Graphic communication is taking an ever-larger role in the design of spaces, especially those in the K-12 education sector. Beyond the basic requirements of code and accessibility, branding and story-telling are important components of the complete user experience in a facility. As an added value to our clients, we often propose a wayfinding and signage package when designing new schools, or large-scale renovations and/or additions.
Our team of in-house designers and wayfinding consultants creatively bridge the gap between human interaction and the built environment through the use of branding, color, materials, signage, exhibits, and wayfinding to evoke and create emotion, teachable moments, and deep content that directly relates to the architecture around it.
Our wayfinding methodology turns navigation of space into a placemaking approach that uses a student-centric, place-based, wayfinding narrative that goes beyond basic navigation to support a larger vision of spatial interaction. Content and context clues are extremely important with how users identify with the space they are in. Pulling from inherent storylines as drivers in design can help differentiate any place in order to connect users to something that they can relate to. Our team will formulate a narrative path that communicates the mission and spirit of the new high school, and what messages should to be communicated to create a stronger sense of community, identity, and learning for students.
The best educational buildings are not only structures to house learning but actively demonstrate and reinforce lessons beyond the classroom. Schools have the ability to become hands-on teaching tools promoting the awareness of curriculum, civics, and sustainability.
How many students or teachers really understand how their school works? How much energy is the building using in the summer verse winter? Where does the rain water that hits the roof end up? Why are there only sunshades on the south side of the building? We endeavor to graphically communicate the story of a school through a thoughtful and innovative design process.
A school building’s design is directly related to its environment and those lessons have the capacity to teach students about a wide range of subjects including science, math, technology, and history. Tangible lessons can be learned from sustainable technologies and design strategies of the building. Displaying and celebrating the elements that keep a building running starts to bring awareness to the connection of environmental and mechanical systems. Rain gardens can inspire awareness of nature, providing visible habitats for local flora and fauna while also educating about the flow and path of rainwater. The celebration of sunshades can prompt discussion about the Earth’s alignment with the sun and seasons. Highlighting low-flow fixtures promotes the understanding of natural resources and conservation.
This multi-modal approach supports spatial organization while also engaging and educating users as they interact with the building and develop relationships with the space. Wayfinding becomes an exhibit of design and journey. We are often reminded of the adage, “it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.” Through a deep commitment to vision of discovery, students and visitors begin a learning journey as they travel throughout the school.
The process starts with a deep audience understanding of the story through an interactive engagement phase, working with the school’s various stakeholders including representatives from the administration, students, community, parents, department heads, teachers, alumni, athletic staff and buildings & grounds staff. The overarching story or theme should reflect their aspirations for the school, community, and students. As a result, the graphics should convey a sense of inclusion, fun, community pride, and achievement.
Our goal is to work collaboratively with project stakeholders to create a resonant story, with supporting visuals that actively engage users of all ages and backgrounds. Early in the design process, working with a client stakeholder group, key messages and images can be defined and distilled, appropriate fabrication solutions considered, and locations determined. Often the architecture itself may be adjusted to accommodate messaging and graphics by changing wall surfaces, finishes and lighting. It is important to understand the audience. In the end, it is the students’ building and it should reflect their aspirations. While each institution has its unique character, the graphics should convey a sense of inclusion, fun, community, pride and achievement.
Every building has a story to tell—what is your story?
It may start with the neighborhood and its context, local history or events, community diversity, inspiring positive role models, supporting environmental stewardship—the possibilities are endless and specific towards each project.
Wayfinding creates placemaking through a thematic storyline that your students and visitors can relate to. Each corridor will have a unique “feel” through different “places”, colors, signage, graphics, and words to identify where you are. Some examples could be:
An engaging environment can be motivating, valuable, thought-provoking and actionable. Our team can work with clients to craft the story of a school and community that will be graphically implemented through the wayfinding and building graphics to create a building that is a place that actively fosters student success.
© 2020 Di Cara | Rubino Architects