A Guide to Integrating Experiential Graphics Into The Workplace

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Stanley Felderman
Stanley Felderman
Stanley Felderman is the pioneer of the “total design concept,” and has integrated planning, architecture, interior design and product design successfully on a diversity of award winning projects. Today, he and Nancy Keatinge of Felderman Keatinge, are applying these ideas on a global basis.

What are experiential graphics and how do you integrate them into the workplace?

Reception area entranceway at Legendary Entertainment offices. Credit: Eric Laignel

What are experiential graphics?

The Society for Experiential Graphic Design defines experiential graphic design as a process that involves the orchestration of typography, color, imagery, form, technology and, especially, content to create environments that communicate.

In the world of workplace design, there are two options: one that delivers specific information, and one that goes beyond that to deliver an artistic experience that impacts the soul. The informative graphics are similar to those seen in today’s malls, as one example, where consumers engage with touchscreen maps that offer GPS directions to the nearest store of their choice. On the other hand, there is an artistic option that extends into large format installations within a space that visitors can interact with for a more advanced type of extracurricular experience; one that takes the viewer to the next dimension.

The Power of Experiential Graphics in the Workplace

Whenever taking on a project, opportunities must be evaluated from both ends of the spectrum to determine the most effective, cost-efficient design that will interact with both workers and guests. The budget will affect the amount of technology involved, but it does not necessarily need to limit the extent of the experience itself, given the right artistic vision.

Take a look at the offices at Legendary (above), a global entertainment company, who wanted to create an experience that evoked a sense of the company’s presence in Hollywood. The space has a classic and timeless feel with subtle links to old Hollywood, along with aspects that convey Legendary’s vision of permanence, creativity, and passion.

This was a larger scale account, offering more flexibility to build a brand experience divided into two phases. The initial phase included everything from 3D sculptures of Hollywood characters like Godzilla, custom pinball machines, and a room with comic-book wallpaper. Phase two built on that foundation, incorporating new technology in the reception area, with large-scale motion graphics of iconic Legendary movie scenes to create an altered reality for visitors from the moment they step off the elevators. These scenes are from Legendary’s major Sci-Fi or action movies, which in compound with the 3D sculptures and targeted lighting, offers all who enter the chance to be a part of an exciting adventure; the experience was bigger than reality. Guests recognize the movies, so the visuals trigger the brand awareness while the large-scale production of the graphics made for a movie-like, larger-than-life interaction.

Aviron’s common area with a mixture of collaborative and personal spaces. Credit: Eric Laignel

A very different experience was to be had at Aviron Pictures, also an entertainment company, but one where the building’s layout was not ideal and experiential graphics were needed to energize the space. While many of the windows in Aviron’s office overlook beautiful scenes of Southern California, the entry posed a unique challenge. The space was not only a narrow corridor, but the windows opened towards unsightly machinery. Back-lit graphics stretch the length of 60 feet were installed to replicate a sense of light and shadow, allowing new light to permeate and invigorate the space. This scenario relates back to the initial definition of experiential graphics as the illuminated visuals were able to communicate a sense of sunlight that stimulates and uplifts the space in a way that could not have been there otherwise.

For this project, the experience was extended beyond the walls to the ceiling as a way to address the issue of poor acoustics in the conference room. Experiential graphics should not be limited to four walls because our senses communicate with every aspect and angle of the room.

A wave-themed art installation of 3D felt acoustic panels were layered upon the ceiling of the room to not only create a strong graphic, but also to soften the space. The waves are a reference to the company’s brand, which lies in rowing and water. Functionality and creativity go hand in hand.

Backlit graphics stretch the length of 60 feet to replicate a sense of light and shadow at Aviron. Credit: Eric Laignel

When building conditions are less than desirable, there becomes an opportunity to form a different reality. The client could have simply installed translucent shades to block the view, but instead the designers chose to use a dynamic, artistic approach that engages the visitor and boosts the experience.

Furthermore, it’s about creating an experience that sells the brand simultaneously for those working there, as well as their customers. The employees must have a place that inspires creativity, fosters productivity and feels like a place they want to come to work. Meanwhile, their customers, investors, and new clientele want to enter an environment that introduces the brand and has them asking for more.

There’s always an opportunity, set aside from budget and limited scope, to utilize experiential graphics. These tools are an important element in creating a greater sense of well-being for everyone who visits the space and herein exists the return on investment for clients: captivating experiential graphics will touch the heart and soul, elevating the spirit, which ultimately creates intimate, long-lasting connections to the space and loyalty to the brand from the moment people step in the door.

Largescale experiential graphic within the elevator lobby at Legendary Entertainment. Credit: Eric Laignel

No matter the size or technicality of the experiential design, here a few things to keep in mind:

  • Try involving RGB lighting. It changes color of the graphic, alters the mood, and can adjust throughout the day as needed. The morning typically calls for cooler colors, while warmer tones can be used later in the day to soften the space.
  • Don’t be afraid of using large-scale installations or artwork in smaller spaces – it’s more immersive for guests because it’s life-size. With smaller art, people will observe it, but when it’s life-size, they can actually engage with it.
  • Don’t hold back from using color or striking graphics. Be bold! Sometimes there can be push back for this initially, but clients will find that it adds a sense of comfortability to the room.
  • Symmetry can be very meditative and soothing. High energy images with bright contrasting colors, or even just black and white, can often stimulate the brain.
  • Art has a vibration, both visually and sensually. Art can be used to quiet a space down or energize the space. When doing it be conscious about what that purpose is.
  • When creating the program for the graphics, connect the art together. It’s more than just filling up a space. Compare it to cooking a five-course dinner. There are a variety of flavors, but there is a succession to the layout and it must come together to create one cohesive experience.
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