Wayfinding adventures in super graphics

We’ve been using our own bespoke designed super graphics for a long time as part of the process of developing interior schemes.

At one time they might have been viewed as stand-alone features adding a brand identity to the building but increasingly (if not completely so) these super graphics are an important part of the overall wayfinding strategy. They work alongside the paint finishes helping to identify areas, create landmarks and way points as visitors circulate through a building.

Graphics and visual imagery in general is readily available through stock libraries online but if you look closely you will often observe the same stock images appearing time and time again. We believe that schemes deserve better.

At the Childrens’ Day Unit (Milton Keynes University Hospital) we designed a complete suite of playful graphics based around the theme of the farm which were installed full height on walls throughout the unit. Graphics, flooring and wall finishes were all tuned to work with eachother.

At Birkett House SEN school the headteacher said that there was a noticeable improvement in the way that pupils independently moved to their classrooms rather than being escorted. This was in no small measure due to the way in which we used the finishes and graphics to help make the building more legible to a non-literate population.

Extruded at Altro

Here are some photos of the Altro Letchworth Headquarters stunning installation we designed using their Altro Whiterock Satins and Chameleon product. We called it ‘Extrude’ and it joyfully rises up through 3 storeys of the factory culminating in a shower of coloured spheres blowing out of big vents.


Fill a pool with water – then just add colour + light

Colour and light at Perdiswell Leisure centre which was completed in December 2016

The initial brief of designing a large scale coloured manifestation for the pool hall was expanded to include various other features around the centre as well as advising the client on all the interior finishes.

Main contractor Speller Metcalfe, client Worcester City Council.




Project FitzRoy – taking a walk through fields and sky in a brand new CAMHS unit

Today patients and staff are moving into the brand new FitzRoy House CAMHS unit.

We were commissioned by St Andrews Healthcare Trust to deliver a design integration project as part of their new Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) unit. The two storey facility will give specialised bespoke care for up to 110 young people and is the largest residential mental health facility for adolescents within Europe.

Early on we involved the service users in an engagement programme which explored every aspect of the new building. These workshops generated ideas which helped to develop the concepts for the interior design of the building; providing a positive environment and one which will ease the service users’ transition into their new building.

We used the workshop process to discuss how different colours made them feel which we then developed into a set of biophilic themes around nature with colour schemes linked to ‘Field + Sky’. This theme and the conversations we had were used to inform the naming of the 11 new wards such as Brook, Fern and Berry and also the colours, super graphics and zones around the building.

Starting in the wards; the most private spaces, super graphics were used to identify and personalise each space including the ensuite bathrooms, the dining rooms and each ward entrance. The themes and colours were also used to develop coherent wayfinding elements for the public spaces with features in the main entrance, the Education area, Sports facilities and outdoor spaces. An important part of the integrated design approach was to develop modular systems which could be used throughout the building. One example of this are the display boards on each ward which will be ‘owned’ and customised by each service user as well as the circulation 3D display cases. We even worked on a 1:1 basis with one service user to create the signage for the ‘Branch Out’ cafe.

A critical part of the whole design process was the sampling and qualifying of designs and  specifications for the new unit. Aside from the paramount anti-ligature concerns the client has extensive experience in what does and doesn’t work in relation to safeguarding issues for their service users. The challenge was to integrate these stringent design parameters into the various manufactured elements whilst at the same time maintaining a light touch – a hard trick to pull off but one we feel we succeeded in achieving. The overall feel of the spaces is of light, natural textures and colour which encourages the user to journey through the building taking a walk through fields and sky.

Take a look here for more background information on the project.

Architect : P+HS Architects
Contractor : Galliford Try
Client : St Andrews Healthcare Trust
Agent : Willis Newson

Tarkett ‘Floor Is The New Playground’ part 2

As promised here is the second instalment to the ‘Floor Is The New Playground’ challenge hosted by Tarkett.

Just a quick recap;

The premise of the competition or shall we say challenge was that designers would submit their designs in order to remain on top of the pile. As I played with the patterns and submitting; one other designer’s name kept popping up; René Wissinck (Follow on Twitter with @AtelierArgos) from Atelier Argos based in the Netherlands.

This was going international. Via Twitter we started to exchange ideas and encouragement and then – I would argue as all designers like to do – decided that here lay an opportunity to collaborate. Isn’t that a great vindication of what social media can do to bring people together.

René suggested that one of us could start a pattern, screenshot it and send it to the other to then complete and submit. A sort of graphic game of tag if you like. Now we’re talking design collaboration. Another vista of infinite opportunity opens up.

So René and myself decided to take the game up to a new level. We each set eachother a challenge by developing a pattern and then sending just a portion of the design to eachother. The aim was we would then both complete a design and compare the results.

