St. Albert Place is a cultural center within the community of St. Albert. Completed in 1983, the community building is home to the St. Albert Public Library, Arden Theatre, Heritage Museum, visual arts studios, community service offices, office of the mayor, and more.
The building is a realization of Douglas Cardinal, a Calgary-born architect. Cardinal’s work is defined by his curvilinear buildings and organic forms inspired by the prairies and riverbanks of Alberta. His designs are anchored by his Métis and Blackfoot heritage and philosophical influences.
Our goal for this project was to create a wayfinding system that allowed different audiences to effectively navigate it, bring together the branding elements of the City into one cohesive system, and instill a sense of culture, community, and belonging in the public space.
A main consideration for the visual design of the signs was to preserve the historical significance of the building while promoting St. Albert’s vibrant culture.
Existing signange in St. Albert Place
Signage found around St. Albert
Upon beginning our work on this project, the three of us took a short road trip to St. Albert, a small city located west of Edmonton, home of St. Albert Place. Our mission was to explore the building and make notes on their current wayfinding system — what signage was (and wasn't) in place and user decision points while navigating the space. We also gained more information by talking to staff and residents who visited the building.
After evaluating the signage in place, we concluded the following:
There is a wide range of user groups for the facility. Families with small children, high school and university students looking for a study space, lower income users who need to access to computers and Internet, and the weekday government employees all visit this destination. For the purposes of this project, we will focus on the time-rich weekend/weeknight visitor.
Moving through the space, the user should be able to find destination points with ease. For a first time user, an integrated visual system of the established city branding should provide a sense of familiarity and welcomeness, even if they have not been to the space before.
Our primary colour palette is based on the City of St. Albert’s visual identity guidelines while the secondary palette is more specific to St. Albert Place. We decided that the palette should identify the building as a part of the city but still have elements that made it a separate entity.
The typeface we applied throughout the system is Officina Sans ITC Pro since it is the one used for St. Albert’s visual identity system. The sans-serif typeface was designed by Erik Spiekermann within the ITC Foundry. It references the look of old type print technologies, however it is optimized for improved legibility when printing. Beyond keeping the familiarity of the City of St. Albert’s brand, the typeface’s sans serif style and large x-height allows for text to be legible at various sizes and from near or far distances. It references that modern-historical aesthetic that the building embodies.
We developed an icon system similar to the AIGA system of regulatory icons that are most commonly used and understood. We paired the icons with text to reinforce understanding, especially for visitors who don’t speak English. We created an arrow that mimics the angles and weight of the typeface we used, which integrates it into the signage cohesively.
Acrylic would be used for all signage,as it is versatile, light, and durable. It has the ability to be vibrantly coloured, and would be used to achieve the wrap-around and layering effect that all of the signs utilize.
This material would be used for the base of the larger outdoor signs. Concrete is very durable and weather resistant, and it evokes a sense of solidity that matches the architecture of St. Albert Place. Concrete brings in a fresh update to the brown brick of the building.
This project was created for Design 593, a senior level visual communication design class taught by Gillian Harvey at the University of Alberta in the fall semester of 2019.
Special thanks to the City of St. Albert for providing reference materials, as well as the building staff who graciously answered our many questions.
September – December 2019
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