The Art of Environmental Branding

The tide is shifting—people are starting to look for more. Open-office concepts. Buying local. Food trucks. Pop-up shops. The days of the cube-farm and space being defined as a place simply to hold people are changing.

One of the things I haven’t been able to escape lately—perhaps I am more in tune with the shift as an artist myself—is the integration of art and environmental branding. From residential to corporate to retail, companies are starting to place a greater importance on art as a way to transform a space. Through murals, installations, and local artist commissions, companies are changing the way we look at successful brands and the spaces they occupy in our environment.

As a designer, you often pick up on the little things. The branded matchbooks, the art on the walls, the way a sign is built or lit. Is the art on the wall custom, or is it the same in every restaurant or hotel in a company’s portfolio? For me these questions have turned into “I think I know that artist” or “is that sign hand-painted?”, and that is an exciting change. While I will always appreciate and fight for the value in branding your materials head-to-toe, when a company begins to consider the more immersive ways to do this, often times they are rewarded with fantastic brand recognition and a shift in public perception. All of a sudden people want to spend more time in your space.

I will often notice these things as I’m going about my daily life—picking up a meal or traveling to a new place. These days, with artists having access to so many tools to expose people to their work, I’ve been seeing it almost daily—and it’s happening all over the place.


On a recent stop into Starbucks, I noticed some familiar art on the wall—and sure enough, once I got back to my desk I discovered a treasure trove of work illustrator Jesse LeDoux has done for the company—from wall art, to murals and installations all over the globe. How cool was it that a guy I once took a screenprinting class from has work in Starbucks stores across the globe? The best part to me is so many people will now be exposed to his work.

With a quirky and imaginative style I would have never paired with the Starbucks brand, I’m sure people will take notice as they are fixing up their Venti Almond Milk 2-Pump Cappuccinos—his work is unmistakably creative. The art Jesse has done is simply awesome, transporting you to a place of imagination and wonder—for Starbucks, he has explored the folklore surrounding the company, process, and more through his unique style.


Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I pick up my phone and see Tim Gough, an Illustrator/Art Director/Poster Maker out of Philadelphia created a mural for his local Honeygrow (unfortunately, not in Baltimore). I’ve got a few of Tim’s prints and follow his work, so I was excited to see a large company hiring a local artist to create a mural for one of their stores. So often you see large companies hiring mega-agencies to create environmental graphics to push out to stores nationwide—but when you think about it, who better to interpret your company’s values and aesthetic in a way that speaks to the customers in a specific region, than someone born and raised there? There has become a huge emphasis on local these days, whether it is locally-grown food, locally-produced goods, supporting the local economy—extending this into hiring local artists and designers just makes so much sense. I hope to see it more and more.


Take note next time you go on a coffee run, client lunch, or visit a new office. With this growing trend, there’s a good chance you’ll see something you didn’t expect as companies start to place a higher emphasis on art and experience. Inviting spaces that actually make you want to settle in, gather for a meeting, wind down and relax—these are the places that stick in the minds of consumers. I know, because I am one! And I certainly enjoy spending time in places that aren’t trying to shuffle you out the door. Building a lasting impression and brand loyalty goes a very long way.

For your next environmental branding project, consider giving Orange Element a call—whether you are local or on the other side of the country, we can bring together functional and artistic, tactile and digital, to create a space that has your customers coming back again and again.

Images courtesy of Tim Gough and Jesse LeDoux.