January 09, 2014



Abbott Miller has designed environmental graphics for Tadao Ando's new arts center at the Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico.
A school of design and architecture that is itself a bold architectural statement, the Centro Roberto Garza Sada (CRGS) is a new arts center at the Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando. Located in the mountainous landscape of northeast Mexico, the monumental concrete building rises out of its surroundings to announce the university and has quickly become an iconic landmark for the growing city of Monterrey. Pentagram’s Abbott Miller has designed a comprehensive program of signage, wayfinding and environmental graphics for the center that complement the raw physicality of Ando’s building with clean, crisp shapes and sleek, smooth surfaces.
The CRGS was conceived by Ando as a “Gate of Creation” that is both a marquee building for UDEM and a metaphor for the learning process. The six-story structure acts as a gateway for the campus and provides amazing vistas of the region. Constructed of cast concrete, the monolithic, minimalist form bridges over a massive triangular void at its center. The portal is meant to symbolize the opening or beginning of the students’ educational journey, and anchors the diagonal axis of the campus. The building was recently honored at the 2013 World Architecture Festival, where it was short-listed in the Higher Education and Research category.
The building was conceived by Ando as a "Gate of Creation" that provides an entrance to the campus and symbolizes the beginning of the educational process.
Miller’s signage for the building takes a contrarian approach: pristine white lettering, glossy white discs, and glassy prisms form a counterpoint to the rough gray concrete walls. The sign family consists of discs in various scales, ranging from six-inch diameter to five feet. Typography is carefully composed against the empty white space of the pure geometric shapes. The typeface used throughout the environmental graphics is Fakt, a refined, highly functional sans serif font designed by Thomas Thiemich.
A variety of techniques are used to fully integrate the program with the architecture. Some signs use letters pin-mounted directly on the concrete; studio workspaces are identified with oversized numbers silkscreened directly on walls. The building’s main directory is fabricated of smooth Corian with etched and paint-filled lettering. The shiny metal circles feature an enameled finish with silkscreened graphics. Many of the signs reference the dramatic diagonal of the building with slanted lines and arrows.
Miller also developed a unique installation of donor recognition signage for CRGS. Located just off a wall of glass at the main entrance, the sculptural installation consists of over 100 three-sided bars of clear, polished Plexiglas hanging on lengths of cable. Names of donors are engraved into the surface of the rods, with three to five bars grouped on each strand. (A legend is posted nearby to find the exact location of each name.) The prism-like rods shift in the air and change with the light: during the day they catch the sun that flows through the building’s void, and at night they are illuminated. The pattern of lines elegantly echoes the striations in Ando’s concrete, while the crystalline forms set off the building’s immense mass.
Miller will present the keynote at the UDesign Conference held at UDEM on March 3-6, in conjunction with a large exhibition of his work.
Names of donors are engraved on prism-like Plexiglas rods that change with the light.
In 2009, Abbott Miller developed environmental graphics for another school with innovative architecture, the academic building at The Cooper Union in New York, designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne and his firm Morphosis. Pentagram previously collaborated with Tadao Ando on the design of environmental graphics for the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas.
Project Team: Abbott Miller, partner-in-charge and designer; Yoon-Young Chai, Chris Adamick and Kristen Spilman, designers. Photography by Oscar Estrada and Jorge Taboada.

Typography is carefully composed on the simple circular shape and 
set in the Fakt font.

Some signs are pin-mounted directly on the concrete. Arrows and 
slanted lines reference the building's dramatic diagonals.

In contrast to the building's rough concrete, the environmental graphics appear in shiny, smooth materials, like this directory made of Corian.

Wayfinding signage.

Typography on studio identification signage is artfully composed.

Studio workspace numbers are screened directly on the walls.

Identification and wayfinding signage appears on shiny metal discs 
that stand in contrast to the building's textured concrete walls.

The shiny discs set off the raw beauty of the concrete and also complement the building's simple geometric forms.

Facility and restroom signage also appears on circular discs.

Donor recognition signage appears as a sculptural 
installation in the building's lobby.

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Pentagram is the world's largest independent design consultancy. The firm is owned and run by 19 partners, a group of friends who are all leaders in their individual creative fields.
We work in London, New York, San Francisco, Berlin and Austin. We design everything: architecture, interiors, products, identities, publications, posters, books, exhibitions, websites, and digital installations. 
Each of our clients works directly with one or more of our partners. This reflects our conviction that great design cannot happen without passion, intelligence, and personal commitment, which is demonstrated by a portfolio of work that spans five decades.
Abbott Miller was born in Indiana and studied design at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York. In 1989 he founded the multidisciplinary studio Design/Writing/Research where, in collaboration with Ellen Lupton, he pioneered the concept of “designer as author” undertaking projects in which content and form are developed in a symbiotic relationship. He joined Pentagram’s New York office as a partner in June 1999.
Abbott’s projects are often concerned with the cultural role of design and the public life of the written word. At Pentagram he leads a team designing books, magazines, catalogs, identities, exhibitions, and creating editorial projects.
Abbott has received numerous design honors, including medals from the Society for Publication Designers and three nominations for National Magazine Awards. In 1994 Abbott—together with Ellen Lupton—was awarded the first annual Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design.
His work and critical writing has appeared in Eye, Print, I.D. and other publications, and he is the co-author of four books, including the classicDesign/Writing/Research: Writing on Graphic Design. A survey of his design work, Open Book: Design and Content, will be published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2010.