Environmental Branding: Navigating Spaces through Design

Part three of RGD's series on Environmental Branding highlights the value of effective wayfinding design for navigating complex environments. 


To navigate confusing spaces, design solutions offer a way forward.  


In a recent project for the Halifax Regional Municipality, Form:Media was asked to help travellers navigate from a ferry to a bus through two attached buildings. "Little about the route seemed obvious or apparent for a new or unfamiliar user," explains John deWolf RGD. "The route to the transit hub is unclear, and rail tracks seem to block access to the street above, where the buses are located. Even floor numbering differed from one building to the next." These physical challenges were beyond the control of the design team, but they were able to offer clarifying signage to lead commuters through the spaces using descriptive language to explain the confusing discrepancies.  


For the Salon Gary-Carter project created for the Montreal Olympic Park, the lg2 team needed to address the fact that the space's location is not easily accessible to the public. "The signage had a very important role, as it needed to mark the path clients would need to take to access the Salon," says Claude Auchu, lg2 Partner and CEO. "We created wall and floor dressings in order to guide people while contributing to the ambience of the space."


Project: Salon Gary-Carter, lg2


The Shikatani Lacroix Design (SLD) team faced a similar challenge in their design for the Nu Xtore; the space was divided between two separate buildings connected by an interior public corridor and required extensive digital signage. "It was important to integrate both the digital and conventional wayfinding program as part of a cohesive and integrated choreographed customer journey, from when they enter the space to when they exit," explains SLD President Jean-Pierre Lacroix RGD.


Project: Nu Xtore, SLD 


In their wayfinding project for The Bentway, Field Trip & Co had the opportunity to work within an existing system and identify new ways to navigate and experience the space.  "The Bents (the giant concrete pillars holding up the Gardiner Expressway) already had an intuitive linear numbering system, so the project allowed us to really focus on the unique site conditions such as light, scale, materiality and the open access from all sides," explains Field Trip & Co Partner Carolina Soderholm. "These unique site conditions became the foundation upon which the many different typologies of signage were developed. Subtle path numbers are deployed to lead the user from east to west. Projecting numerals interrupt the view when you peer through the space, allowing for easy locating. The whole idea was to give a language to the space; 'Meet me at Bent 60', for example."


Project: The Bentway, Field Trip & Co  


"Client’s objectives are generally very similar when it comes to environmental graphics, wayfinding and signage – get people where they need to go and make the journey as enjoyable, memorable, and as brand aligned as possible," explains Jessica Vitale RGD, Director at FORREC. "Uniqueness and creativity are at the core of every FORREC project and so the design solution needs to deliver on this promise in a way that still functions for the end user." 


Across wayfinding and all design disciplines, another essential consideration is the clarity and legibility of the message. Text and symbols must be easily read on a background colour, type must be large enough to read from a reasonable distance, and for environmental designers, these considerations can affect safety in addition to communication. Accessibility guidelines like The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) are used to guide decisions relating to type size, figure-ground contrast, the inclusion of braille and raised lettering and so on.


Project Examples


Field Trip & Co: The Bentway 

Underneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway is a unique and innovative public space called The Bentway. Thanks to the philanthropic gift by Judy Matthews and her husband Wil and the vision of urban designer Ken Greenberg, this originally under-utilized dead zone with a hated highway on top, has quickly become a new gathering place for the city’s growing population. It’s filled with skating, art programming, beautiful landscaping and more. After working on the branding of The Bentway, Field Trip & Co was hired along with creative partners Bespoke and Kristina Ljubanovic to design the wayfinding strategy and all necessary wayfinding typologies. The objective was to create wayfinding for this new public space that helped every day Torontonians navigate and enjoy the space. We also collaborated with landscape architect firm Public Work to ensure that the wayfinding celebrated the uniqueness of the space.



lg2: Salon Gary-Carter 

The Montreal Olympic Park commissioned lg2 to completely redesign the Salon Gary-Carter, formerly known as the Catcher’s Club, as part of a plan to bring the stadium up to the standards of major league baseball. The salon is a corporate room located on the ground level and offers breathtaking views behind the home plate. The redesign combines graphic design with architecture to enhance the quality of the customer experience while also paying tribute to one of the Expos’ greatest catchers, Gary Carter. The colourful graphics and larger than life portraits are paired with custom-designed typography to pay homage to 'The Kid' and have been designed to work in harmony with the Olympic Park’s existing graphic platform. The walls are also filled with a collection of quotes, Carter's number and his nickname to emphasize his legacy and lasting influence. The seats and finishes were replaced and custom furniture was installed to reflect the theme of the player's homecoming.





Click here to read more from RGD's Environmental Branding series.


