What kind of designers are we? We are often asked that, and our response is surprisingly different every time. We don't like to put ourselves in a box, and oftentimes our work flows in and out of so many disciplines that it is hard to explain. We are not trained interior designers or architects. So, what are we? Branded Environments teams can include industrial designers, wayfinding wizards, graphic designers, digital explorers, copywriters, and engineers. Frankly, if a brand can touch it, you might find that you are a player in the Branded Environment experience. This all-encompassing term is the best way to define ourselves in a constantly evolving specialty.
I first heard of Branded Environments when I was a junior in college on a mission to get my foot in the door at a local design firm. I recall a kind architect directing me towards a recently launched graphics-meets-architecture team...and lighting up my brain. Upon returning home, I opened my laptop, eager to explore this whole new world-- signage, wayfinding, murals, museum exhibits, color-coordinated furniture, interactive digital art, and sculptural installations. Each element was perfectly choreographed to improve the architectural experience. As an industrial designer, I was immediately hooked by the scale, dimensionality and impact of this dynamic practice.
Branded Environments always focuses on one thing-- the user. How can we optimize user engagement? Maybe that means a recruitment tour for prospective college athletes, or, if you are a 90s kid like me, the scent wafting from a rack of ripped jeans at Abercrombie and Fitch. Branded Environments is not simply a logo on a wall, but rather a thoughtfully crafted experience. Let's use healthcare as an example:
How can we help stressed patients navigate seamlessly through a large healthcare center? Our scope may be signage, but the real design work lies within wayfinding. We've all been in hospitals that are over-signed and confusing-- typically a result of inconsistent naming conventions, poor spatial organization, and endless white-walled corridors. Department stacking, space planning, quantity of decision points, murals as visual landmarks, and even floor color and patterning can act as tools to improve wayfinding, while also boosting patient outlook, and easing the burden on staff.
The best branded environments tell a story. They exude their values, anticipate user needs, and evoke emotions. As we become increasingly engaged in a virtual world, the need for physical connection has become undeniable. The places we decide to inhabit play a large role in creating memories and improving the human experience.
Curious what all this might look like? Check out some of our work here.
Headline image courtesy of Gensler.