The Hurd Welcome Center at Baylor University

Amplify column exterior and interior. Photo courtesy Matt Kocourek

Populous, RLMG, Electrosonic, and Xibitz recently collaborated on the Hurd Welcome Center at Baylor University. Hear even more about this project at the 2024 SEGD Conference Experience Dallas.

The Hurd Welcome Center is the first impression that new and prospective students have when they visit the Baylor University campus. It also serves as a destination and workplace for alumni, faculty, and others in the Baylor community. The136,000-sf facility is designed to generate enthusiasm for Baylor’s culture and academic programs. The challenge for the branded experiences at the new Hurd Welcome Center at Baylor University was how to reflect the university’s deep history and long-standing traditions, while inspiring future students and connecting them to a rich community today.

The driver for the design was to create an emotional connection to Baylor when experiencing the space.  Within the Grand Hall, and visible from the exterior, stand four 96-foot-tall light columns. These architectural elements are inspired by the 4 columns still standing at Baylor’s original campus. These columns serve as a beacon for prospective students. They are also house experiential installations that users can explore. Upon entry into the atrium, visitors each receive a custom badge and proceed to the columns. Each of the columns offers a photo-opp-worthy experience designed to be shared with friends and family.  

Grand Hall: When walking through the front doors of the Welcome Center, guests are met with four, 96-foot-tall light columns placed strategically along the path towards the admissions reception area. Photo courtesy RLMG / Populous

The idea of illumination and “sharing your light” are core tenets to the university. This concept of light is used as a design tool to reinforce the story of Baylor and create a unifying statement. The columns are each themed based on Baylor values: Reflect, Connect, Aspire and Amplify. The lower portion of the columns feature reflective colored glass that folds into the architecture. By designing every physical aspect of the welcome center in-house and in tandem, the architecture, interiors and experiential are integrated seamlessly, resulting in a venue with depth and authenticity. Each column features a brass icon on its exterior – a symbol representing the experience within. These were developed to give each pillar an identity, making them a destination.    

Taken together, the themed and activated spaces embody the ethos of Baylor University and represent a student’s journey through the university, going from seeing themselves (reflect) to developing as a person (connect and aspire) to becoming positive change in the world (amplify). 


The Reflect column encourages you to see yourself as part of Baylor. Upon entrance, individuals will find themselves in an infinity room, featuring six fully reflective surfaces that create a 360-degree mirror effect. A rear projected media surface projects Baylor specific content onto the ceiling of the space, giving the illusion of infinite pattern. This space offers individuals endless photo opportunities as the media and lighting constantly loops.   


The Connect column allows people to discover the community within Baylor. Individuals enter Connect and are met with a nearly 360-degree media screen that activates based on proximity. The media screen plays a highly produced hype reel featuring key moments in Baylor student life, from timeless Baylor traditions to electric showcases of Baylor athletics. The ceiling of the Connect column contains a custom light feature designed to emulate the theme.    

The Reflect Pillar interior: Six fully reflective surfaces create a 360-degree mirror effect. Rear-projection on the ceiling gives the illusion of an infinite pattern. Photo courtesy RLMG / Populous


Aspire encourages users to prosper academically and spiritually. As users enter this column, they are greeted with an LED track spiraling up into the space. This LED spiral not only embodies the spirit of aspiration, but also displays content. As users scan their tour badge on the central podium on the floor, their name, city, and academic major will slide up the spiral, allowing for a unique photo opportunity. The interior walls of the Aspire column are clad with perforated gold metal, which are internally illuminated with pulsing light, encircling the room in Baylor brand colors.    


The central focus of Amplify is in magnifying and shining your light around the world. It uses powerful alumni messaging to tell this story. A media display in the shape of a globe sits high in the column. Fully produced media that includes motion graphics and audio loops on the globe and features sound bites from notable Baylor alumni. The center of the column contains a table with an illuminated Baylor logo and captioning screen. Surrounding the room are orbs of light that reinforce the idea of each person’s light within.  

View into the Aspire column. Photo courtesy Matt Kocourek

All column experiences have the ability to easily change out media within each unique form factor and allow for different modes. This gives Baylor flexibility and keeps the content and experience fresh. Careful prototyping with our partners ensured that the appropriate display surfaces and audio speaker systems were used to deliver the right visitor experience, whether the desired effect was contemplative or exhilarating.   

The objective for this unique experience is to leave those who interact with it something memorable and meaningful. The Hurd Welcome Center is a culmination of emotional storytelling, innovative spatial design and state-of-the-art technology. The success of this project comes from listening and closely collaborating with a forward-thinking client who wanted a welcome center that set it apart from other universities. 

Hear From Populous at the 2024 SEGD Conference Experience Dallas

Learn more about this project at the upcoming 2024 SEGD Conference Experience in Dallas, TX, from September 26-28. Brian Mirakian, Senior Principal of Populous, will present how “the Baylor Hurd Welcome Center exemplifies the conference’s theme, ‘audacious dreams.’ This project is a significant source of pride for us at Populous. It has transformed the recruitment experience, establishing a new benchmark for the capabilities of such spaces. We are eager to share our experiences and insights with the SEGD community.”Don’t miss your opportunity to be a part of the conversation. Sign up for the 2024 SEGD Conference Experience Dallas here.

Connect column exterior. Photo courtesy Matt Kocourek

Project Collaborators:

About SEGD

We are designers of experiences connecting people to place. SEGD is a multidisciplinary community collectively shaping the future of experience design. We are a thought leader and an amplifier in the practice of experience design. Learn more at