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How Environmental Graphic Design Shapes an Experience

environmental graphic design

When most people hear the phrase “environmental graphic design,” they think of graphic design that is somehow more sustainable and Earth-friendly than traditional forms. Or, they may think the term refers to graphic design about the environment. But the truth is that environmental graphic design really has nothing to do, explicitly speaking, with nature or environmental preservation.

In reality, environmental graphic design refers to a large, holistic theory of design that revolves around the creation of a mood, tone, or atmosphere. It encompasses a multitude of disciplines, all the way from landscape architecture to signage – and in today’s world, it is becoming increasingly important.

Creating an Experience

Sometimes known as “experiential graphic design,” environmental graphic design is used to create an experience within a specific space – it’s not just meant to be an object that someone looks at and then moves on.

Think about your favorite coffee shop, for example. Traditional graphic design would be the to-go cup you hold in your hand. The shop’s logo, tagline, and maybe their web address are printed on the cup in a certain way, so as to be consistent with the shop’s theme.

Now, think about entering the shop. The signage, the colors, the menus – how do you feel when you enter the building? What mood does the entire place give off? That is environmental graphic design: the process of creating an experience for a user.


Yep, this is exactly what it sounds like. But is it really that important? The short answer: Absolutely. Wayfinding is a type of visual trail through a space, like a university campus. It allows you to create a mental map of an unfamiliar place.

So if you’re on a campus you’ve never visited before, you may quickly learn that each building that made up the university bore a certain emblem or flag, and you would begin to recognize them as such. So it might be a map in the most traditional sense of the word, or it might be a linking of design elements that communicates a common trait.


As a sort of Wayfinding subset, Placemaking is the element of environmental graphic design that serves as a location identifier – an obvious visual indicator that you are here. Often, this is accomplished by using signage as opposed to other design elements, and it relies on symbols that are easy to recognize and communicate the purpose of a space.

Looking for Environmental Graphic Design? Contact Design Display!

Environmental graphic design is one of our specialties, and we’re always ready to start a conversation about designing a space that achieves exactly what you’re hoping for. Contact us today for more information!