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Bringing to life the physical, digital and spatial design of a groundbreaking exhibition through a bespoke typeface

States of Mind

Wellcome Collection
April 2015

The Story

States of Mind at the Wellcome Collection is a ground-breaking year-long exhibition exploring the electrifying boundaries of human consciousness.

Our design, digital and printing teams came together on this typographically driven project to produce a visually striking and functional identity that communicated the subject matter in a coherent manner.

We worked with a number of teams from the Wellcome Collection right from the exhibition’s inception. We were asked to create the exhibition design alongside architects We Made That, templates for marketing and a digital learning resource in collaboration with the country’s top neuroscientists.

The Brief

Being a two-part exhibition means that something strong and coherent was needed to connect both parts of the show. We started with working on a bespoke typeface which became the backbone of the project.

Apart from the main visual identity, we were also tasked to deliver on spatial design, marketing materials as well as a digital learning resource.

The solution

For the exhibition design, we created a bespoke typeface, Gestalt, which was named after the effect that allows the brain to perceive complete shapes out of disparate elements. Referencing the idea of maintaining meaningful perceptions amongst chaos, Gestalt subtly pays homage to the theme of the show.

We took direct reference from the States of Mind's opening installation - Ann Veronica Janssen’s Yellowbluepink - for our printed material design. The use of light, colour and mist in Janssen's work was transferred to the exhibition booklet with full-bleed neon printed on the underside of semi-transparent Bible paper. This created a light fog beneath the booklet's text, tying in the “floaty” element of Janssen's installation.

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To further enhance the visual identity of the exhibition, we started developing a digital learning resource to help explain and re-imagine optical illusions. Working with the country’s top neuroscientists, we created a series of ten interactive exercises that bring complex illusions to life through animation and interaction.

The Outcome

The strong typographic identity worked as the glue that tied together both the exhibitions. This was most notably applied in 3D entrance signage, made from giant folded metal sheets based on our initial paper mock-ups. Visually speaking, Gestalt is developed out of bent steel; the letterforms appear to hover above a layer of colour and light, which shifts with the viewer's vantage. Our typeface was also adopted on two companion publications – an innovative exhibition guide and a 200-page paperback anthology featuring surreal and mind-bending work.

For the digital side of the exhibition, the interactive exercises have reinforced one of Hato’s philosophy of learning through play - a belief that having fun is the best way to learn something new. Through engaging gameplay on and off-site. visitors were able to enjoy the resource both in a special library created for the exhibition (by We Made That architects) and online. The strategy worked, with the Wellcome’s Twitter following growing tenfold in the first few weeks of the exhibition.