Thank you to James O'Donnell of the Smithsonian for the above photo.
Okay, old news. It opened well over a month ago—seven weeks ago—on March 6. I had also planned to post about the opening reception, but that was March 20 so—old news there as well. In any case, the reception was lovely, with Asian food served and tinkling glassware and everyone dressed quite nicely. Also, my colleague and friend Maria Felenyuk, who designed the graphics for the museum’s new Stamp Gallery, was back in town from traveling the globe and joined us [she's available—you should hire her!]—so it was great! Exhibit openings are the best!
Pacific Exchange: China & U.S. Mail is the second exhibit to be on view in the Postmasters Suite gallery at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. From the exhibit website: Using mail and stamps, Pacific Exchange brings a human scale to Chinese-U.S. relations in three areas: commerce, culture, and community. The exhibit focuses on the 1860s to the 1970s, a time of extraordinary change in China. It also explores Chinese immigration to the United States, now home to four million Chinese Americans.
Upfront: I’m a stamp nerd. I have a small collection of Olympics stamps, mostly international, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s. (You have to focus when collecting stamps!) I really enjoyed working on an exhibit about philately. :)
I handled all of the design myself, from designing the exhibit “look” to laying out production files for all of the graphics. I also created the exhibit plan and did the artifact case layouts. Even though this is a small exhibit space, it had more than 100 artifacts, so making [nearly] everything fit comfortably was a bit of a challenge!
Here’s an example of how the case layouts looked during design development:
And here are those same cases, made real:
Most of the exhibit text is in English and Chinese, a design challenge I enjoyed. In the artifact case below, some of the artifacts were loans that I had to display flat; hence the stepped design of the case furniture. The other half was at 15° to create a comfortable reading angle.
I arrived at the color palette after some research into culturally significant colors in Chinese culture. I used red and gold—a quintessential Chinese color combination—as the dominant exhibit colors, with a deeper maroon red for accent. I used a third red, one with pink undertones, (red, the color of prosperity and good fortune, among other meanings) for the Commerce section of the exhibit; yellow, the color of heroism, for the Community section; and blue-green, or “qing” to give a feeling of Chinese history and tradition, for the Culture section. (My descriptions of the color symbolism are very simplified.) I also drew distinctive vector patterns for each section.
Graphics were digital output mounted on sign blank, trimmed to edges, with a matte overlaminate. The wall-mounted and freestanding graphics were backed with 1/2″ MDF painted Benjamin Moore “Bonfire” to match the primary exhibit red (Pantone 1795). The freestanding graphics had duplicate panels on either side of the mdf—a panel sandwich which was held in place by adjustable metal sign bases. The Smithsonian Office of Exhibits Central printed and built the graphic components. Blair Fabrication built the case furniture.
Colors, patterns, and fonts used:
The element that most people rave about is the group of banners in the entrance. There are four individual banners and they’re more than 20 feet tall! EPI Colorspace printed and installed them. (Install pictures here.) They were printed on “Brilliant Banner” 12 mil. polyester banner fabric. The fabric has a very subtle canvas texture that wasn’t what I originally intended—I wanted a silken look for the banners—but the color saturation and printing quality was so good that I went with EPI’s recommendation. If you want to try the material remember that individual results will vary based on your printer and the equipment they use.
The stretched-fabric graphic in the Commerce section (a second introduction for those visitors who entered from the Stamp Gallery), shown in the picture at the beginning of this post, was printed on a different fabric, one that could be stretched onto a frame. No one can tell the difference. (Well, now you can, but only because I told you!)
I was also able to design a few of the related print graphics: the catalogue, a postcard, and the invitation to the opening reception.
And if you’re in DC between now and January 4, 2015 (when it closes), please check it out!
A few days ago I was talking with some colleagues about the Perot Museum of Nature and History in Dallas, Texas. Someone remembered one responsive interactive; I remembered a different one…and then I remembered that I hadn’t shared any photos from my visit [nearly a year ago].
The responsive interactive I remember was in the lobby. Models of water molecules danced up and down from the ceiling in response to the movements of people below. The molecule models were controlled by cameras in the ceiling that sensed movement and triggered motors that made them dance.
And that’s about where my memories break down. What I do remember is how large the museum is, with 11 permanent exhibits, and that the day I went it was jam-packed:
My group was the last to get tickets for the next entry (all entry was timed). There was something there for everyone though, even if it took a bit of maneuvering to get around and find it. I liked the dinosaur gallery:
And bits and pieces of other galleries, including the entrance to the Gems and Minerals Hall:
I was really taken with these benches sprinkled throughout the museum, with their cut-out factoids:
Overall, we were intrigued, learned some things, and had fun. But don’t ask for details because I really don’t remember. I’ll just wrap this post up with a photo I took of the roof:
From the museum’s Wikipedia page: “It has a stone roof which features a landscape of drought-tolerant greenery inspired by Dallas surroundings. … Building on the museum’s commitment to resource conservation, the new building integrates a variety of sustainable strategies including a rainwater collection system that captures run-off water from the roof and parking lot, satisfying 74% of the museum’s non-potable water needs and 100% of its irrigation needs.” Nice.
