We were excited to serve as the graphic design consultants to William Rawn Associates Architects (link) for updates to the Boston Public Library; one of our primary tasks was the development of the environmental graphics in the Children’s Library. The Children’s Library is a small part of the major renovation, but it was one of the top priorities for the library’s President and staff. They wanted to create a destination within the city for children and their caregivers with a major “wow factor,” and more services and amenities than they were able to offer in their previous space. The graphic requirements were relatively few:

  • Create five distinct areas that are connected by an overall theme
  • Integrate the overall theme of “Read Play Learn”
  • Include three lion cubs in the illustrations (to echo the three glowing lion cubs scattered throughout the room)
  • Reflect a strong connection to Boston

Aside from the above requirements, the library relied on us to help define the type of content and style appropriate for the space. Illustration is very subjective and the time required to develop a finished solution is significant. So initially we focused on brainstorming ideas and discussing graphic styles, instead of spending a lot of our time and budget drawing. In one of our early meetings with the Library we presented a series of Venn diagrams and simple sketches to help bring together the themes of “Read Play Learn” with elements of Boston in a fun, unexpected, and kid-like way. These were presented alongside a series of precedents to aide in a discussion about graphic styles.

Once we agreed upon the content and the graphic style (the library had a strong preference for an image combining overlapping shapes with a white line graphic), we were able to move confidently towards the finished illustrations that cleverly intertwine the primary neighborhoods of Boston with elements of reading, playing, and learning to create five “chapters” that progress through age and color. As represented by the selected precedent image, each chapter features a dominant color; bold, simple graphics; and a single, white line that weaves its way through the city. “Book birds” fly high, while stacks of books featuring authors with local ties provide a backdrop to each neighborhood.  As a final element of play, the three lion cubs are integrated into the white line graphics, and are hidden within the chapters to create a fun “Where’s Waldo” type challenge.

Topics: environmental graphics, Graphics