Not content with that we then decided to start put the patterns into 3D models so as to render the patterns into flooring designs. By this point we were beginning to see how the quick online game could be turned into a practical tool for flooring design.

René agreed to do the design ‘heavy lifting’ and worked hard to generate the model and visuals. Naturally he took it a step further and created a complete environment – the new virtual ‘Floor Is The New Playground’ exhibition hall.

Into this space he assembled many of the designs that we had both developed. Some were placed on the floor whilst others became part of a virtual exhibition.

So where do we go from here?

Well the game brought myself and René together as designers and we’ve really enjoyed the collaboration. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take it even further into an actual project collaboration.

FITNP virtual exhibition

FITNP virtual exhibition

FITNP virtual exhibition

FITNP virtual exhibition

MK Hospital design developments

Sometimes it seems that you’ve been very quiet when in reality you’ve been very busy working on a whole series of concepts.

Milton Keynes Hospital have commissioned us to develop ideas for both the Children’s Wards as well as other parts of the hospital. It follows on from a previous commission to create graphics for Ward 4. Working with the Arts For Health team we’ve been developing a load of very exciting proposals of which the Nature Trail concepts below are a small sample of the project development.

A key challenge for the scheme is to ensure that our programme connects and integrates with the larger hospital maintenance regime as there are some interesting opportunities that can arise from that collaboration.

Our next step is to run some focus group work with young people to gauge their reaction to the current proposals as well as gather their ideas .

You can find out more about the excellent work of Arts For Health here

mk-nature walk mk-nature walk mk-nature walk

Action stations! – it’s a BOA Year 13 video project…

BOA - Machine video still

We’ve been asked to go back to BOA ( Birmingham Ormiston Academy if you didn’t know) to help the Arts Department on a video project that they’re running with their Year 13 students.

Last time we were there was a few years ago when the academy was staging its opening launch event. A spectacular 2 nighter involving all the students in live performance and musical theatre. We created a ‘Memory Box’ installation of artefacts and video projections which was part of the promenade journey through the new building.

This time round the students have been tasked with creating their own videos which will be presented in a installation yet to be designed; probably in the theatre space and involving lots of hanging screens.

I predict lots of hard work and some serious editing ahead….

Getting all immersive!

The brief was to develop an immersive technology scheme for Ysgol Y Gogarth that would provide a wide spectrum of pupils and especially their ASD pupils with a series of rich immersive experiences facilitated by accessible controls that all the staff could use. A challenging brief naturally!

There were a number of locations where this technology would be implemented. Of course as you’d expect there were sensory rooms. The traditional model is to create soft play spaces with bubble machines and projectors. At Gogarth we wanted to take it a step further so we designed spaces where all the finishes were white and M&E was kept to a minimum. Our technology partner, OMI Interactive Ltd, who incidentally provided a fabulous personalised service then filled these spaces with ceiling mounted projectors that were used to animate the walls and floor. Soundbeam equipment enables pupils to create music but those beams also double up as a controllers for all the projected effects. We also used LED lighting to graze all 4 walls and all these effects were controlled with a single iPad wall mounted controller thus keeping switches to an absolute minimum. From a classroom teacher’s perspective; the practical value of being able to focus on the experience rather than managing the curiosity of their ASD pupils for the switches was paramount in our design development.

As you’d expect; the main problem with technology is that it’s very quickly superseded. An attraction of the OMI software is that it’s incredibly intuitive and configurable. New apps and scenes can be added and every single aspect of the experience can be duplicated, modified and embellished by staff as they go along. It’s basically not unlike editing your WordPress site. The iPad controller was developed as direct response to our brief at Gogarth and took some of its usability cues from a click wheel wall light controller developed by Phillips. They also provided some great staff training days for the nervous non-techies after the school took possession of the building.

Moving on to other parts of the school; the hydrotherapy pool space was another area where we wanted to maximise the immersive technology. Here we had input from Crown Stage Ltd (sound and lighting), Modular Ceilings Ltd ( fibre optic stretch ceiling) and Phillips wall colour blasters provided by Architainment Ltd. The trick, which we managed to achieve through a great deal of coordination, was to control all these separate elements through one mobile flight cased controller rather than a multitude of zappers and wall switches.

