Do you love the environment? Environmental (aka experiential) graphic designers love the environment, too — just not in the way you might think.
It Ain't About Climate Change!
This career is about graphic designers who create experiences for visitors in the physical places they visit and use (environment = place).
So, Really, What Is Environmental Graphic Design?
Whether you're chilling in a feng shui lobby or admiring your campus's new one-story aluminum logo, you've felt an EGD's work.
The environmental/experiential graphic designer sees a location's potential to be experienced and designs it to reach that potential. They're the invisible hand that guides you through a maze of hallways, the authors of the nostalgic color scheme that gives you the feels. They're also in charge of the signage.
Always Be Thinking about the Experience
EGDs think about how people should and want to use a space, aka "the experience". They ask questions like:
Are visitors trying to knock out a to-do list?
Are they trying to socialize?
Do they want to explore?
Do they want to have fun?
Do they want to get better at something?
What's that? You're here to self-actualize?
Designing the Experience
After figuring out the experience, EGDs use their graphic (and architectural and ergonomic and geometric and) design skills to make it pop. They think design for:
Branding and identity
Thinking about a place's identity by considering logo placement, size, frequency, and so on. Just don't put the logo on the toilet paper. 😅
Orienting visitors/users. Will there be maps? Arrows? Cutesy section names in a multi-wing museum, perhaps? Meet me between the...Frog and Salamander staircases.
Displaying info. What kinds of signs are needed? What should the materials be? And so on.
Which of the following might be a decision an EGD makes when designing for a highway rest stop? Choose all that apply:
Do You Have an EGD Personality?
Your personality fits if you:
Appreciate being a member of a complex design team
Love drafting again and again and again...
Are fascinated with what goes into producing "the experience"
Are comfortable using digital tech to make and share designs
EGD may not be for you if you:
Are sensitive to criticism and change in your designs
Don't care for project- or team-based work
Don't enjoy learning (every project will be a unique experience)
You better love whiteboards, too. When not designing digitally, you and your team will have to sketch somewhere.
Where Should I Go to Start Learning About EGD?
While it's not super niche, environmental/experiential graphic designers-to-be will need a plan for getting their education. It generally starts with branching off from graphic design.
Tips for Getting There
When thinking about getting an undergraduate graphic design degree, look for an art college that allows for an EGD track.
Seek graphic design programs with a variety of courses and independent studies. Independent study courses will let you do your own thing in the realm of graphic design.
Note that master's programs do exist!
Ultimately, knowing that you want to be an EGD before going to school can be a huge help. Still, at any point in your graphic design studies, you can start making moves to get your EGD chops (ask a professor or classmate about that independent study!)
Where Will I Work?
Short answer: anywhere that you can serve up experiences in places. Wherever you are, though, you should count on working as part of a large team (that's design work):
University planning and design departments — making colleges Instagram-ready
Independent design studios that have contracts with museums, hotels, offices, hospitals, etc.
Architectural firms with an emphasis on branding
Corporate event/experience planning departments
As an EGD, what other kinds of professionals might you expect to coordinate with when designing? Choose all that apply:
How's the Money, Though?
An environmental graphic designer can expect to make $64,000 on average in the US.
In Canada, environmental graphic designers can expect to make $50,000 on average.
Designers, in here, now!
Start making career moves if this kind of work has caught your interest: