Environmental graphic design and experiential graphic design are visual communications manifested in the physical, material world. Naturally, then, materials are the DNA of the environments and experiences that result. Materiality establishes the tone and nature of their visual vocabulary.
Materials are to environmental and experiential graphic designers as paints or pastels are to fine artists. Designers and fabricators practicing EGD and XGD have a world of options at their fingertips, and understanding them is a key competency of the discipline.
For signage and displays, common elements include metals (aluminum, steel, bronze, brass, and copper), masonry, porcelain enamel, laminates, vinyl, acrylic, fabric, glass, stone, and wood. Working in close collaboration with fabricators, designers choose materials based on a combination of durability, weather and vandal resistance, performance, and aesthetic criteria. Fabrication processes and finishes are also important material considerations, as are paints and coatings and adhesives, fasteners, and hardware used in manufacturing.
Increasingly, EGD and XGD practitioners are concerned with the impact of their choices on the environment. To the extent possible, they choose materials with sustainability in mind. Certification systems such as LEED, Living Building Challenge, and others provide guidelines about sourcing and using sustainably-focused materials, products, and processes.