The Boeing Company’s Everett, Wash., factory is home to the final assembly process for the Boeing 747, 767, 777, and 787 aircraft. It is the largest building in the world by volume (472 million cubic feet) and has a roof area of 12 acres. More than 30,000 employees work at the bustling hub of massive tools and equipment, airplane parts, inventories, office blocks, restaurants, full-size aircraft, and semi trucks.
This factory environment, which many would consider chaotic and confusing, demands a wayfinding system that can provide instant clarity on a large scale and detailed information on a small scale. The NBBJ design team focused on understanding the human needs of the entire Boeing Future Factory workforce—from the engineers, mechanics, and technicians who forge the aircraft to the office personnel who manage the business of making airplanes. A primary goal was to bring these disparate people and programs together for more collaboration and faster problem solving: to connect the people who design the planes with the people who build them. This focus formed the basis for design objectives for all disciplines within the project.
To help achieve this goal, environmental graphics focus primarily on organizing and clarifying the massive space by leveraging both the macro and micro scales within the facility. The factory has limited defined paths of travel. Most of the space is navigated randomly, so directional signage would be virtually useless. Instead, the NBBJ team employed a system of alpha-numeric designations for each of the building’s 238 support columns, forming a comprehensive wayfinding grid. Combined with the large-scale color-coding of the aircraft assembly bays, this system provides orientation at any given location in the factory.
Within the bays are five-story, perforated-metal “white walls,” conceived as visual relief elements in this complex environment. They were the perfect vehicle for integrating the color-coding of the bays and the grid identification graphics. They also designate collaboration areas, meeting rooms, and amenity spaces in the enclosed office towers.
Offices maintain the same color-coding and grid designations used on the factory floor. These elements are incorporated in signage, wall colors and graphics, artwork, custom carpet, and upholstery. To showcase the Boeing brand, Boeing products are reflected in a system of wall graphics that pair images of aircraft parts with visually similar images of the earth from above. This connects the advanced engineering of the aircraft product to the physical and emotional effects it has on the air traveler. The factory bay color-coding system and branded imagery are implemented throughout the factory-floor level, interior spaces, and miles of underground tunnels.
To date, these purposeful graphic interventions—implemented across the entire factory— have increased efficiency of navigation, collaboration, and employee morale.
Eric LeVine (principal in charge); Stephen Kellogg (lead designer); Robert Murray, Yusuke Ito, Samuel Stubblefield (designers)
NBBJ Architecture/Interiors Studios, NBBJ Lighting Studio
Trade-Marx Sign and Display Corp.