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Glass facade of the Performing Arts Center

Shanghai American School

Sub-Brands, Signage + Creative Placemaking

We started working with Shanghai American School at a pivotal point in its 100 year history. Equipped with a fresh brand identity and revitalized ambition, SAS was ready and eager to step boldly forth into a new era. In an inspired effort to build community and celebrate its one-of-a-kind culture, the school came back to us to expand the system through campus landmarks and events.

Jump to:
The Hub: Sub-Brand + Wayfinding
Gallery of Legends: Environment + Experience
Cafe Juno: Environmental Design
PAC: Sub-Brand

Extending the Brand

With renowned architecture powerhouse Perkins + Will tapped to build out a state-of-the-art multimedia center, we traveled to Shanghai to align on a cohesive creative vision. How might an entirely new physical space embody and extend the existing brand? We found inspiration quite literally in our hands and at our feet — in book stacks and slats that could be abstracted, repeated and turned into dynamic design elements.

Small circular swatches of wood, concrete and red and blue color used throughout the project
Blue animated scribble sketch meant to look like a drawn color swatch
Animated vibrating vertical lines that are meant to look like spines of books
A stack of books showing their spines with designed frames that mimic book shapes
Smaller format HUB emblem logos without text
HUB logos with text for the HUB name

logo as system

The Hub, as it would come to be called, took on a rich, unique sub-brand of its own. Oak wood accents, inspired by bookshelves, complement core SAS colors. The primary mark brings four corners of campus together in a single symbol, a scalable H that pairs beautifully with the full wordmark and functions as a framing device.

Two posters for the Hub, one blue and one red
One poster for the Hub in black showing an image of two people walking

The Hub: From Build-Out to Branding

As P+W developed renderings for the new Hub, we were there on site, eager to understand the intention behind its creation. Imagined as an immersive playground for learning, meeting and making, the Hub would house all manners of media, creative equipment and zones for interaction. Our job was to make sure the campus community could easily find their way through the space.

Dimensional Space Plan Illustration
Diagram showing planned signage placement inside the HUB
Wide shot of full HUB interior under construction
Detail of unfinished wooden slats used in the HUB that inspired design elements
Detail of unfinished wooden slats used in the HUB that inspired design elements

honoring the process

We paid close attention to the architects’ plans, looking for cues that might inform our work in their repeated design and material decisions.

Will and Adam taking a tour with hard hats on inside the HUB construction site
Firebelly and SAS team take a tour of the HUB construction site
Photo of stairs leading upward in the HUB with living plant wall on the left and wooden slat wall on the right
Images: CreatAR
Photo of stairs leading down in the HUB with living plant wall on the right and wooden slat wall on the left

Activating the Space

In partnership with P+W, we got to imagine everything from lush, living in-between” spaces to modular meeting places that support a full palette of postures.

Overall view of the Hub interior
Inside view of the HUB Library Space from the second floor
Images: CreatAR
Overall view of the Hub interior

Wayfinding Signage + Iconography

Following the grid established in the original SAS identity, we developed streamlined icons for ease of use with the signage system. We partnered with local printers to create strategic, accessible wayfinding markers, from freestanding pillars and vinyl adhesives to customized corner signage. Every piece helps ground visitors in where they are, geographically, historically and culturally.

Wayfinding Icon set
Wayfinding directional icons mounted on a structural column
Red and wood corner signage rendering
Directional Corner Signage
HUB Wall Directory Diagram
HUB Wall Bathroom Diagram
Red and wood floor signage rendering
Floor Signage
HUB Exterior Directory Diagram
HUB Frestanding Sign with tech help desk and student
Freestanding + Help Desk
HUB Floor Mounted Diagram
HUB Freestanding Sign Hallway
HUB Front Desk with wooden slats
Main Entrance Desk
HUB Circulation Desk Diagram
HUB Counseling Desk Diagram
Vinyl signs on a glass window
Room-Specific Vinyl Sign Storytelling
Exterior vestibule signage rendering
Vestibule Freestanding and Vinyl Signage
HUB Vesitbule Diagram
Vestibule Diagram
HUB Exterior Entry Diagram
Freestanding Exterior Entry
On campus wayfinding signage that reads Cafeteria with two students walking down stairs
On campus wayfinding signage that reads Cafeteria and Admissions
Campus Directional Signage
Wayfinding signage affixed to a concrete wall that reads "Cafeteria" with a person walking by
SAS Wayfinding4 v1
SAS Entry Tower signage showing eagle logo and large number 5
SAS Entry Gate 5