Series Contributors 


Debbie Adams RGD, Principal at A+A Design

Debbie graduated with honours from the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) in 1983. Following employment with two top Toronto design firms, Burton Kramer Associates and Spencer Francey Peters, she established the partnership of Adams/Bhandari in 1987 and her own firm, Adams + Associates Design Consultants (A+A) Inc in 1988. She has acted as principal, creative director and designer at A+A for over 20 years, overseeing and creating award-winning design communications for a full spectrum of clients.


Claude Auchu, Partner and CEO, lg2

Claude has been named one of the top 15 creative directors in Canada, one of the top 10 personalities of the year in Quebec by Infopresse and has been a member of multiple prestigious international juries, including the Cannes Lions Festival, the CLIO Awards and the London International Awards, in addition to chairing the jury for Canada's two largest design competitions. In 2006, he joined lg2 as a founding partner and creative director of the design studio. Since then, the studio has become one of the most respected and rewarded in Canada, winning more than 400 national and international prizes. It was also named Canada’s Design Studio of the Year in 2017.


John deWolf RGD, Form:Media

Form:Media is a interdisciplinary studio, based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. With sister company Ekistics Planning & Design, the integrated studio of architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, graphic designers, interpretive planners and brand experts sees beyond the traditional silos of discipline and collaborate to create meaningful engaging, and evocative built environments.


Joseph Duffy, DUFFY & Partners.

Joseph was born into the design business—literally. He has learned from some of the world’s most talented creative people and set out to follow in his father’s footsteps from day one. Joseph is charged with bringing brilliant creative opportunities to the Duffy team as well as being the keeper of the Duffy brand. Joseph’s work has been recognized for design excellence by: American Institute of Graphic Arts, Communication Arts, Print, Graphis and numerous other publications and organizations. He also travels around the country speaking to design organizations and schools and often judges design competitions and award shows.


Michael Kelar RGD, Creative Director, Jacknife Design

Michael is a product of Ontario College of Art & Design’s respected graphic design program. He co-founded the experimental design studio AmoebaCorp in 1996 and in 2013 came together with other highly respected industry contemporaries to create a refreshing new multi-tooled design led agency Jacknife. Throughout his professional career, Mike has brought his unique brand of creative craftsmanship and leadership to major projects for the likes of Nike, Molson Coors, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Red Bull, Second Cup, Hudson’s Bay, Weston and Nestlé. An advocate of designing with purpose, he believes that good design is the meaningful bridge between functionality and human experience, intuition with inarguable reason.


Jean-Pierre Lacroix RGD, President, Shikatani Lacroix Design

Since opening the Shikatani Lacroix Design doors more than 25 years ago, JP has grown this company into one of the most respected and sought after multidisciplinary strategic design agencies in the world. Along the way, he has developed a reputation as a true innovator and first-rate problem-solver, with expertise in providing clients with unique, results-driven solutions for their product and service needs.


Iliana Sergeev RGD, IS Design Labs

Iliana has spent the last 10 years in the design industry working with international brands all around the world to bring ideas into reality and creating multi-sensory experiences. She is passionate about finding creative ways to interconnect brands and spaces strategically by uniting them through consistent brand storytelling - signage, poster series, murals, statement walls, installations. 


Carolina Soderholm & Alison Garnett, Field Trip & Co

Field Trip & Co is a Toronto-based creative studio that works collaboratively to build thoughtfully crafted, compelling brand stories, across multiple disciplines and platforms. Carolina has worked as a designer in Sweden, Vancouver and New York. She spent six years as a senior designer at Bruce Mau Design in Toronto and led Designholmen for seven years, before Launching Field Trip & Co.  Alison is a Toronto-based creative director with over 20 years of global and national design, advertising and digital experience. Through the course of her award-winning career, Alison’s work has spanned various industries including automotive, retail, consumer-packaged goods, professional services, telecommunications and not-for-profit. 


Hans Thiessen, Creative Director of Design, Rethink

Hans Thiessen is the Creative Director of Design at Rethink. He throws curveball ideas, sweats the details and eats a bowl of laughs for breakfast. Over the past decade, Hans has helped ambitious clients achieve success including IKEA, Uber, Nike, EA, Molson Coors, WestJet, Shaw, A&W, CBC, Canada Skateboard and The One Club among many others. Hans’ work has been recognized with over 100 national and international awards, including the prestigious D&AD Black Pencil.


Jessica Vitale RGD, Director, Graphics Studio FORREC

Jessica holds a Bachelor of Design in Graphic Design from OCADU. After graduation, Jessica worked for several graphic design firms, including over six years at multi-disciplinary design firm DIALOG. Jessica’s journey to FORREC has led her to channel her knowledge of design, branding, advertising, marketing, digital, and environmental graphic design to create material for many different clients across multiple sectors including inspiring companies such as UNICEF Canada, Plan Canada, Kids Help Phone and CAMH.


Published February 2019