Last year 898,930 pupils started their journeys through the 3246 National Schools in Ireland. Most physical school buildings were constructed at least 10 years ago, and most are old and uninspiring places, with their beige or magnolia coloured walls.

In the 21st century, children are constantly surrounded by colourful, engaging and personalized experiences designed to grab their attention, whether to feed them information or to sell the next new toy, app, or movie. The physical environment at school is usually anything but engaging, with drab and dreary walls and furniture, and uniform, standardized colour schemes. The best teachers work hard to inspire and engage pupils, but how can they compete with the studied, personalized and engaging digital world? How can we expect our children to be motivated, creative and to deliver their best in a grey, sombre and muted environment?

Painting walls is time-consuming and labour-intensive – a hassle. Usually, this job gets done once a year, before term starts, and the focus is to get it finished.

At SD+ we have a different approach to sprucing up and personalizing spaces. Digitally printed wall and floor graphics, and furniture wrapping are highly cost-effective and rapid ways to breath life back into dull and lifeless spaces. And because these graphics are digitally printed, the possibilities are endless, in terms of colours, themes, textures and functions. Specially themed rooms can be quickly designed and implemented along with the involvement of children themselves. The products used are durable, and can combine magnetic, dry-wipe and projection ready materials with modern graphics, making spaces more interactive, engaging and inspiring. Even desks can be wrapped in dry-wipe films offering both interaction and protection. (Much as we might all think that doodling on your desk is just bad behaviour, there is actually research to suggest it improves focus and memory!)

Research has already borne out the value of engaging, colourful, individualized spaces in schools, and their impact on student learning and creativity. By focusing on the sensory impact of the physical environment, rather than ignoring it, we can actually improve student outcomes.

At St. Attracta’s School in Dundrum, Dublin, this is exactly what the SD+ team did. We covered walls and floors with inspiring and engaging graphics and quotes linked to the curriculum. And we did it in a single day! We wanted to have a real impact on the lives of the students and teachers at St. Attracta’s and demonstrate what is possible with large scale digital print. The face of the school building could be changed forever, repeatedly, without the need for big budgets or big projects.

There are many sign makers in Ireland with the tools and capabilities to support these endeavours. All it would take is for planners to dream!