Julian Frood, Environmental Designer: “Adapt or die!”

Award-winning environmental designer Julian Frood recently added another string to his bow when he became PAM certified. We asked him to explain how PAM will impact his design process.

Julian Frood has been designing environments and complex wayfinding systems since 2013 when he first joined BrandCulture in Sydney. He recently completed PAM’s certification course – a five-day training program designed to up-skill designers and improve their efficiency, giving them more time to focus on the parts of the job they enjoy most.

 

Tell us about your design experience.

I chose environmental design as a major at university because I was interested in the cross-pollination of architecture and graphic design. From there, I joined BrandCulture, which is a studio that specialises in environments, branding and wayfinding. I learned about the value of strategic thinking and how it informs design documentation, which are both essential requirements of wayfinding design.

Do you have any favourite wayfinding projects?

The most extensive scale project I’ve worked on is implementing signage across the Sydney Suburban Trains network for TfNSW. Their processes are excellent, and I’ve learned a lot about how large-scale wayfinding systems are rolled out; specifically, the collaboration required between multiple stakeholders in varying industries.

I’ve also been involved on and off (since 2014 to present) with the implementation of an updated signage masterplan for UTS, created by Frost* Design, that has driven better connectivity across the campus – from the initial site audit to the development of campus maps for internal and external totem signage.

Can you describe your design process?

My process always begins with understanding the problem first. After that, I still think big but know whatever I do needs to fit within the constraints of the project, i.e. scale, program and budget – that’s the eternal struggle…

What I enjoy about the design process is collaborating and learning about other project trades, whether it’s an engineer explaining a building’s physical constraints or a heritage consultant telling the site’s history. I’m also learning a lot about integrating physical signage in a digital world.

What are the most frustrating parts of your role?

 One of the most frustrating things is convincing clients that more signage does not equal a better journey – I spend a lot of time trying to justify why they don’t need more signs but should invest in the right type of sign.

On any wayfinding project, there are multiple layers of documentation: flow diagrams, location plans, costing/messaging schedules, databases, and everything interconnects – one small strategic update can change everything. It’s frustrating, and it can be quite hard to stay on top and keep track.

Do you think PAM will improve your efficiency as a designer?

PAM will 100% improve my process for larger-scale wayfinding projects. It will reduce the amount of documentation I have to print out an update. And when it comes to client mark-ups, PAM will lessen the back-and-forth approvals process.

Instead of marking up changes by hand, scanning and emailing the documents, then waiting for me to update the changes at our end, the client can mark up changes online and make updates in real-time. The PAM Audit app will also deliver a substantial time-saving.

Do you still sketch things by hand? What would help you to become more streamlined and paperless?

Every concept for me still starts on paper, but it’s a small percentage of my time, everything soon ends up on screen. I think PAM is excellent for containing all the information related to large-scale wayfinding projects in one place.

PAM is like a virtual ping pong game between designer and client. Without PAM, you’re marking up floor plans with arrows and symbols that correlate with message schedules. You’re essentially creating presentations just for approval. Every time you make a change, you have to reissue the document – it’s minor stuff, but cumulatively it takes time.

With Pam, once you’ve uploaded floor plans, added sign locations, and choose from a library of signs, the client simply logs on to approve sign locations and content and it’s done.

We’d love to know what you thought of your PAM training sessions. What were the highlights? Where could we improve?

The training was informative and streamlined, and it gave me an excellent overview of the system’s capabilities. The trainers were helpful, and there were no questions they couldn’t answer.

Where do you find inspiration?

From my peers, and I subscribe to a tonne of architecture publications. There’s a lot of beautiful work out there, and a lot of talented designers pulling strings behind it. But I’m also inspired by any good craftsman. If I go to a bakery and see a perfectly formed lamington, or see a perfectly manicured lawn, I love knowing that someone has put time and effort into making something the best it can be.

Would you recommend Pam certification to other wayfinding designers?

Yes, it’s the future. It’s like Darwin said: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most receptive to change.” That’s what PAM is – it’s a platform that we can all work together on, which is beneficial for everyone in the wayfinding industry. Adapt or die!

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