The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri is the site of a modern icon – the Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen – and a historic 91-acre landscape by Dan Kiley. Michael Van Valkenburg Associates (MVVA) won the City Arch River international design competition in 2010 with a visionary plan to revitalize the Arch grounds, the riverfront and portions of the neighboring downtown.
As part of this scope, MVVA led the redesign of Kiener Plaza, the city’s main public square that links the National Park Arch grounds with the Gateway Mall – the main public space downtown that includes Citygarden and Richard Serra’s public sculpture Twain. We were commissioned by MVVA to design signage for the revitalized Kiener Plaza.
MVVA’s work in public space and landscape is characteristically contemporary and timeless, understated yet equally graphic. The signage for Kiener Plaza maintains these same qualities by using a contemporary sans serif with distinctive characters that offset it from being a more standard grotesque typeface. To sit discreetly within the minimalist environment, signage is etched directly into surfaces and left plain or filled with color. Forms are constructed from stainless steel – the material used by the landscape architects throughout the Plaza and also for the Arch, which is prominently visible on the far end of the two-block Plaza. The system includes the attribution for “The Runner” – the sculpture that sits at the center of the main fountain; donor recognition for those who funded the revitalization; and playground signage. With play and public spaces, Kiener Plaza is a sophisticated yet informal gathering place for the city, a sensibility echoed in our design scheme.
Velvet Coat is a fashion retailer with two stores in Iowa, one in Des Moines and a second in Iowa City. Bringing together a mix of established and emerging designers, Velvet Coat offers a thoughtful collection of beautifully designed contemporary pieces; and has established itself as one of the leading fashion retailers in the region since opening nearly two decades ago.
We created the Velvet Coat identity using different characters from three serif typefaces for the logotype and for the body type by using GREP styles, giving what at first glance looks quite classic a contemporary edge. The body type is paired with a modern sans serif for secondary information. We used simple, affordable materials for packaging and printed matter, yet with the addition of letterpress printing and custom details, these understated pieces maintain a sophisticated quality. This combination of elements convey the retailer’s foundation of timeless pieces intermixed with more experimental wears from up-and-coming designers.
Velvet Coat does not sell online, but wanted a distinct digital presence to introduce itself to customers. For a site with minimal content, we designed a highly interactive website that changes with each new visit by randomly generating different combinations of photographs from the brands carried in store. Our design establishes a distinct graphic language around the type-based identity.
Invitation, program and collateral for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ annual fundraising gala to support a year’s worth of programs and performances. Briefed to create a contemporary design to fit the playful, relaxed atmosphere of the event and the Festival’s unconventional approach, the identity balances a classic storytelling quality with a fun modern feel through the combination of fonts and reflected graphic.
The City of Clayton is the county seat of St. Louis, Missouri bordering the City of St. Louis. Its downtown business district is one of the fastest growing in the region with a diverse population of local residents and professionals; and attracts many visitors to its government center and area restaurants and shops. People travel to and around Clayton by car despite it being well-connected by public transport and incredibly walkable. In an effort to change this, the City of Clayton commissioned us to create a pedestrian and vehicular wayfinding program that makes it easy to navigate the city on foot and encourages people to park upon arrival, ultimately reducing road congestion.
We carried out a wayfinding study and led a series of public consultations to identify issues. We found that even long-time residents who knew the city well still relied heavily on their cars out of habit, but also because of a misconception about the time it takes to walk from one place to another. We developed a comprehensive signage system that includes pedestrian fingerposts with times to key places, kiosks with pedestrian maps, vehicular directionals and parking identification.
While downtown Clayton has many contemporary skyscrapers, the streetscape has a traditional quality with brick pavings and cast-iron lampposts. Our intent was to create a modern signage system that could sit within this context with restraint – to have a contemporary, yet timeless aesthetic that is highly visible but with a subtle presence. We designed the full system in black, powder-coated steel, with pedestrian signage accented with red-orange caps. Each kiosk includes You-Are-Here pedestrian maps, created for all unique locations. Our team carried out all aspects of the project, including wayfinding, map design and industrial design. The final system included over 100 signs installed across the full extent of Clayton’s downtown.