The school main assembly hall was another area that needed some delicate design coordination. Typically school halls are multi-functional rooms. The new hall at Gogarth enables all the staff to gather for team briefings: a first. Of course the weekly school assemblies are held there and it also acts as an overspill for the dining area next door as well as a performance space. The biggest concern, at least for the headteacher, was that (as a minimum requirement ) the data projector image throw would be bright enough for children to see in the back row seating. Not an unreasonable request but hugely compromised by the massive ceiling roof lights and borrowed light from an entire glazed end wall. As it was 2 large data projectors and motorised black-out blinds (Maple Sunscreening) gave the headteacher 2 massive motorised wall mounted screens for projection. Crown Stage were tasked with providing all the equipment for this space. The result: a suspended lighting rig that your local theatre would give its eye teeth for, stow-able stage blocks, an integrated sound system ( they’ll be able throw some great parties here) , those 2 big projectors and screens and 360 degree/ 7 metre high perimeter black out drapes. It’s an amazing space… a large enough space to inflate the spectacular immersive igloo provided by 4D Creative. Plug it in and the ripstop igloo rises up from the ground to create a child friendly space. Go inside and your senses are overloaded with sound, lighting and projection – all portable, all contained within the mobile flight case that it packs down into. The speakers incidentally connect to the control box via its own LAN so no cables to trip you up.

I’ve very nearly forgotten to mention the Music room – basically a classroom sensory room with the same OMI kit mentioned earlier. Early on the proceedings the music teacher was asked to provide a wish list; the only item on it was an iPod! Well as it turned out; we provided fixed and portable sound beam equipment, interactive wall projection and integrated ceiling mounted speakers – oh, and an iPod.

Aside from rooms within the school we also deployed lighting technology around the circulation areas. a colour changing LED cafe sign, controllable LED lighting for the main staircase to the first floor and an interactive touch LED wall using sensacell modules supplied by Architainment completed the immersive set up.

As you’d expect; the commissioning stage after handover is crucial. There were glitches and it reinforces the importance of having suppliers on board who have the flexibility to come back to sort out, adapt and explain the systems. We were pleased to enjoy good follow up service from all the suppliers and also noted that they were keen to promote the work they had done at the school which is always a good sign.

Some of the biggest lessons that we derived from designing this scheme was the critical value of coordinating all the various suppliers in order to avoid duplications and complication. Going the extra mile with the school to understand the needs, explore potential solutions and even go to other installations to assess were all important steps. One stand out moment was a coordination meeting (one of many); in a small site office meeting room filled with light fittings and other bits of kit, getting hotter and hotter, mixing and matching different elements with everybody contributing in the spirit of a technological Columbus – charting the new world.

Once it was all installed – there was the moment of sheer delight from an ASD pupil when they realised that their feet were triggering different reactions from the floor projection. Magic!

Immersive technology - Gogarth

Immersive technology - Gogarth

Immersive technology - Gogarth

Immersive technology - Gogarth

Going wild with Wildstone UK


We’re really excited to have been appointed by Wildstone UK to advise and develop artist designs for an interesting forthcoming project.

A bit from their bio; “… if you own or manage outdoor advertising assets, or believe your property has potential as an advertising site, Wildstone will help you drive new income to your organisation.

Working on behalf of landlords, property investors and property advisors, we develop premium large format and digital outdoor advertising displays that meet the market demand of advertisers, and deliver profitable, recurring revenue for our clients.

We work with property professionals too. Investors use Wildstone for guidance on the outdoor media potential of new developments (and how to include it), and we assist property advisors who want to provide best advice to their clients on the advantages of outdoor media and how to maximise its benefits”

Due to the sensitive commercial nature of the project we can’t reveal anymore at this stage however we’ll update as we progress.

More here about Wildstone UK

The BE2 awards nominations

BE2 awardsWe’re ever so pleased to announce that our work has been nominated in two categories for the inaugural BE2 awards. Cast your votes for us in the Best AEC use of photo/video and Best Education and Learning Award.

BE2 say ” Since June 2008, the social media advocacy community, Be2camp, has been helping the architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and related industries to think about and deploy Web 2.0 tools and techniques. It’s now time to start shouting about some of the best practice that has emerged — so we are organising the world’s first awards for social media in the built environment.”

The BE2 awards will be presented at a special event at the Building Centre, London on the 9th February 1-5pm

From the ‘unconference’ folk, the ‘unawards’…

These awards are about sharing information and helping construction people connect with others online, so we are:

  • ‘crowdsourcing’ the award nominations (and even an award category or two!)
  • encouraging online voting across the award categories, so that winners can say their award reflects the ‘wisdom of the crowd’
  • hosting some of construction and technology’s most thoughtful speakers at a TEDx-style event – ConstrucTALKs – immediately before the Be2Awards presentations
  • demonstrating our Web 2.0 enthusiasm (and guaranteeing a worldwide audience) by live-streaming the event to the web via video, live-blogging and Twitter
  • planning some surprises along the way – maybe a Pecha Kucha or two? – and
  • not going to insist on black-ties and cocktail dresses

Cast your votes here !