What is Environmental Graphic Design?

by Drue Townsend

Contrary to what the name might imply, this immersive discipline referred to interchangeably as environmental or experiential graphic design has absolutely nothing to do with mother earth, green initiatives, or saving the planet. Hence why the Society for Environmental Graphic design (SEGD), a global community that builds experiences that connect people to place, changed the name from environmental to experiential. The underlying idea is nothing new really, and dates back to early cave paintings, temple hieroglyphics and the spectacular Italian Renaissance frescos.

So what is it exactly and how does it enhance a customer’s experience and connection to a brand? Read on for a crash course in this exciting and diverse multi-disciplinary medium.

The Basics

FASTSIGNS Blog for January 2014- WayfindingYou’ll immediately know if you’ve entered a branded environment that utilizes environmental graphic design (XGD) because of the larger-than-life graphics. These super-sized images are impactful, which in turn affects how a customer will interact with a particular space. There’s a guiding strategy behind all of it that takes into account how interior design, architecture, landscape and graphic design work together to create a more memorable user experience.

Creating this type of environment that immerses and richly communicates involves the creative orchestration of a toolkit of resources including color, large-scale typography, content, technology and dynamic imagery.

Key Focal Points: Wayfinding — this is any directional signage that aids in navigating from one area to a final destination. It essentially solves the basic human need of being in an unfamiliar place and wanting to get from point to point quickly. Environmental graphic design takes wayfinding to an entirely new level, incorporating art, furniture, design and landscape as recallable landmarks that help lead customers through an extraordinary brand journey, while informing along the way.

Identity or brand signage. A store like mega retailer Target will have a very different feel than the beauty-brand Sephora, and that’s where brand identity really shines through. With strong visuals and compelling keywords, a business is able to tell customers in an instant who they are and what to expect from their products and services.

Sense of place. Wayfinding, identity and experience all shape a holistic sense of place — an environment with a special, defining relationship to where it is located. As the American novelist, poet and environmental activist Wendell Berry once said, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”

Businesses That Incorporate XGD

Think about the branded environments you’ve visited that use experiential graphic design to engage customers on a higher level; retail stores, hotels, schools, museums, sports venues and casinos and theme parks are a few examples. In new construction, XGD should be high on the list of considerations, as an innovative way to make a place more visually appealing and easier to navigate.


FASTSIGNS has been pioneering XGD solutions with its graphic experts that utilize the latest technology and impactful, effective designs that increase visibility and bring visual communications to life in a variety of environments. From building signs that set a unique tone, and wayfinding to help people navigate to interior décor that makes a great first impression. 

Installation and Application

There are a number of considerations when incorporating XGD solutions such as surveying and permitting, proper installation and ongoing project management. It’s important to work with trusted experts who have experience with all aspects of XGD, from initial idea to integration.