences.
5. Public Displays and Installations
A lot of brands focus on public installations and displays because it gives them an easy marketing creative opportunity. Using unique or industrial designs, brands exhibit their creation in a location with historical, geographical, or cultural significance.
The installations can be brand-related, issue-related, or just there to give some food for thought. In any case, they’re something that people tend to see and remember for a while.
The exhibition part of EGD is any form of experiential or environmental design that’s put there to relay information to the viewer. That can be done in the form of graphic design, interactive design, architecture, furniture, technology, lighting, audio, and even AR/VR.
The point is to create an environment and introduce elements that tell a story effectively. The exhibition designs can be on one single display, multiple displays, or even a trade show.
7. Social Media
Social media can be deemed as one of the latest EGD types where they can share and interact with other people in real-time.
Meanwhile, social media companies have started to create physical spaces with relevant social media lingo, meme pictures, and graphics to create a certain environment. That environment allows employees and visitors to be a part of the company, share their pictures, and more; thus, creating a better and stronger relationship between the company and the people.
8. Digital Signage
Digital signs are any electronic signs that can be seen on LED displays, monitors, projections, or video walls. They can be used to display massive menus, images, webpages, videos, and more. Some brands use GIF sites to get relevant GIFs to play on their screens.
The same concept can be used in webinars, trivia shows, social media feeds, and other environments to display announcements, metrics, and more. For example, Times Square in New York City is a great example of a massive number of digital signage boards.
Digital signage is an extremely effective way to deliver information to anyone who comes in contact with the screen or board in question. Most importantly, it’s easy to change it up, modify it, or remove it entirely if required.
How Do You Master Environmental Graphic Design?
Up until now, you’ve learned what environmental graphic design is and what kinds of EGD currently exist. However, actually doing it is a different story. You have the necessary pieces; now, it’s also important to know how to put them together.
According to Gensler, the easiest way to go about it is to understand a user’s intention of visiting a physical space. To do that, you have to learn about and focus on five different experience modes.
- Entertainment – People generally want to experience different things every day, something that helps them escape daily life, even for a minute. Bring entertainment ensures a little fun and excitement.
- Aspiration – Most people are looking to grow, learn something new, or connect to something each day. It can be something they’ve lost touch with, something they’re already doing, or something new entirely.
- Discovery – Some people want to discover new things by wandering around and experiencing those things. Going around popular city centers like malls allow people to have that experience.
- Social – Everyone craves a sense of community and belonging; that’s why giving people an opportunity to engage with other people is a great example.
- Task – A lot of people are looking for a sense of direction and goals in a particular place.
The experience modes above summarize what people are generally looking for.
Impact of the Experience Modes
Once you’ve decided on an experience mode, there are some factors that have an impact on that particular experience. Typically, the following six factors are the most important among them.
- Authenticity – Maintain a great connection with the user while effectively relaying the brand mission and vision through EGD that proves to be genuine and true to the core.
- Beauty – First impressions make a lasting impact when we’re considering EGD. It can shape a user’s entire point of view regarding a product, regardless of any other factors.
- Clarity – As long as people understand their environments, they will be comfortable and happy. EGD should be about catering to people’s intuition and a desire to understand.
- Novelty – Making a lasting impact is a matter of surprising your visitors. That can be done by doing something unique, special, or out of the box.
- Inspiration – Your EGD efforts should be inspiring employees and visitors to foster creativity, perspectives, and ideas.
- Welcoming – The sense of belonging matters a lot since it directly correlates to people’s wanting of a community. Spaces should be designed to be open and inviting to diverse groups of people.
Understanding EGD, the different experience modes, and the factors that impact them will help you master environmental graphic design.
Tips on Mastering EGD
After understanding the entire EGD process, you can use the following three Cs to help you come up with your ideas.
- Color – If you’re looking for one thing that has the most impact on a person immediately, it’s color. According to color psychology, all shades of color can have a lasting impact on our moods, both short and long term. For example, in a fast-working environment, you would want shades of blue everywhere because blue represents calmness.
- Collaboration – As mentioned above, a sense of community is crucial for people, and that’s why they need a balanced space. Therefore, while giving everyone their own spaces is important, it’s equally important to create shared and balanced spaces where people can collaborate for maximum engagement, productivity, and communication.
- Creativity – Being creative is the easiest way of getting noticed. When you show off something unique, you can make a lasting impact, regardless of what setting you’re in. For example, using minimalist fonts in places where they are hardly seen can leave an impact on the visitors.
The 3C rule is a great way of summarizing EGD because it takes most aspects of environmental graphic design into account.
Learning about the design disciplines and concepts is one thing, but actually pulling off great EGD is another. It’s a matter of understanding EGD, your environment, and your visitors (and their intentions).
You can learn a lot from what others in your position are doing. In fact, it’s a great way to start implementing EGD. You can check out different EGD examples, design your own samples on an online platform like Pixelied, and see what works.
After that, you can start to implement environmental graphic design across your physical spaces.