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Designing identifying images for the next millennium.

Since 1990, Merrilie Camhe, president of Epigraph Studios, has created products to visually identify and define a wide range of environments, including corporate, retail, hotel and museum. The expert design team at Epigraph Studios is responsible for developing corporate identity programs, exterior and interior signage, way-finding signage, interactive building directories, logos, brochures, letterhead, and a myriad of collateral materials.

Epigraph's designs are seen daily in such prestigious office towers as 1251 Avenue of the Americas, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 650 Fifth Avenue, 195 Broadway and 101 Park Avenue. Its client roster also includes such renowned hotels as The Waldorf-Astoria, U.N. Plaza, The New York Hilton, Wait Disney Swan and Dolphin Hotels, The Righa Royal, and The Doral Park Avenue.

Moreover, Epigraph Studios has won national and international awards for several of its hotel package designs, including: The Millennium Hotel greeting program; The Michelangelo Hotel logo; and Trump International Hotel and Tower's hotel attache folder, for which it won a coveted AGC Award.

Other venues that add to the diversity of Epigraph's professional scope are The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, and Tiffany & Company. And with a corporate client list that encompasses ABN AMRO Bank, H.J. Kalikow & Co., Tishman Speyer Properties, Atlantic Recording Group, Time Warner, and the New York Post, Epigraph's stamp is widespread; subtly touching people's environments in every area.

"Signage is best when the information is accessible and the medium is evocative, as with art," says Ms. Camhe. "Whether it's a banner, a marquee or an A.D.A.-compliance message, it should reflect the style and design of the building's environment - both exterior and interior - and at the same time communicate information quickly. In other words, what we do is highly nuanced and either succeeds in creating a new image or strengthening an existing one."

"Another design service Epigraph provides is corporate identity programs," Camhe said. "So many companies have neglected to develop coherent visual images, focusing exclusively on their businesses, which is understandable. But today's world is so visually oriented, corporate images - from logos to letterhead - are more important than ever. And to be successful, a full corporate identity program has to be a direct outgrowth of what a company is, does and believes. It doesn't matter if it's an older, established firm or a new one - image is paramount."

As the real estate community catches Y2K fever, Epigraph's visual image makeovers and corporate logo upgrades are increasingly in demand. Even one of the industry's most respected and venerable organizations, Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York (BOMA/NY), has retained Epigraph to create a new visual image that reflects its combined vision of forward movement and stability. BOMA/NY plans to launch its new look at its September luncheon.

One of Epigraph's most recent projects is the concourse level retail corridor at One New York Plaza for Chase Manhattan Bank. A multi-media graphics program is in the works and will include interactive directories, customized signage for the individual stores, and redesigned exterior signage at the Grand Plaza entry and the three other entries. In addition, Epigraph is a consultant for the actual environment of the concourse, including column graphics and colors, and information signage at lobby level.

Working with architect William Leggio, the project's objective is to enhance the visibility of the entrances, which are below street level, and continue a visual prominence throughout the shopping corridor to encourage traffic.

"The images we create reinforce a foundation of strength and articulate what the ownership or management wants to project about the property," says Ms. Camhe. "One New York Plaza is being designed as an inviting, convenient shopping area, similar in concept to those in the World Trade Center and Rockefeller Center."

And designing signage in the Rockefeller Center concourse has been an integral part of an ongoing project for Epigraph since 1993, having worked on the total building graphics there for Mitsui Fudusan's award-winning office tower, 1251 Avenue of the Americas.

"Our goal has been to create signs that provide visual continuity between the modern design elements of 1251 and the pre-war corridors leading into the building," said Camhe. "It has been a definite challenge to graphically marry those grand, traditional Art Deco influences with 21st Century-style renovations."

Camhe also adds that she is fortunate to be working with managers and owners whose commitment to the building's aesthetic is uniquely detail-oriented and artistically focused. It is a perfect environment for an environmental graphic designer with a passion for cohesive form and a commitment to responsible design.

"Good design makes us comfortable because it communicates an order, stability and purpose," asserts Camhe.

In a profession that focuses on the amalgamation of design and information, Merrilie Camhe consistently works with those building owners and managers who understand the marketing value inherent in her product, as well as the aesthetics. The architects with whom she has worked for many years appreciate her comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of design and production, as well as her professionalism. Her commitment to detail ensures all governmental code requirements are met without fail - and in New York City, that is quite a task.

In addition, Epigraph is known for its use of unusual textures, fabrics, colors and materials on its signage. The design team there constantly researches new products to add to its lexicon, including raised polymers incorporated into standard and custom metals, and reflective, phosphorescent materials to provide greater visibility in low light areas.

"As an environmental graphic designer, one of my goals is to give potentially obstructive and graphically invasive elements a sense of nuance and artistry," says Camhe. "The same applies to all visual image pieces for which we are responsible. Our work has to tell a story and be informative, and at the same time eye-pleasing. There is always a subliminal message behind a design that says this is a building, a company, or a hotel that makes you feel comfortable. It's where art meets practical application."
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Title Annotation:Profile of the Week: Merrilie Camhe - Epigraph Studios
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 2, 1998
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