SAT signage program

Wayfinding system for the newly renovated building
Montréal, 2011

The Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) is a center dedicated to research, creation, production, education and dissemination of the digital culture. Every year, it produces about 240 events, attracting over 80 000 people. In 2010-2011, the SAT’s building, located in the heart of downtown Montréal, went under major renovations. Most notably, they added a third floor called the Sensorium, which is comprised of the Foodlab and the Satoshère — a 60 foot diameter planetarium-like dome for immersive projections.

Pierre-Alexandre and I were given the mandate to develop the signage program that would help the general public, special guests and also SAT’s employees navigate through the multiple levels to find where departments and dedicated spaces are located.

The first step was, with the help of the SAT’s directors and the staff, to identify which spaces were to be dedicated to whom and what, as the renovations were still ongoing when we started the project in July 2011.

For the second step, the question of public, semi-public and private spaces quickly arose, prompting us to identify the types of users that would use particular spaces at different times during the day. With that settled, we started working on a circulation pattern for each of them, which helped us determine the information hierarchy, and where to install directional signs and what their content should be.

Once the identification and the directional signs were approved by the SAT, we started working on the look and feel of what would become a permanent part of this well-known urban hub. The main challenge was to create a visual identity that would be subtle enough to blend into the decor to not be in the way of other signage installed for punctual events. We decided to base our concept on a typeface that would represent both the simplicity of the architecture and the decidedly cutting-edge side of the SAT’s core activities. We chose the ‘IRMA‘ typeface from Typotheque as it’s a modern, geometric and all-caps typeface.

An exciting part of the development was the creation of custom pictograms for the ladies and gentlemens washing cabinets. Since skirts and pants are no longer distinctive of gender, we’ve stripped the visual representation of female and male to their simplest expression. The result: a stylized and jolly naked duo.

We followed basic standards of signage programming to determine the size of the lettering and height of each sign. We used applied vinyl on windows when it was possible and for the walls, we used printed ink on frosted acrylic plaques, creating a soft drop-shadow along the black lines.

The only grand gestures we’ve made for the signage is a 9 foot tall shortlist of what can be found on every level applied to the wall inside of the main entrance. Additionally, a 3 foot wide SAT logo, cut in thick aluminum sheet, was installed on the building’s street facade.

Special thanks to Véronique Béland and her team at Lamcom for the production of the acrylic plaques and vinyl lettering.

  • Aluminum logo on the street facade.
  • 9 feet tall list in the main entrance showing the 4 levels occupancy for a better understanding of the activities on each one of them.
  • Close up of the wall applied vinyl letters.
  • Ladies and gentlemen toilets pictograms. Since skirts and pants are no longer distinctive of gender, we've striped them down to there most simple expression.
  • Vinyl letters applied on windows to describe what one can find behind those specific doors.
  • Work in progress. Color coded post-it showing space identification and directional signage sign for the "Level 0".
  • Work in progress. Level 0 plan, indicating public (yellow) and semi-public (pink) spaces. Also showing the positioning of future signs with the same color code as the post-it above.
  • Heights for each type of signage according to the surface type and location.
  • Floor plans of every levels with indication of signs placement.