Scholastic is the world’s largest educational publisher and distributor of children’s books, home to favorites like Harry Potter, Clifford the Big Red Dog and Captain Underpants. Pentagram created environmental graphics for the publisher’s corporate headquarters in New York City that reimagine the iconic characters in a series of large-scale artworks and installations. The unique approach was inspired by the office location in historically art-rich SoHo, as well as the superstar status of Harry and friends, and brings the spaces to life in a magical and dynamic way. The Pentagram team also designed a system of signage and wayfinding for the headquarters.
The program looks ahead to Scholastic’s centennial in 2020 and is part of a new renovation that updates the interiors of the headquarters, which were notably designed by the postmodern architect Aldo Rossi in 1994 to merge two cast-iron buildings at 555-557 Broadway. The 2018 revitalization makes the offices more cohesive and moves the main entrance and lobby to the building’s opposite side, at 130 Mercer Street.
The installations integrate the characters into the architecture in a variety of materials and media, utilizing artworks and text from Scholastic books and publications in an artistic way so that the space feels vibrant, witty and joyful. In the lobby, the new front desk is an illuminated 18-foot-long “magic bookshelf” built of 800 books that appear to float in air. The covers of the books were redesigned by the Pentagram team to feature the names of authors published by Scholastic. Above, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter floats in a colorful grid in the painted-glass style of UK artists Gilbert and George. Nearby, the Magic School Bus is rendered as a dimensional pegboard made of 15,000 wooden dowels painted school-bus yellow.
A giant, three-dimensional Captain Underpants smashes through a wall, and crime-fighting duo Dog Man and Cat Kid appear in a two-story mural painted in the pointillistic Pop Art style of Roy Lichtenstein. Clifford the Big Red Dog is one of Scholastic’s biggest stars and appears in seven-foot-tall murals on the elevator banks on each floor, made of stretched canvas sewn with fur, so people can pet the walls. The employee cafeteria on the building’s top floor has been renamed Clifford’s––complete with a sign in big, furry type––and features ceramic tiles hand-painted with the Big Red Dog’s likeness.
Paula Scher (partner in charge); Courtney Gooch, Rory Simms, Joy Wu (designers); Sarah McKeen (project manager)