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Wednesday
Sep042013

Touring the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago  

Image © Gensler

In the spring of 2012, Gensler was approached by the American Red Cross to infuse brand awareness into their existing regional headquarters in Chicago. Visitors tour the space daily and the Red Cross wanted a fun, yet informative way to visually tell their story and honor the generosity of their donors and volunteers. We kicked off the project with a visioning session to better understand who the American Red Cross is; they did not disappoint. The Red Cross is best known for their disaster relief and blood drives, but their services extend far beyond that. This design project was an opportunity to get that message across.

In the lobby, we installed new large scale banners as a not-so-subtle way of showcasing the five primary services: Military, International, Disaster, Health and Safety and Blood. These banners include powerful, emotionally driven imagery that give visitors an immediate understanding of the Red Cross umbrella of care. On the opposite wall, there are story panels relating to each of these five service areas, giving visitors a more intimate look at each offering. To break up the static text, a series of LED tickers provide an up-to-the-minute system for scrolling messages to express their gratitude to current supporters. Once tourists walk deeper into the space, they encounter additional donor plaques honoring high level and campaign specific donors.

Another new addition to the reception area is a large touch-screen kiosk at the reception desk, which invites passersby to “Join Us.” This message calls people to action, allowing them the opportunity to sign up to volunteer, donate blood, register for health and safety classes or make a donation to the local Chicago chapter.

Image © Gensler

Beyond the entry experience, tour stops are strategically placed throughout the facility to showcase Red Cross history or key services. We developed a custom wallcovering, made up of a tonal pattern of crosses, to sit behind a dimensional Red Cross logo with a header for each story. These items combine to act as visual cues to distinguish each tour stop. The subtle backdrop allows the contrast of the brand stories, rendered in bold Red Cross colors, to stand out and grab people’s attention.

Knowing that not all tours take the same path, we kept the narrative flexible by ensuring each tour stop contained a stand alone story. When travelling between floors, the elevator lobbies offered an opportunity to celebrate important, non-tour stop, Red Cross stories. These locations feature image panels and display cases to hold artifacts that convey the Red Cross Legacy (1st floor), Volunteer Appreciation (2nd floor) and Celebration of Ad Campaigns (3rd floor). Each case is equipped with a pinnable back surface and a series of shelves to allow maximum flexibility for future storytelling opportunities.

Image © Gensler

To stress the importance of urgency, the typical first stop is the newly rebuilt EOC (Emergency Operations Center) where the Red Cross gathers in the event of a disaster. A dry erase, magnetic map of the greater Chicago area adds a graphic, yet functional tool for emergency responders to plan a strategy that provides aid. The first step in disaster relief is getting the victim to feel comfortable before they can start the road to recovery. We incorporated a series of display cases into the supply closet doors to prominently highlight the items Red Cross gives to those in need during a disaster, including blankets, teddy bears, water, and more.

Located close-by is the multipurpose room, where the Red Cross conducts classes focused on Health and Safety. Story panels explain key training techniques for CPR, showcase the three “Be Red Cross Ready” icons, and display a training AED unit for visitors to have a hands-on understanding of how to use this life saving equipment.

Also important to their life-saving mission is the organization’s blood services facility, which was recently expanded to allow significantly more storage space for blood and plasma. Additionally, the space is used as a reference lab for tracking and supplying rare types of blood. There are three tour stops in this corridor that speak to the lifesaving power of blood, blood collection and biomed distribution.

Rounding up the second floor are the conference room and the training room. The Red Cross gathers in the conference room for town hall meetings. It is the perfect space for highlighting the volunteer community. This tour stops pays homage to the selfless people who donate their personal time to take care of those in need via a visual display of hundreds of current volunteers. The training room, however, acts as a call center during emergencies. A typographic wallcovering was designed for this space, featuring comforting phrases to remind volunteers of the importance of what they are doing and the people they are talking to on the other end of the phone.

Image © Gensler

Along the 3rd floor executive corridor, two tour stops showcase the international and military stories. Visitors are reminded how far the American Red Cross reaches, with an international presence made up of more than 185 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide. Also here, tourists can learn about the ways that Red Cross helps military families cope with deployment, send support and welcome veterans home.

In the executive conference room, focus shifts to the fundamental principles - humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality - are prominently displayed in frames on the wall.

At the conclusion of a tour, visitors arrive at the green roof located on the fourth floor. The view of downtown Chicago not only reinforces the Red Cross’ connection to the city in which it serves, but is a reminder of the important work the Chicago chapter continues to do, both locally and regionally, with the help of hundreds of volunteers.

The Gensler team was honored to work with this important client to bring all of their services to light through bold, inspirational storytelling at its expanded and refreshed facility in the West Side Medical District. Stephen Kellogg, Kim Lindstrom, Tony LoBello and I were fortunate enough to be a part of the organization’s ribbon cutting ceremony on May 6, 2013 at 2220 W. Harrison.

Image © Gensler

Chad Finken is a Brand Designer in the Chicago office. He focuses on storytelling from a user's experience in a fully-branded environment, utilizing both two-dimensional and time based media. His workplace expertise has benefited a wide variety of projects ranging from non-profits to global corporations. Contact Chad at chad_finken@gensler.com.

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