In 1966, Toronto-based Gottschalk+Ash was founded, and in 2011, Entro Communications merged with them in the shared pursuit of doing great design work. This year, the firm released a book detailing its separate and combined history, entitled “Cultivating a Design Legacy: The First 50 Years.” Read an excerpt on airports below.
The project started as a desire by Partners Andrew Kuzyk and Wayne McCutcheon to pay homage to Stuart Ash on the 50th Anniversary of the inception of Gottschalk+Ash. As they began developing the project, they realized there weren’t any books that truly spoke to the history of Canadian graphic design and Gottschalk+Ash’s international influence.
“Stuart Ash has been described as the ‘father of Canadian graphic design,’ and we wanted to communicate how he influenced a generation of people to deliver design excellence,” explains McCutcheon. “We felt it was important to tell the parallel stories of the two companies in the context of Canadian design and explain the synergy of the firms coming together,” adds Kuzyk.
The creation of the book was a true labor of love for the team, requiring deep research into their archives, interviewing current and past employees—and a bit of reflection on the merger that created their newly formed identity as Entro. Revealing the influences on the firms in the context of design history—with help from prominent Art Historian Brian Donnelly—was key to the formation of the book, enabling Entro to find its fit within the international cannon of design.
The result is a joyous and thoughtful celebration of Canadian design beginning with the creation of Canada’s Centennial logo in 1967. A significant portion of the experiential graphic design work in the volume centers on transit centers, including several Canadian airport projects. Many Canadian airports were privatized, becoming independent from Transport Canada, which precipitated a desire to build their own brands and passenger experiences.
Over the years, the firm has completed programs for Canada’s biggest and most respected airports, including Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, St. John’s Newfoundland and Halifax. Below, in an excerpt from “Cultivating a Design Legacy: The First 50 Years,” we will explore projects in Calgary, Ottawa and Pearson Toronto.
Cultivating a Design Legacy: The First 50 Years
Calgary Airport Themeworks | Gottschalk+Ash Calgary, Terry Heard Designers
The Themeworks program grew out of the insight that airport terminals can be more than generic, transitory space. Since passengers spend more time than ever travelling, why not give them an experience that makes their stay not just tolerable but engaging and memorable?
In conjunction with Terry Heard Designers and Dialog Architects, we enlivened the passenger experience at Calgary International Airport by creating a series of environmental installations, engaging viewers in a range of educational and entertaining experiences under the thematic statement, “Rhythms of the Landscape."
The site-specific works were inspired by a blend of art, technology and science related to Alberta, its history, present and future. Themeworks incorporated three scales of work: Tier 1–Iconic Works (the largest iconic pieces related to Alberta’s natural resources, technical achievements and related historical events); Tier 2–Discovery Works (smaller in scale, including seven decades of local aviation history); and Tier 3–Community Works (works of local Calgary photographers, illustrators, school groups and others).
Commissions for the project were chosen through a defined four-stage process: public invitation, short-listed competition, interview, and selection. Qualified entrants had to be professional artists, designers, artisans and craftspeople living in Alberta.
Artists were provided with a theme statement to focus their submissions: “The rhythm of our land is felt in the rock and soil of the earth, the energy of wind and fire, the transformation of soil and water. They are the resonant background against which the inhabitants of this environment—‘flora, fauna and humankind—have adapted to the distinct, yet interconnected eco-systems of mountain, foothill and plains. Spirit, risk and our sense of community, rooted in our pioneer heritage and entrepreneurial spirit, have forged our destiny and character.”
The resulting installations not only thrilled the client, but transformed the airport experience for millions of travellers.
Ottawa Airport | Gottschalk+Ash Calgary and Toronto, Terry Heard Designers
Visual cues for a signage and wayfinding solution often arise from the nature of a place itself. In the case of our three-year project for the Ottawa International Airport, we were inspired by the dots or runway lights you see from an airplane’s windows at night, or the ‘dots’ of windows in the plane itself.
At the airport, the name ‘Ottawa’ is rendered in dots in signage seen as you arrive by car, bus or taxi, or from the runway side when your plane lands. The motif is picked up in pictograms placed in dots, in patterns on the signage’s orange side panels and in directional arrows. We even integrated a row of LED lights into signage posts.
Working with Terry Heard Designers, the Gottschalk+Ash design team was hired to create the wayfinding and signage system to coincide with a major redevelopment of the Ottawa Airport and its new 26-gate passenger terminal. Collaborating with the architects and client, we developed a highly visible, post-mounted sign system that supports a clear hierarchy of primary and secondary information.
Since Ottawa is a mid-sized airport with clear sightlines from land-side to tarmac, we decided not to impede views with the usual signage pylons but to use instead a system of post-and-panel signs that have a small footprint.
The post system, created using a stock-extrusion, provides for flexibility in accommodating signage, the integration of lighting and telephone tables for waiting areas and advertising carriers. The silver panels and posts with orange side panels and integrated lights have an elegant look that harmonizes with the airport architecture and interior material palette.
The wayfinding and signage system received many industry awards, including ones from SEGD, Design Exchange and the RGD.
Toronto Pearson International Airport | Entro Communications, Pentagram NYC
The best wayfinding and signage system does not just complement an architectural space, it integrates with it completely, helping to define it. We were able to achieve this ideal with the program we created for Toronto Pearson International’s redeveloped Terminal 1.
Pearson is Canada’s largest airport, serving 34 million passengers annually, the world’s 20th largest hub airport. Working with Pentagram, we created a simple, clear and elegant wayfinding solution, carefully considering all decision points and routes to ease use for passengers.
Not only did the signage have to reflect the form of the terminal’s architecture, it had to blur the border between the soaring architecture and signage, creating a truly integrated system. In an iterative design process, our team built models and mockups, and studied sign positioning and messaging, so we never overwhelmed the passengers. We worked with a variety of agencies including the Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) to ensure our solutions were not just beautiful but functional for all users.
The signs created are unobtrusive, appearing to be extensions of the architecture. Overhead signs are designed in a double-curved propeller shape that blends with the ‘airplane wing’ roof structure.
We placed all English text on curved panels and French text on flat panels, so travellers could easily spot their language of choice. We also used color-coding to help with orientation: departures are yellow, arrivals are green, and public services and amenities are white. For the gate numbers, check-in areas and baggage claim signs, we employed perforated metal to create a highly visible ‘matrix font’. A font made up of dots is also used throughout the airport for changing information on LCD monitors.
We conducted tests prior to the opening of the airport to ensure our design was effective for the end user. We took into account the need for Braille applications for blind travelers. Large, brightly colored icons that meet international standards were used to help travelers who are visually impaired or who do not speak English or French. Because visibility was so important, we conducted distance studies to ensure our graphics would provide maximum visibility across the terminal’s vast interior spaces.
See also: Entro Communications’ Calgary Airport Wayfindingand Entro to Release "Cultivating a Design Legacy: The First 50 Years"