As part of its first ever strategic push to build a strong, supportive alumni community, SAS coordinated a one-night event to honor the school’s legends and legacies. We designed the look and feel of the experience to play up the pride and encourage engagement.

Interior view of Gallery of Legends layout
Gallery of Legends Hanging Signs
Gallery of Legends Hanging Diagram
Gallery of Legends Hanging Diagram
Gallery of Legends Hanging Signs
Die struck enamel pins showing the numbers 102, 104, 107, 117
Die-struck enamel pins celebrating the First 100

Custom Font

We leaned heavily on the font we’d created as part of the original identity to tug on alumni heartstrings and class camaraderie. CAD-cut acrylic panels suspended overhead called out class years, while die-struck enamel pins celebrated the school’s sheer volume of athletic conference titles. 

Gallery of Legends opening night Overall Crowd talking and mingling

Designing Memorable Moments

The night of the event welcomed alums from across the world and generations to stroll the Gallery of Legends, fondly recall shared traditions and see themselves as part of the school’s impressive history.

Gallery of Legends opening night Overall Crowd talking and mingling
Alumni gather to relive and learn stories of SAS
Gallery of Legends opening night Overall Crowd looking at artwork
Gallery of Legends opening night Overall Crowd talking and mingling
Mockup of a sample vignette layout for Gallery of Legends. Photography, text and vinyl signage are shown together.
Early render of elements for an historical vignette


We embraced and extended elements of the brand system to create an experiential timeline, layering images and icons with stories and artifacts from the school’s history to bring the legends to life.

Woman wearing a blue dress holding a drink looking at artwork
Bust of Juno on a blue pedestal that reads 1917
Gallery Legends Bustof Juno1 v1
Rendering of grey book cover with title type
"Book of Legends" gallery companion concept

Cafe Juno: Designing Every Detail

A beloved on-campus fixture, Café Juno offers a casual meeting or study space that draws students all day, every day. We imbued the environment with thoughtfully designed touchpoints to add a little character and school spirit.

Cafe Juno wall menu and checkout area
Cafe Juno seating area
3 Cafe Juno pastry wrappers
Coast and cup of coffee

Performing Arts Center: Fostering Community

The PAC at SAS opens its arms to the greater Shanghai community. A professional event space with seating for up to 750, it had grown to demand an identity of its own. Again, we harnessed the existing system to create an ownable look and feel that was no less coherent with the SAS brand.

Performing Arts Center Logos in blue and red
Performing Arts Center Logos
Logo animation as celebration
Performing Arts Center building with logo framed within the glass facade
Exterior signage concept utilizing PAC identity assets
Performing Arts Center logo on an interior red wall
Performing Arts Center logo on posters hanging on a concrete stairwell
Performing Arts Center logo on posters

logo as system

Once more, we looked to the surrounding architecture and drew inspiration from the rippling windows and circular pendant fixtures to develop a logo that captures the sense of celebration and showmanship the PAC puts on display. All we had to do was, quite literally, connect the dots.

Looking up at circular light fixtures inside the Performing Arts Center
Lobby with wood, windows and seating in the Performing Arts Center
Interior wooden slat wall of the Performing Arts Center

With the completion of the PAC sub-brand, we successfully handed off a robust set of style guides and simple tools for not just telling stories, but building community for years to come.

Glass facade of the Performing Arts Center