What’s the News?
After Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. acquired The Wall Street Journal and the Dow Jones Corp., the conglomerate needed a new facility to assimilate its various entities. It hired Studios Architecture to design a five-floor, 300,000-sq.-ft structure at 1211 Avenue of the Americas to mesh its myriad online and print components. In turn, Studios Architecture recommended Design360 (NYC) to design the environmental graphics. According to Jill Ayers, Design360’s creative director, the multi-faceted system of wayfinding, digitally printed graphics and electronic message displays meshed into a single, iconic system.
“The dynamic graphics and hallway displays became an architectural extension, so the job required close collaboration with Studios and Dow Jones,” she said. “Although there are several brands under the Dow Jones umbrella, we chose to emphasize Dow Jones as the brand which we reflect in the typeface, Helvetica Neue, and general space aesthetics.”
The wayfinding system encompasses the Dow Jones numeric system for workstation and office assignments, as well as directional graphics that indicate lobby areas, support rooms and various facility amenities. System colors reflected the color palettes of the various interiors. The main IDs in the elevators lobbies were internally illuminated blue to match the Dow Jones logo’s color.
“The biggest challenge was the design of the dynamic media walls’ multiple stories. Our original animations were very complex, but because the content would require internal updates,” Ayers said. “We dialed back our program to emphasize the company’s news feeds and content. Also, the move-in occurred in phases, and managing the diverse types of components with the schedule required careful management.”
Studios Architecture’s interest in integrating dynamic media and architecture spurred the use of electronic message centers. Their content comprises updates of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, weather reports, real-time headlines and images from Wall Street Journal and WSJ Magazine editions. The media walls incorporate 20mm-pixel, LED panels, which are complemented by seamless-video cubes and vertical, flatscreen timeclocks, which operate the Kybtec program, which offers up-to-date times in various important cities. A-V Services coordinated electronic components’ operation, and XL Video supplied the dynamic-message system. Scala software operates the programs.
To create engaging wall graphics, Design360 selected historically significant covers from past The Wall Street Journal and Barron’s editions. Glass walls and panels, which were direct-printed via dye-sublimation, feature graphic renderings of photos of the Wall Street Journal newsroom that depict its evolution through the years. The firm teamed with Howard Hoffman, Dow Jones’ corporate-affairs VP, to select the imagery.
Xibitz (Grand Rapids, MI) fabricated the wayfinding and digital graphics. Chuck Plockmeyer, the company’s account executive, said, in addition to the project’s tight schedule, implementing the diverse range of specified materials posed challenges: “Design360 wanted the zinc wayfinding placards to appear raw, which is challenging because the material is typically painted to mask natural imperfections. We refined a sanding and etching process that created the desired look.”
To frame the zinc signage, Design360 specified Richlite material, which is made from compressed paper. The main Dow Jones ID implements laser-cut steel, which was blued to prevent rust, CNC-routed acrylic and laser-cut text. A seemingly simple design, the “On Air,” sign that notifies staffers when a show is in production, required extensive testing to make sure the sign – it comprises laser-cut, perforated metal, CNC-routed, direct-printed acrylic text and a shear-bent and -formed box – had enough color saturation to appear bright red when lit, yet completely blank when off.
To fabricate the wall graphics, Xibitz used Jet Text, a PVC- and phthalate-free, wallcovering media. The initial designs required slight modifications to help the graphics flow seamlessly over irregularly shaped walls. To create a “timeless snapshot” and aid graphic alignment, he said they modified the graphics to grayscale.
Plockmeyer said, “The signage integrates with the architectural sophistication to evoke the proud heritage of the News Corp. The materials and processes emulate the printing methods of days gone by, while suggesting the forward thinking of a very modern company today.”