I stopped by the Smithsonian National Postal Museum to check in on the installation of Pacific Exchange. I’m excited for the exhibit—my Gallagher & Associates swan song—to open next week, on March 6!
While I was onsite, EPI Colorspace was there installing the large-format graphics. I’m very satisfied with the quality. Below, one of the EPI guys installs the hanging hardware for a set of three banners that introduce the exhibit. To the right is a fourth banner with the exhibit title.
Above: After the banners were unfurled they were checked and checked again to ensure that they hung plumb. (Success!) The major graphics for this exhibit were in both English and simplified Chinese. Below: The windows to the right of the banners belong to the educational loft; we had some spectators!
Below: A detail of the weight at the banner’s bottom.
Above: Within the exhibit’s main room there is another dramatic introductory moment, this time produced in fabric stretched over a wooden frame and hung with heavy-duty D rings. There were happily no problems with measurements and everything went up easy peasy—I had my fingers crossed because there are odd cabinets with door knobs and molding behind the graphic. EPI said I must be lucky. :) Below: Graphics wait to be installed within the window openings between the gallery and the lobby.
Above: Work zone!—and three of the completed artifact cases. Below: Installed artifacts. More photos to come when everything is complete!
See that red house in the woods? That’s mine, and that’s where I work now!
See those turkeys? They’re wild, and they’re everywhere! Yeeaaahh!!! :)
I’ve wanted to set out on my own for a while now and when my fiance and I chose to move to the beautiful Moyaone Reserve in southern Maryland the timing suddenly made sense. As a sole proprietor, I’ll offer creative services in graphic design, museum exhibits, event design, and interiors. Over the past eight years I’ve had the opportunity to work on a vast assortment of design projects in various capacities—meaning that my experience has been both specialized (museum exhibit design) and broad (print work? yep. website design? check. event graphics? of course…) I’m currently available for project-based contract work so if you’re interested in working together check out the creative services page and get in touch!
Thank you all for your support, and for following along.
I spent the end of summer through early fall wrapping up construction administration work for the newly opened Stamp Gallery at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. I inherited the project from a departing coworker, so had very little to do with the design of the exhibit, but I did design the museum’s gallery map—a fun project. Some pics:
I’ve also been at work on a temporary exhibit [again for the Postal Museum] called Pacific Exchange, about the Chinese/U.S. relationship “through the lens” of stamps and mail. Opening’s set for March and I’m excited! I’ve really enjoyed the content and being able to give a good amount of attention to a small exhibit. Here’s a sneak peak of the design development:
Just a quick update that the FDR Museum was rededicated on Sunday June 29 and is now open to the public. The NY Times review was flattering and we’re thrilled.
Here we are at the gala reception, the happy design team and the museum’s chief curator:
The first gallery you enter sets the stage for FDR’s presidency: the Great Depression. The focal point here is the neon-illuminated “FEAR” wall. Text is silkscreened onto the glass panels and rear-illuminated with LED pads. The red colorization comes from the custom “UMEMPLOYED” neon letters; the mural image in the back is black and white.
The FEAR letters are applied to the rear of the glass. I wanted them to be translucent—to allow the mural image to show through and create depth—and as richly black as possible. The fabricators, Explus, provided a variety of production samples to try to achieve the effect I was after. Printing the letters on a transparent film and applying it to the glass, in particular, was unacceptable as I wanted a uniform transparency (no streaks, no dots). In the end they used Rosco gel sheets.
They created a self-adhesive vinyl by applying OptiClear to the face of the gel sheet (Rosco Cinegel Neutral Density N.9 Gel Extra Wide) then die cutting it. I was happy, but the fabricators had some difficulty with cutting and applying the gel sheets. Their graphics manager told me that if they were to do something like this again they’d use a standard window tint that has the application adhesive already on it. But I do love how that gel turned out!
The wall opposite the FEAR wall:
The background mural is printed on DreamScape, as I mentioned in a previous post. Most of the murals in this museum were applied to backers, framed, and cleat-hung to the wall, but this particular one was applied directly to the wall and its edges captured with flat aluminum strips. I don’t remember why we did this, but I’m certain there was a reason….
The framed graphics are digital prints with an overlaminate, mounted to sign blank. They are applied onsite to an MDF backer panel and aluminum frame. (The backer and frame are screwed to the exhibit wall; the graphic is applied with VHB tape.) Explus welded the frames’ corners before painting them, and that made a huge difference in the appearance of them. They looked more finished and high-quality.