June 4, 2023

A career path inspires

Environmental graphic design is a profession often unrecognized by students as a potential career path. George Lim and Angela Serravo, Principal Partners at Tengram Design LLC, spoke to a large group of design students on campus Nov. 18 of 2014.

George Lim and Angela Serravo, Principal Partners at Tengram Design LLC, spoke to a large group of design students on campus Nov. 18 of 2014.
George Lim and Angela Serravo, Principal Partners at Tengram Design LLC, spoke to a large group of design students on campus Nov. 18 of 2014.

Hired by Bethlehem for district branding, Lim and Serravo were not surprised with the number of people that had no previous knowledge of this up-and-coming profession. In a classroom full of design students, one, maybe two have ever heard of environmental graphic design.

Lim described the business of environmental graphic design as, “…communicating in a 3 dimensional world in our environment. We take the graphic design away from just an 8 x 10 canvas.”

Lim explains to the crowd that there is more to graphic design than what you can design for online or print.

“Most people figure that that is where it stops,” he explained.

From airport signs, shopping mall directories and themes, museum displays, exhibits, interactive pieces, sport stadiums and theatre environments are all topics environmental graphic designers are given when working with clients.

Gayle Hendricks, Professor of graphic design, emphasized to her design students, “Now you can see how this gets used in the real world outside of a magazine page.”

Environmental graphic design is everywhere, and Lim and Serravo could not emphasize enough how little this field of work is recognized.

“We story tell in the environment. Everything that we do has to have some base of a storytelling connection,” Lim stated.

Signs and schedules in transit routes, landmarks, sculptures, city and road signs all play a big role in society and is not often recognized as a thought out design. Assigned jobs can be as complex as designing the inside of a mall to make it feel more like a resort or as simple as designing road signs.

“Without good environmental graphics, those are the little things that cause anxiety and fear.” stated Lim. “If it wasn’t there… what would you do?”

This field of work provides opportunity in other fields besides graphic design.

“This profession is made up of architects, engineers, graphic designers as well as sociologists, anthropologists, film makers… anyone that can tell a story,” Lim explained.

The process typically takes a minimum of one year to design the layout and another year for engineers and architects to build models based on the drawings, dimensions, type, graphics, and colors provided by designers.

“One great thing about environmental graphic design is the fact that you get to work with so many different disciplines, from landscape architects to historians,” Serravo claimed.

When questioned about the outlook of this job, both designers agreed that the potential growth of this career path shows potential. Individuals are changing the way they learn and interact with the world around them with the growth of technology. This challenges environmental graphic designers to change the way they design the environment around them. Lim explained:

“Young people are getting challenging on how to get entertained. It’s something I feel is not going to go away. It’s just going to get more advanced, and information is going to be challenged more and more.”

Design students taking advice from a professional.
Design students taking advice from a professional.

The designers discussed the importance of not only design, but the ability to create emotion through a design regarding sensitive subjects.They recalled one case study regarding a planned expulsion of Chinese people run by Washington D.C. in the early 1800’s. Hired by the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation, their assignment was to create a commemorative park to tell the story of the expulsion, as well as to provide a place for healing.

Instead of spelling out what happened, they used the land to tell the story through the use of design.

“We want to tell the story graphically. So we had the souls of those that were chased out carved into the rocks, like they are going to finish their journey. Instead of saying ‘this is the act written word by word’, we just let them experience it,” Lim explained.

Emphasis was placed on the fact that the placement of an object is just as important as what an object actually says. Towards the end of the park the design forces individuals into a smaller, cramped space to create the feeling of being expelled.

“How do you use graphics and typography to create emotions and to force someone to actually feel what you are trying to say without having to say it?” Lim rhetorically asked the class.

Graphic design is about manipulating the eye and creating emotion to get a point across. When it comes to environmental graphic design, individuals have the opportunity to design an object that can range from the size of a small sculpture to the size of a large building.

Visit SEGD.org to see examples of these designs and find more information on environmental graphic design.

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