Vinyl solution

A college in Bracknell has turned a functional space into an inspirational environment with the aid of a Tardis and some vinyl designs

Staff and student spaces at Garth Hill College – a co-education community college in Bracknell – have undergone something of a transformation. Graphical design specialists Surface View worked closely with the college and diversified technology company 3M Commercial Graphics to design, manufacture and install colourful, intricate artwork throughout a large covered space between the main buildings of the college, using hardwearing Scotchcal graphic film from 3M.

The Inner Link at Garth Hill College was a large spartan area which provided plenty of opportunity to create a more inspiring environment. The college had already begun to decorate the space during the three years since it opened, with banners and mottos for each of the college’s houses. To continue the transformation, the college’s site manager and technician created a life-sized model of Doctor Who’s Tardis which pupils can enter to record feedback on teaching and learning in a video diary. Keith Grainger, the college’s principal, said: “We wanted to increase the presence of the Tardis and also move the decoration of the space forward significantly with artworks that would create a dynamic area for the school and make everyone think and feel about the space in a different way.”

Working together as a team, Garth Hill College, 3M Commercial Graphics and Surface View discussed and developed concepts for pillar wraps, floor graphics and textured surfaces, as well as graphics for smaller pillars to create pieces that work both individually and together, presenting aspirational messages which express the college’s values and the experiences of the students. “Working with Pen from 3M and Alice from Surface View,” explains Keith, “we discussed a huge number of creative ideas, and chose the best ones to take forward, and eventually design, make and install.”

When it came to selecting materials for producing each piece, vinyl was chosen for several reasons. The pillar wraps, which depict themes such as meadow flowers, whirlpool bubbles and geometrical shapes, contain intricate images that can be printed accurately on the vinyl. Scotchcal graphic film was chosen for the floor graphics, as it is hard-wearing, can be applied directly to brick surfaces and incorporates a non-slip laminated surface treatment for safety. Surface View developed designs using a mixture of images from their archives and brand new designs that the designers in their Mac Room developed specifically to answer the brief from Garth Hill. 

“We decided to incorporate textures in some of the low-level wraps to draw students’ attention and encourage them to take a closer look,” adds Alice Newman of Surface View. “We were able to achieve the effects we wanted by choosing Scotchcal graphic film with Scotchcal matte overlaminate by 3M. The vinyls are of a very high quality, which in an environment like a school is key for the longevity of the graphics.”

The designs that were signed off include meadow, vortex, angles and tree canopy. The geo concrete, knitting and record stack designs are low-level column wraps that take advantage of the vinyl properties to create the textured effect desired to attract attention.

The Surface View team completed the first stage of installation for when pupils returned to the college from the summer break. “We then worked on the word pillars during September and October, which enabled us to involve more of the school in developing statements about the school and its values,” says Keith Grainger. “Personally, I wanted the graphics to help express these overtly, as I believe presentation is vitally important to how the message is ultimately received.” 

3M Commercial Graphics W:

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