A room with a table and chairs.

Product Design Gets Graphic:
A Story of Life Safety

Gensler’s showstopper of a New York office is located on Broadway at the head of the Theater District, and, in planning the space, the designers sprinkled in all sorts of touches that take their cues from the neighborhood. We have a bridge that spans our reception area like a catwalk. Our elevator lobbies are illuminated with downscaled spotlights. And even the safety graphics on our glass walls and office fronts — distraction markings in industry speak — mimic the look of the stage markings actors follow when they’re giving a performance. It’s all very subliminal, yet it speaks to the lengths that our interiors teams go in making sure our projects are bespoke, beautifully integrated, and on-brand.

But as an owner or tenant, what do you do when a tailor-made solution flies in the face of your budget or occupancy schedule? According to Amanda Carroll, co-managing director of Gensler’s New York office, “Most of our clients want custom glass graphics — created by our Brand Design practice working in collaboration with our interior designers — but the cost can be significant, plus the process of designing, sampling, and approving the glass films can take months. So, we decided to create a range of preplanned graphics with the aesthetic integrity of our custom work that can be ordered, produced, and shipped within two weeks.”

With our objective set, Gensler’s Product Development and Brand Design leaders partnered with a trusted manufacturer and began interviewing design directors in our workplace interiors practices to get a feel for the type of looks that would suit a variety of projects. No longer a one-off, our collection had to be relevant to a wide range of styles and tastes.

It turns out that there was no shortage of design directions, and we soon had over 60 patterns in sampling. New York has some of the most stringent codes in the country when it comes to glass graphics (many states and municipalities have no requirements whatsoever), so it was a given that our artwork would be calibrated to the NYC Building Code and the New York State Department of Labor Safety & Health Code Rules. But when our New York technical directors had a look at all the choices, they set even higher hurdles for the collection to further improve its performance — not only for our New York clients but the market in general. After all, if you can break it there, you can break it anywhere, so we were intent on creating a product line that could work from coast-to-coast.

A Human-Centric Approach

Glass graphics for a workplace interior
Designing Discernible Glass Graphics

COVID-19 has made Gensler take a more focused look at most everything human-centric, including issues of life safety, so it was no surprise that 10 of our technical directors signed up to be part of the assessment team. After addressing all the dictates of the New York codes for size, spacing, opacity, and placement, each of our designs was evaluated on glass panels relative to interior furnishings, various interior and exterior lighting conditions, and the views out the window. The goal was to achieve discernible contrast between the graphics and everything beyond, because what’s the use of applying a striking, code-compliant pattern if it gets absorbed by the cityscape behind it? It may as well not be there at all.

Based on this review, elements of our artwork were volumized and condensed to increase coverage, the use of gradients (a popular technique in the world of glass graphics) was tabled, certain colors were nixed from the palette, and patterns that were perceived to be too faint were eliminated entirely — all to help prevent accidental run-ins and disastrous outcomes for building occupants.


After numerous rounds of reevaluation and resampling, our team culled down to a collection of 18 options available in heights of 3-3/8” and 33-3/8” for use as distraction markings and privacy films. All are printed on optically clear, PVC-free polyester film, and each has a sophisticated yet adaptable look to enhance virtually any well-appointed office. And while glass graphics should always be selected and applied according to the specific conditions of the space and local codes, this prepackaged program offers a sound and convenient solution that’s practical for many projects where budget and timing are especially tight.

Click here for more information on Glass Graphics

NOTE: All glass films in the collection were designed to comply with the NYC Building Code and the New York State Labor Law, but final interpretation of compliance is the responsibility of the specifier and should be determined relative to specific project conditions and local codes.

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Scott Star
Scott is a global leader of Gensler’s Product Development practice and Director of Product Development for its Northeast region. Located in New York, he and his cross-functional project teams partner with manufacturers on the design, development, and introduction of new products for the built environment — from furniture and lighting to flooring and wall systems. Contact him at .