How to turn a brand into a three-dimensional space using graphic design

Carla Conte, founder and Creative Director of Dubai-based Brand Creative Design Studio, on brandscaping and turning a brand into a three-dimensional space.

As keen observers and contributors to the practice of retail design in the Middle East over the last decade, it is clear to us that clients, in general, have become more focused in regards to brand creation and evolution, leaning on the design industry to deliver spaces that tell compelling stories.

One of the fundamental changes in the briefing process from traditional interiors projects, and one that begins from a brand-centric point of view is the role that the client’s marketing department now plays. This is in opposition to a typical briefing from an operations perspective or a business owner solely interested in an aesthetic solution or change.

We’re finding sources of authentic inspiration and relevancy that energise the branding process when we engage multiple facets and voices within a client’s organisations taking into account technology and social media alongside material innovation and building processes.

Retailers, in particular, are emphasising the importance and vital role that social media and the population’s addictive relationship to personal devices are having on sales. Brands want innovative design work that stems from discovery through problem-solving and customer observation. They need the designer to address human-centered needs and respond to people’s behaviours in ways that are engaging and informative.

The design industry as we know it, in principle, can achieve these goals but our efficiency at doing so is being questioned. It has become evident that an upgrade in our skills or the diligent pairing of our skills across design industries, is required to ensure our future relevance in continuing to shape our world. The emergence of a new design profession, an experiential graphic design has, in turn, gained traction in the last decade, both internationally and now regionally.

Experiential graphic design embraces interior design, architecture, landscape, industrial design and graphic design. It consists of using the built environment as well as graphics to effectively communicate identity and information. It shapes the idea of creating experiences that connect people to place. There is currently no certification for this profession, but there is a professional association to support those in the field – the Society for Experiential Design.

A traditional education in graphic design typically prepares a designer for a solid career in print, advertising, web design, production, motion design, package design and branding related to identity creation. These designers are thought of like 2D, planar thinkers as opposed to having the volumetric, spatial mindset of an architect or interior designer. With a generation that now compresses an entire spatial experience into a tablet or phone and a focus on info-rich requirements to fully engage people with the built environment, there has been a call for a revamp in design training.

Across the world, universities are embracing a New Media era to address the needs of humanity. The change in design education was inevitable, and it’s making future designers better thinkers as they’re learning to collaborate between disciplines on a whole new level. Across the world, successful interior designers and architects are including the role of the graphic designer at critical design process stages such as strategy and planning to ensure that they connect every design decision to a brand’s attributes and essence. Together, designers are mapping experiences to ensure every image, graphic, interactive component and a spatial feature is aligned to reinforce the stories we’re entrusted to help brands tell.

Any interior project where we have instrumented the thought processes and skills of a graphic designer from the beginning, have been the most successful regarding ROI for the client but also aesthetically more enriched. Simply applying graphics to unused walls and surfaces can certainly be effective aesthetically – but it can also present a situation where there is an apparent lack of understanding in the foundations of the brand itself. Customers pick up on that fault very quickly. We want to ensure that graphic designers are not only engaged in the aesthetic cladding of surfaces but utilising their skills to inspire, engage, teach, activate and locate. When we combine our collective skills as designers, we start creating experiences that truly resonate with end users.

Experiential graphic designers manage the process of understanding a brand’s nature and consider what is not working and resolve to fix it or change its parameters entirely. This process is referred to as “Brandscaping” – which is the term used for turning a brand into a three-dimensional space. The results of an in-depth and properly executed strategy phase formulate the design brief for both the interiors and graphics. Consolidated guidelines are then developed to include colour referencing, typeface and imagery, communication tools, finishes and the careful selection of furniture and lighting to reinforce personality traits discovered during the strategy phase.

Interior designers and architects have the capacity to create great experiences but shifting our thinking tendencies towards the environmental graphic design approach will enrich retail spaces (and any public space) with compelling and lasting details that translate into sales performance and brand awareness. Social media, technology and the human/device relationship are calling us to embrace multidisciplinary thinking: a symbiotic future where a man, machine and cyberspace are not only inevitable but already a reality and the design industry is preparing itself to respond with creative magnitude.

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