from writing to colour – dzne, german centre for neurodegenerative diseasessignage system, bonn 2017

gigantic brushstrokes add colour to the white architecture of the building interior. the writing, by contrast, is human in scale and origin: more than a thousand words have been hand-drawn onto the walls. handwriting is one of the first things to change for people with alzheimer’s. the ability sufferers retain longest is their colour recall. these findings from dementia research underpin the wayfinding system’s formal strategies: colour and writing not only help building users find their way about – they also communicate the research that’s undertaken here. and the process of finding destinations, with its transposition of how the disease progresses, also expresses what this institute and its work are focused on: the patient.

the three building sections at the dzne, the german centre for neurodegenerative diseases, are coded in three different colours. the brushstrokes, some more than 40 metres high, create an accent feature on the neutral white architectural backdrop. the building’s sun protection system comprises glass slats finished in warm colour shades. counterpointing these earthy colour tones on the outside, the interior brushstrokes are in blue, green and violet. the original images used as templates here were provided by the artist harald f müller. they were transposed by airbrushing – enlarged to 400 times their original size, and using as many as seven layers to replicate their transparencies, rich detail and iridescent colour effects.

alongside these powerful colour accents it’s the handwriting that gives this building its character. the texts are literally written on the building: all the department codes, 200 arrows and pictograms, and all the room labels were hand-drawn by brush. this counters the disease and how it robs people of their unique expressiveness with a positively life-affirming gesture, giving the building a distinctive and personal touch.

german centre for neurodegenerative diseasessignage system
bonn 2017


client and architect:
wulf architekten

german centre for neurodegenerative diseases

communication design:
büro uebele
visuelle kommunikation
project team:
carolin himmel (project manager)
andreas uebele

andreas streinbrecher

Vorlage Pinselstriche:
harald f müller

brigida gonzalez
steffen vogt

principal typefaces:
own (handwriting, Andreas Steinbrecher)


  • segd 2018 global design awards, honor award
  • tdc tokyo, annual awards 2018, selected