In 2006, the Gateway Foundation transformed two vacant blocks in downtown St. Louis to create Citygarden, a highly acclaimed urban sculpture park featuring works by leading contemporary and twentieth-century artists. Open 24 hours a day with no fences or barriers, Citygarden encourages visitors to interact with the sculptures in a way almost never seen: to touch, even climb on, the works if they so choose. The garden was the culmination of the Foundation’s two decades of work placing sculptures by internationally renowned artists in public spaces throughout the region.
Combining captivating photographs taken over a two-year period with scholarly texts, this book documents each work and the environment in which it stands – from busy urban streets to suburban green spaces. With a focus on the relationship between sculpture, place, and people, it offers a rarely depicted view of such significant works, not in a museum or gallery, but as integral to the diverse landscape and activities of the city.
Appointed to oversee editorial direction and design the book, we led the project from inception – commissioning writers, editors, photography and hand-drawn maps – ultimately securing a publication partnership with Prestel for international distribution.
The book includes essays by Director of MIT’s List Visual Arts Center Paul Ha; Dean of Graduate Studies at RISD Patricia Phillips; author Robert Duffy; Dean and Professor of Architecture at Fay Jones School of Architecture, University of Arkansas, Peter MacKeith; and landscape architect Warren Byrd. Photographer Ross Mantle photographed the collection and London-based artist J. Maizlish Mole created two detailed hand-drawn maps of the garden and city that record his experiences visiting each sculpture over the summer.
We were commissioned by the Saint Louis Art Museum to design wayfinding and signage for its expansion by David Chipperfield Architects. The original and main building, designed by Cass Gilbert, was built as one of the exhibition pavilions for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Significant growth in the collection’s contemporary artworks led to a major commission to expand the museum. The new pavilion sits with understatement in the landscape, set back within a grove of trees beside the original Beaux Arts building.
Our brief was to develop a wayfinding scheme that unites the original museum with the new modern wing, creating one system to be used throughout both spaces. In keeping with the sensibility of the space, signage is executed with simplicity and restraint, integrated into the building’s materials for unobtrusive, yet clear navigation. For navigational signage and room identifications, type is silkscreened onto interior surfaces or panels of blackened metal. The donor wall, located within the entry vestibule, was specially crafted in Venetian plaster with sponsor names cut in polished stainless steel and embedded by hand. Exterior building signage is cast into the concrete plinths of the landscaped forecourt.
Corrigan Company is one the largest mechanical contractors in the US, leading complex piping projects for industrial and institutional buildings across the country. Founded in 1896, the company has remained family-owned to this day. To celebrate 120 years in business, we created a visual identity for the anniversary that brings a fresh perspective to the company and engages both staff and external audiences.
The visual identity comprises three elements – typographic seals, headline messaging and illustrations – all paired with a vibrant color palette taken from technical piping drawings. Executed with bold simplicity and a bit of humor, the visual identity reflects the down-to-earth, non-corporate personality of this family-owned company, yet in a manner that conveys professionalism and expertise.
We created a booklet that tells the company’s story through the decades – with illustrations to represent key buildings and historic moments. These illustrations paired with humorous copy served as the foundation for campaign graphics. The project allowed the identity to extend across various applications, from print ads to t-shirts, from packing tape to post-cards, and from construction site signage to ball markers and golf polos. This diverse collection of collateral was given to clients and staff in celebration of Corrigan’s 120 years in business.
Washington University commissioned architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to design a 66,000-square-foot athletic complex for students and university athletes. We were commissioned at the start of the three-year design process to develop the building’s wayfinding strategy and design all signage. This included directionals, code signage and donor recognition. The client’s intent was to have a discreet signage system that felt integrated into the largely open-plan, naturally-lit space. With few interior walls, we inserted the directional signage into the vertical beams throughout the space. Since the building is the most modern on campus and the least formal (given its recreational use), we used a contemporary typeface in a vibrant shade of red – the signature color of the university’s sports teams – to capture the dynamic energy of the activities taking place in the space.