Entro Gets Cooking at Centennial College

The Entro (Toronto) design team whips up some tasteful branding, wayfinding, and placemaking solutions for Centennial College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts.

Centennial College, an international institution of higher education, began over 50 years ago as a local community college in Toronto, where the school now has four campuses. The college’s schools include, but are not limited to: The Business School; School of Communication, Media, Arts and Design; School of Community and Health Studies; School of Transportation and School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts.

At Centennial College’s Progress Campus, a new building is home to a 740-bed residence dubbed “Centennial Place” in addition to the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts. Inside the new building, the school’s facilities include a restaurant, classrooms, a 20,000-square-foot event space and state-of-the-art culinary and mixology labs—all set against a dramatic view of the city.


A Recipe for Success

Clients Centennial College and Knightstone Capital Management (academic and residential stakeholders, respectively), engaged Diamond Schmitt Architects, Inc. (DSAI) to build the multi-use structure, who brought branding and environmental communications firm Entro (Toronto) into the fold to execute a wayfinding system. The Entro team was excited to collaborate again with the client duo.

The feeling was clearly mutual; once the clients heard of the firm’s involvement, they asked the design team to expand their scope to incorporate branding and theming for the entire facility. The additional design responsibilities would include experiential graphics, promotional materials, menus and a website for the student-run café.

The project went smoothly and was gratifying for the design team. “The fact that the clients were able to bring us in at a critical stage of the process was key,” recounts Rae Lam, project director at Entro. “This project demonstrates the value in having a brand for specific places—and what happens when a design firm is able to conceive a brand and roll it out in many different aspects of the user experience, whether physical or virtual.” The timeline, however, was a challenge. The Entro team began their wayfinding work less than a year before completion and the branding work a mere seven months prior.


Centennial Place and Event Centre

In-depth meetings with the client group kicked off the residential branding portion of the project. Because of the condensed timeline, demographic and user research were mostly provided by Knightstone and Centennial College. Knightstone’s data was instrumental in helping the design team to understand how various design strategies and color schemes were working in other residential complexes; Centennial’s leadership team was critical in providing a clear vision for the school and helping assess the competitive landscape of culinary education institutions.

The Entro team was tasked to create the residence’s brand as a sub-brand to the college itself. The typeface was prescribed, but there was plenty of room to work with color and naming. “What we did was draw on the architectural features and palette of the space to develop the color schemes for the residences as well as the café,” says Lam. “That was the approach we took for the brands in terms of placemaking.” During a creative review with the clients, the name “Centennial Place” was chosen from several options, because it “felt the most like home.”

The exterior signage took cues from the tall vertical rectangles of the building’s windows, extrusions and other strong architectural features, with a purpose—clear visibility from the highway. Entro worked closely with DSAI to position the key identification vertically along the three stories above the main entrances of the building. This required careful and in-depth collaboration amongst the two teams. At the pedestrian and vehicular level, illuminated pylons signal the entrances to Centennial Place and the restaurant using the same vertical character.

Designed to be both modern and affordable, the interior wayfinding references the visual language of the Centennial College brand through the use of alternating gray tones and accented green edges that are present on all college-use signage. The residential signage program was designed to feel more playful and personal using multiple colors that align with the Centennial Place logo and correspond to each of the four floors.

On the eighth floor of the building is the Event Centre, a multi-use conference and banquet space replete with striking views and a luxurious atmosphere. The Entro design team developed an elegant yet simple identity system to complement the space while maintaining strong ties to the Centennial branding. “Serendipitously, the name has an equal number of letters, which allowed us to space out the letterforms to create an interesting and elegant logotype, appropriate to the idea of event spaces,” explains Lam.


The Local Café and Restaurant

The café located inside the new building, which the Centennial group dubbed “The Local,” is a full-service, globally-inspired training restaurant concept staffed by students, and open to the public—a unique opportunity to invite the community into campus to enjoy the benefit of having a culinary school in the neighborhood. These facts in mind, the design team looked to the surrounding community for inspiration.

“The community demographic is a mix of ethnicities and cultures that have come together,” says Lam. “The approach is meant to convey a multicultural feeling and the colors were derived from the flags of countries whose cuisines are served at the café.” She adds, “And visually, it fits under the Centennial Place umbrella, creating a family of brands.” A digital map marker inspired the logo mark for The Local, referencing both the diversity of cuisine and also to imply, “you are here.”

The map marker symbol and global flags led to map illustrations and colorful bands, which manifest in the form of a magnetic wall map with moveable colored markers that underscore the variety of global cuisine options offered in a way that is eminently flexible for the client. The combinations of elements in the environment accurately depict the spirit of the café as welcoming, modern, affordable, casual and community-oriented, but more importantly capture the cultural and dynamic essence of the Culinary Arts Program.


Online Accessibility

For The Local and the Event Centre, Centennial required a fully accessible online presence as part of their very progressive commitment to creating an inclusive physical and virtual environment for all. Working with and providing art direction to firm Soul FX, the Entro design team designed two fully accessible and responsive sites that meet the college’s strict directives and were reviewed by their dedicated accessibility department team.

“Part of our wayfinding mandate is that everything is designed for accessibility, and for this project, we were able to roll out an accessible website as well,” Lam remarks. “We are very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such an exciting project, in which we had a chance to really exhibit our breadth of skills and services.”

The Event Centre’s website features green and gray-accented navigation that funnels users toward two areas, “Venues” and “Events and Packages.” The site’s imagery draws on elegant food and event photography to relay the options available to event organizers. The Entro team also designed a series of downloadable pdf documents to assist with event sales.

The design team used a more vibrant color palette, employing blocks of orange, green and blue with lush food imagery, throughout for The Local Café and Restaurant’s site. They also furthered the continuity with the physical environment through the use of the same map and abstracted flag color band graphics to give users a sense of the global focus of the cuisine. The result is bright, warm, inviting and pleasant to navigate—perfectly in line with the physical space. 


Project Name: Centennial College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts
Client: Centennial College, Knightstone Capital Management
Location: Toronto
Open Date: September 2016
Project Area: 350,000 sq ft
Experiential Graphic Design: Entro
Design Team: Rae Lam (project director), Udo Schliemann (principal creative director), Doreen Colonello (creative director branding), Angela Carter (designer), Jacqueline Tang (senior designer)
Architect: Diamond Schmitt Architects, Inc.
Fabrication: Acumen Visual Group, WSI Sign Systems
Collaborators: Soul FX
Photos: Entro/Gerald Querubin