Graphic Design vs. Architecture
Thursday, April 14th, 2011
It might be surprising to learn that Jennifer Sage, principal of NY-based architecture firm Sage and Coombe, believes graphic design plays not just an important role in architectural design, but a necessary one. We chat with Sage about why graphic design can be considered an architectural savior.
How does implementing graphic design in an architectural project “save it”?
We see it as tied into the basic understanding of the building. And in some cases, it’s because you can get a big statement with a tighter budget.
Many of your architecture projects involve graphic design. Why is that?
Incorporating a graphic message into the architecture of a project can provide a big message with minimal construction and cost. More importantly, it can also reinforce the spatial definition. In the case of the children’s library at Fort Washington, the graphics on the giant lampshades were used to define a series of “rooms” and create distinct environments. We were able to use the New York Public Library image data bank, which was pretty great. The graphics have created an entire little world in each of those lampshades.
What can graphics communicate within a building that the building alone can’t?
We see it as a tool for bringing a different scale and sometimes a new texture into a project that does not otherwise have the budget or program for a refined materiality.
Is ‘branding’ as big of a buzzword in architecture as it is in other forms of design?
I don’t believe that it plays as big of a role in architectural work, particularly in institutional or public work, though in our retail projects, the language of the architecture reinforces the personality of the brand.
How are photography and traditional 2-D artwork starting to play a larger role in architecture?
As the technology is more accessible to everyone, it is easier to take advantage of it as a medium for architectural expression. Flat artwork has always been integral to the best buildings. The availability of the new technology allows us to take a stronger role in conceptualizing and bringing the two dimensional imagery into architecture.
Wayfinding systems, signage, and environmental graphic design have all become examples of how architecture and graphic design work together. Can you elaborate on how you’ve integrated these mediums into a project your firm has done?
We have tried to use signage and environmental graphics to reinforce the character and intentions of the architecture. At all our designs for children’s libraries, we made use of words—in poems, word searches and in different languages—to enliven the experience and reinforce the association with reading. In our retail projects, our signage takes more liberties in message and tone. Whenever possible, we try to take the opportunity to collaborate with graphic designers and artists, expanding the conversation about spatial intentions.
Q+A by Nicholas Krause, a writer living in Chicago.
Photos by Chuck Choi