Find & Discover – University of Technology

Architype Dialogue presents

Stephen Minning

What was the most difficult issue about weaving the environmental graphics into this building or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new design thoughts in this project?

BrandCulture was originally engaged to create a ‘skin’ for the glass-dividing wall between the fabrication workshop and the 24 hour studio. Whilst exploring executions of large type which filtered onto the floor plane we discovered an OH&S requirement to clearly delineate the pathway for a safe journey whilst navigation this potentially dangerous environment. We were already exploring ways to identify the machines with plaques and painted stencils… and this is when the floor became the obvious medium to both create the journey and identify the destinations. Design is by definition an evolution of an initial idea responding to a problem, so you always end up with something different than originally expected…and that’s the joy of it!

Did this project expand or evolve your role as a graphic designer in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the graphics designer, and in turn environmental graphics themselves, is changing on current projects?

We assess each project from an ideas point of view first (branding essentially) so there is an intellectual connection. The environment must then be explored in the 3rd dimension; what influences effect your 5 senses whilst moving through a space; lighting, reflections, multi-layered viewing angles, bold colours, movement, sound, touch, even smell etc. At that point you can assess the navigation opportunities, where will people look next, will obstacles or lighting influence traffic flow, how do colours effect the way a space feels, then you can consider the use of typography and signage… let it be a part of the environment rather than an after thought to the use of a space. Collaboration between architecture, interior design and graphics are essential in a modern environment and is rapidly becoming a necessity from a user perspective. We want a good chair to sit on at work, an ergonomically designed dash board in our cars, a phone that receives emails and keeps us entertained. We expect the things around us to improve and suit our needs better, fit our human form, enhance our lifestyle, make us comfortable…we demand more every day.

How are your designs possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology, wayfinding, and graphics inspired new thought and solutions?

We were inspired by architecture and engineering by looking both back in time and towards the future to produce our wayfinding solution with some obvious and familiar references that people could identify and relate to. Technology has come a long way, RF chips are the size of a pin head and they are more common than you may think, for instance you could send out a letter to Bob Smith prior to his appointment at the hospital, then when he arrives for his appointment in his car the signs could detect the RF tag and direct him to the appropriate car park. As he walked in the hospital the signs could direct him autonomously to the correct department and even register his presence and inform the appropriate staff member to attend to him…”please take a seat Bob Smith”! Graphics were once confined to Album covers designed by drug induced hippies, propaganda posters for governments, promoting kitchen appliances and alcohol… they were an artistic layer to sell us something essentially, now we enhance our environments by making them easier to navigate, tell our heritage, communicate our cultures and best of all… they can enhance our emotions.

In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young designers? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

We are involved with several Universities and also advise on academic curriculum. The production artwork on the UTS Find & Discover job was produced (under direction) by a student whilst working at BrandCulture.

Each year we give internships to select students and some of these opportunities have flourished into a permanent role in the studio. Experience is everything. Students need interactions with live studios to ‘get’ what it’s all about, the blood, sweat and tears of frustration followed by the ultimate satisfaction of seeing your creation come to life and affect peoples lives. Teamwork is essential, everyone counts… even with all the systems and processes in the world it is only passion, inspiration and collaboration that will produce exceptional results. The young guns are our lifeblood and need to be respected, guided and nurtured but first they must be empowered by the schools and universities teaching them, what were the defining pieces of design, how did they change things and why. Without those starting points you are shooting in the dark. Think first!

Architype Review thanks Stephen Minning for his interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.

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