When the world is proliferated by sign and communication, is a billboard architecture or is architecture a billboard?


In his book Learning From Las Vegas Robert Venturi made “the distinction between the Duck and the Decorated Shed as architectural prototypes for our time: that is, the building as itself a symbol, exemplified by the Long Island Duck…and the building as generic loft whose aesthetic derives from its decorative or iconographic surfaces and/or applied design” advocating for the latter as the way forward for architecture.

Signs and sign systems have had a greater impact on the composition of our built and social environments than we could have ever imagined – both on a visual and cultural level. While Robert Venturi speculated on the landscape of signs in Las Vegas in the 70’s, he may not have imagined to what extent these communicative structures would begin to rule, not just Vegas as a “vernacular”, but the world, developed and undeveloped. While modernist and deconstructivist architecture valiantly attempts to maintain a pure architecture (pure duckness) – it is difficult to ignore the notion that sign and architecture are becoming one. Whether it be a cultural institution, a commercial building or an urban landscape, architecture is no longer an expression of structure and less a machine for living than a machine for communication.

Architecture as Signs and Systems. Robert Venturi.

Architecture as Sign and Symbol. Robert Venturi.

Modified diagram. Decorating the Duck

Modified Diagram. Decorating the Duck.

Through a series of building case studies from Seoul to Rotterdam to Reno, practical experience and interviews with acclaimed practitioners and attendance at the SEGD Design conference, this investigation aims to explore whether Space and Sign cannot coexist more harmoniously. Helping architecture to retain the importance of its unique spatiality and form – the importance of it’s duckness, whilst enveloping signage and wayfinding in its midst. Decorating the Duck.


The investigation is organised as an intensive study matrix, based on 3 distinct yet interlocking tiers of study: User Experience, Professional Experience and Educational/Academic Experience.


A series of field studies using one typology, the Performing Arts Centre (in its various iterations) is undertaken. Signage, Wayfinding and Environmental Graphic interfaces are catalogued and documented.The PACs can be roughly divided into three categories:


PACs whose premise is the form of the building – where signage is rarely, if ever shown in photographs of the building.

Decorated Sheds

These PACs are either older building shells or buildings adapted into theatres, where signage is the predominant feature rather than the architecture.

Decorated Ducks

These PACs are buildings where the architecture and EGD were integral from the outset.

>> Click here for more information on individual case studies.


A number of reknowned firms are leading the world in their approach to EGD and working closely with architects to achieve outstanding results. Interview will be done, lessons learned.

>> Click here to read the  interviews with some of these great firms.


SEGD CONFERENCE: Vive la Diversité: Designing the Difference, Montréal 2011

To broaden my knowledge of both practical and theoretical aspects of EGD, I am attending the SEGD (Society for Environmental Graphic Design) Conference on June 1-4th 2011 in Montreal, Canada.

“SEGD’s Annual Conference + Expo is unique among design education events, combining inspirational presentations from design leaders and clients with panel discussions, technical sessions, networking and social events, and SEGD’s signature Workshops on Wheels, which invite attendees to get out in the world and experience projects first-hand. The conference is three full days, with a products and services Expo on the second day that allows attendees to meet with potential collaborators and learn about new technologies, materials, and processes.”

>> Click here for more information on the SEGD Conference.


DECORATE A DUCK and become part of the voyage. Simply decorate a duck and email it to myduck@decoratingtheduck.com

SIGN UP TO THE DAILY QUACK and get regular updates from the tour. http://www.decoratingtheduck.com/wp-login.php?action=register


Interviews with Sussman Prejza, TwoTwelve, Büro North, Venturi Scott Brown & Associates, P-06 Atelier. Streaming from the Society of Environmental Graphic Design Conference. Case Studies and Signbites from Seoul >> Paris >> Prague >> Berlin >> Rotterdam >> Brussels >> Lisbon >> Reykjavik >> New York >> Cincinnati >> Chicago >> Montreal >> LA >> Las Vegas and more in between.

@font-face { font-family: “Courier New”; }@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }


Decorating the Duck has been made possible through the Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship run by the Board of Architects NSW. Check out their website Architecture Insights page.