Starting from the Ground Up
The Seattle Design Festival approached us to create a wayfinding system for their festival built on their elegant brand. We began by addressing the project needs and its context in the larger ecosystem of the festival. It needed to accomplish the following tasks.
The system needed to adaptable, reusable, collapsible, freestanding, weather-resistant, quickly & easily installable, customizable, wheelchair accessible, and built from scratch from as many sustainable materials as possible.
The starting point was the core philosophy of the SDF brand: a structure which frames design in the community — shining a light on it, positioning it, and making it accessible to others. Visually, this is represented in their logo as a box that can wrap or highlight any imagery that sits within it. We extended this theory into a collection of principles outlining how the SDF ethos should live in a physical space.
Piece by Piece
Our solution was a modular system that could be easily reconfigured to adapt to different needs. We designed a kit of parts: basic building blocks that were cleanly constructed from readily available materials. We created the modules with a few distinct structures in mind (signage pillars, a central pavilion, and sandwich boards) and outlined how the system could be adapted into benches, entryways, poster frames, and shelving with the existing parts. We also outlined how the creation of additional pieces in future years could expand the system into shelters, chairs, kiosks, and geodesic domes, to name a few.
Our system is a series of simple frames and the strong bonds that hold them together. A unit module for our system is a closed loop built of wood. The material and construction is simple, straightforward and economical. Wood is a very easy material to work with so these units could be dressed up or modified simply. A plywood flat could be added as a surface for signage/seating/display, a printed banner stretched across its surface, or even a plastic window suspended within it. We started with three sizes of rectangular frames. In future years, we may build out a series of triangular frames to create icosahedron shelters — or hexagonal frames for a tileable seating structure.
Getting Fitting Everything Into Place
The next piece of the system is the connections that hold the frames together. Two frames held at a 30° angle become a sandwich board, while the same two frames held at 180° in plane form one side of a tall pillar. We wanted these bonds to be sturdy and simple, able to be firmly attached at any point along a frame, and intuitive enough that they could be secured by one person with no additional tools. We designed a custom clamp solution to meet the multiple structure needs.
The final step was marrying surface and structure — designing all of the content that was to live on each signage module, printing and installing them by hand, and ultimately assembling the system for the festival itself.