Designing mystery: a case study of exhibition specific graphic design – by Serena Siegenthaler-Brown

In May, MTG Hawke’s Bay opened an exhibition that explored the story of the Forerunners, an alternative spiritualist group who were active in Havelock North in the early twentieth century. The community’s head, Dr Robert Felkin, was a medical doctor, missionary and “influential leader in one of the world’s most important occult orders.” (www.mtghawkesbay.com) This exciting exhibition lent itself to a creative suite of graphic design output that drew on the mystery and intrigue of the characters and content.

The first mission was to create an exhibition identity consisting of a colour scheme, logo and set fonts. Contained within the content of the exhibition was the perfect source of inspiration: a seven-sided vault, contained within a temple underneath Dr Felkins Havelock North home, Whare Ra. The vault was painted with a brilliant array of colours, shapes and symbols.

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I worked with the MTG Exhibition Designer to select a bold colour palette from these walls, one that would work well with the paint colour selected for the exhibition space.

The logo was created using these colours, the seven-sided star and triangle pattern found on the roof of the vault, as well as a font that echoed one found on the spine of a book originally owned by Dr Felkin. The logo also included a digitised version of three handwritten words found in an original copy of the Forerunners journal.

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The challenge was to create an identity that could create a sense of intrigue and mystery in advertising in order to generate interest in the exhibition, while still being applicable to more utilitarian uses such as exhibition labels and information panels.  Typography was used as the link between the bolder marketing graphics and the labeling and panels within the exhibition itself.

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To give a sense of continuity throughout the exhibition all the titles were treated in the same manner, as a graphic rather than simply text. This approach tied together the range of different graphic elements, from large scale illustrations and thematic panels printed directly onto MDF wall panels, to extended object labels mounted in cases.

The exhibition was broken down into four sections and each had a unique colour scheme to help clearly differentiate it from the next. This colour scheme was carried across different mediums from large MDF panels to vinyl and transluscent labeling. The use of consistent fonts and stylised titles held these sections together.

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This project had a broad scope for bold creativity and vibrant colour schemes in response to the content and was great fun to work on (and hopefully also to view).

Serena Siegenthaler-Brown
Graphic Design Assistant, MTG Hawke’s Bay.
Photographs by David Frost

 

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