My Understanding Of Experiential Graphic Design

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What is my understanding of experiential graphic design?

Experiential graphic design to me is a way to communicate everyday scenarios with innovative design placement. This can be from looking at a directory at the shops to a sculpture in your city. When I think of an experiential graphic design I mostly think of wayfinding, I think this is because it was the first time I ever really heard about experiential graphic design so it has stuck with me till now. You can find experiential graphic design pretty much anywhere, you can find it in cities, in shopping malls, at schools, and even in your workplace. The experiential design makes the location around you a little bit more exciting. Shopping malls will usually use wayfinding to help customers find their way around the shops and easily get access to what they want, fast. Some popular cities will use interactive sculptures and place them in popular areas, museums will use specific designs for their exhibits and a lot of places use architectural experiential design in their buildings.

History of experiential design

A quick explanation of the history of experiential design according to (Stevens, 2019). In 4000 BC the Chinese invented Feng Shui, this is the idea that everything should have a specific place and meaning to where it goes. In 500 BC the Greeks came up with environmental awareness and what could be put in the room that would be the best option for each space. In the early 1900s a man named Fredrick Winslow Taylor researched into how his employees worked with their tools and how efficient they were with them in the space that they were in. In the 1940’s Toyota built into creating the perfect environment in their cars for their customers. This ‘’brought attention to the importance of how humans interact with machines’’ (Stevens, 2019). In 1955 Henry Dreyfuss discussed the importance of designing for the people which was an important part of history as he was telling people who experiential design is really made for. IN 1966 Walt Disney opened up about creating the most magical experience for people and using the newest technologies to make those moments memorable. The 1970s was when computer technology started to become very prominent in our society and were the greatest thing in interactive technology, making computers were the biggest form of user design at this time. Donald Norman was the first person to come up with the term ‘user experience design’ in 1995 when he was hired by Apple, “I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.” (Norman, 1995). This brings us to the present, a whole new world of experiential design awaits and with new technologies being developed, it is becoming even more exciting than before.

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Case Study 1: Google Wayfinding

Google’s campus in Kirkland wanted to make an expansion in 2017, they needed a new wayfinding system that would capture the attention of everyone, whilst being innovative, reflecting Google’s values and making it easy and efficient to make your way around the campus. “Google’s founders are strong believers in the Montessori method of learning and working, which emphasizes making use of all of the five senses.” (SEGD, 2017) This method inspired the design team to work towards that goal of putting all five senses to work in a way that wasn’t overwhelming for people or anyone around them. Each building has different textures, letters, shapes and colours in relation to Google throughout the campus. Google loved the way the design team executed their ideas and feels they really captured Google as a brand, throughout their work. When I visited the Google Headquarters in Malaysia last year, there was a very strong presence of experiential design all around the building. One thing I saw that really interested me was a sign out the front that was an anamorphic installation, when you first see it, the sign says ‘Welcome’, you then keep walking at turn back to look and it says ‘Google’. I had never seen anything like that done so well before and I always think back to how amazing that one piece of work was and how it really captured everyone’s attention.

Case Study 2: Keep Visible

In 2019, the Zhejiang Municipal Transportation Bureau wanted to solve the problem of visual blind spots in cars when driving on the road. The design team came up with putting indented LED lights onto the road that showed the status of the traffic light and showed the driver the direction as well. This approach was used to indicate how much time the driver had left before the traffic light turned red. There has been a very positive outlook on this system and there have been talks of potentially creating this system and putting it to use and how we can change other problems on the road using experiential design.

Case Study 3: Row DTLA

In 2018, Row DTLA wanted a re vamp of their site, It was important to maintain the feel of the city within the building, whilst making it convenient to get around inside and out. “Each user group had its own unique needs: retail tenants and visitors needed all the function of a mall directory, while office tenants preferred an organic feel” (SEGD, 2018). The design team created three different types of navigation, wayfinding, landmarks, and artistic accents. “The palette of cut metals and neutral tones for the structured wayfinding blends with the original buildings to provide information where you need it, while pops of colour and light draw your attention where you want it.” (SEGD, 2018). I found this really interesting that they used a lot of different designs for their wayfinding system instead of one set one all over the site. I really liked that there was a different theme to each, some look like an airport gate number screen, some looked like movie theatre signs and others were just simple, minimalistic designs. This building since has had multiple events held inside its walls, which makes for a unique experience to all of its visitors and attracts more people to the building each time.

Case Study 4: Pixel Flow

This project was an artist’s installation for the San Isidro Local Government in Lima, Peru. In 2015, Claudia Paz wanted to install a “magic moment” as she called it, into an urban environment, creating a sense of togetherness and fun for all. During the time of installation, people would be surrounded by different coloured lights and sounds that change along with your movement, creating a unique experience for each person who visited. “Every movement of the body can trigger a light pattern and a custom sound” explains Paz. “The installation has 10 different scenarios, each one was designed to have a different experience”, “in a world of liquid light that appears in a magical way through the movement of your hand across the installation” (Paz, 2015). Each day hundreds of people visited the installation and had their own individual interactive experience with the display creating many happy memories for each person there.


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