Allen Institute for Brain Science

Finalist 2017

Focusing on the many layers of “connection” our minds make on a daily basis, the Allen Institute for Brain Science’s environmental graphics program reflects the organization’s collaborative approach to neuro-research. The cornerstone of the graphics program is "Pathways", a 150-foot light box with color changing LEDs and printed graphic panels displayed on the building exterior. It is a public art installation that visually interprets different ways in which neural pathways connect– a theme that recurs throughout the entire graphics program. In the printed panels, densely grouped arrows, numbers and typographic letter forms are revealed and concealed by the shifting color of the LED lights. The symbols used reflect three aspects of the research happening inside the institute: neural pathways observed in the form of arrows, computational analysis in the form of binary code and language inference in the form of letters. As the light shifts in color, the corresponding printed imagery is obscured while the opposing color is emphasized. The lighting effect creates a provocative and dynamic media wall that engages passersby to think about how their brains process information. Connections continue inside the building at the central elevator core where strong line work echoes the neural firings within "Pathways." Routed lines in focal walls move outward and cut through the elevator core steel to reveal bright, colorful slashes that compose each level numeral. Floor levels are identified by a specific color similar to the stains used in identifying various parts of the brain during research. Level colors extend from the elevator core to all code, laboratory and room signage as wayfinding cues.

Design Firms: 

Studio SC


Allen Institute for Brain Science

Project Area: 

270,000 sq ft

Open Date: 

November 2015

Photo Credits: 

Lara Swimmer Photography, Gudmundur Ibsen Photography, Billy Chen

Design Team: 

Mark Sanders (Project Director), Billy Chen (Design Director), Faith Berry (Senior Designer), Cory Binau (Senior Designer)


Perkins + Will (architect), Pacific Lighting Systems (lighting consultant), GLY Construction (general contractor)


Image Mill (digital print graphics fabricator), Rainier Displays (elevator core fabricator), Tube Art Group (signage and focal wall fabricator)

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