Environmental Branding: The Power of a Multidisciplinary Process

In the final instalment of RGD's five-part series on Environmental Branding, industry leaders highlight the value of a collaborative process and what can be achieved when team members with different areas of expertise work together.


A multidisciplinary team delivers the most effective end result.   

For an environmental branding project to succeed it is important for the project to be examined from multiple perspectives with each team member bringing a unique viewpoint to the table. A well-rounded team should consist of individuals who can provide insight from a variety of areas of expertise. 
"We are a team of many skills, and each team member has viewpoints that contribute to creating a more holistic and meaningful design," explains John deWolf RGD, Vice President of Form:Media. "For example, we are working on a mixed-use residential development where, in addition to designing the building itself, deliverables include a name for the property, a logotype and exterior and interior building signage. Our Experiential Graphic Design (EGD) group works together with the teams in charge of interior, exterior and landscape architecture at every step of the process. Every decision will be guided by a core idea that is developed by all of the teams together."  
lg2 takes a similar approach, bringing together team members who can share expertise to create a unique brand experience. "The brand strategist acts as the guardian who makes sure that each decision is coherent with the brand’s positioning and personality. The graphic designer, creative director, interior designer and architect collaborate throughout the entire creative process to develop the project’s graphical and architectural language," explains Claude Auchu, Partner and CEO. "No single expertise is valued more than any other. For us, each one helps create distinctive, successful projects for our client."

Project: Salon Gary Carter, lg2

As Debbie Adams RGD (A+A Design) points out, the involvement of an environmental graphic designer at the outset of a project can help ensure a unified design vision from the start, but it also helps when all team members recognize the importance of that vision. "It is my experience that architects and interior designers who regularly integrate environmental graphic design into their work typically provide well-considered opportunities for its integration into the project," she says. For A+A Design's work on the Toronto Birth Centre, the successful collaboration between the client, architect, lighting specialist, contractor and graphics fabricators came from understanding the goals of each team member and how they supported each other. 

Project: Toronto Birth Centre, A+A Design / Photo Credit: Ben Rahn of A-Frame Inc.

Working with a team that includes designers as well as architects is the best way to ensure that each element of the space is serving the brand. "While architects can certainly create signage and graphics, choose materials, etc., the brand tends to take a back seat unless it is someone’s responsibility to focus on it," says Joseph Duffy, DUFFY & Partners. "Designers and architects working together throughout the process will ensure the end result is an integrated and successful one."
Jessica Vitale RGD (FORREC) echoes the importance of collaborating and communicating with all members of the project team, to leverage expertise and achieve the strongest possible result. "Environmental graphic design is really a mash-up of editorial design (storytelling), branding, 3D design, packaging and UX," she says. "Architects and other designers are our friends! Don’t hold back and ask them all the questions you need answers to so you can hone-in on your craft and deliver amazing graphic design."

Project Example 

DUFFY: American Eagle Outfitters
To bring the American Eagle brand to life within their new corporate campus, the team started with their Mission Statement and brand promise, creating a visual brief to show how it could be executed in environmental applications. Working hand-in-hand with the client and the architectural firm, the team shared and modified ideas based on their areas of expertise. The design honours the historic roots of the neighbourhood, which was once home to the city's steel milling district. Raw building materials such as steel girders and concrete were interpreted in modern ways to help convey American Eagle’s commitment to Pittsburgh as well as to their brand mantra, Live Your Life. Another goal of the project was to ensure the environment was people-centric. Imagery of actual employees was used throughout the space, using the brand logo as an artful framing device.

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 May 2019