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Making Volume: The design

Making Volume: The design

Wed, 17 May 2017

We caught up with our designers at the Museum who worked on both the 2D and 3D design of Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa to find out more about the creative processes they went through and the challenges of bringing 2D and 3D concepts together.

Jess was responsible for the identity of the exhibition, including logo, identity, and colour palettes; while Peter was in charge of taking the 2D design and making it fit for purpose in the exhibition environment.

Jess Gommers

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Part I: Concept

Jess Gommers - Graphic Designer

How have you used colour in the exhibition?

The colour was a response to the 3D design of the physical exhibition. So once all the content was mapped out the 3D designers started to build or sketch up their spaces and there needed to be a definite transition between each timezone, so when someone goes through a doorway or transition point in the next decade there was a clear break.

Each decade has its own colour palette. That involved a little bit of homework about what people were wearing in those different decades, what kind of colours I could find that are going to speak to all the content in the exhibition. They’re quite clashy as well, which I like, and I hope helps to keep it away from a being a traditional museum show or something quite static like a gallery hang. So the colour works really hard in the exhibition.

But the objects need to be at the front of the conversation, and then supported by this colour palette.

So the 50s was quite inspired by that milk bar aesthetic - teal and limegreen with black and white, they’re going to work well together.

Whereas the 80s, the 70s kind of indulgence of the dark green and the deep purple, it's kind of a bit muddy and a bit too much.

The 80s orange and blue is really clashy and quite ugly, but so is heaps of the content. The 80s are known for being ugly so there it goes.

The 90s is a little bit grungier, punk. Actually that’s another thing I did, just mapped out the images we were working with at the beginning of the project and if you put them all together - in the 90s you’ve got Shihad and The Mutton Birds so you can kind of see that palette works across those supplied images already - how those photographs were taken at that time, and what they’re wearing. I see that palette in those images.

Jess Gommers

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

How will you hope people feel emotionally?

I hope energised. The idea is that as soon as you walk in you’re just being transported somewhere else. You should forget the fact that you’re in the museum, your car is parked outside and you've got a lunch date with your mum afterwards. When you walk into the exhibition it should just be really immersive. It should feel accessible, there shouldn't be any distance between you and the content. It should feel familiar and warm, like it’s part of your history, your story, your scrapbook of memories that you've put together.

For you personally, what's the whole designing experience been like?

It’s been pretty fantastic and a whole lot of the discussions that we had, about the identities coming together, the colour palette, or the content for the show, or way of communicating something - each little initial discussion we had just got better and bigger and picked up its own momentum.

It's come alive. Seeing the brand at the end of the promo video where someone has taken the 2D identity and done something fun with it is absolutely how I imagined the brand would behave. So that’s pretty cool. It's not deviating. It’s solid.

Early days of the 1980s section in Volume.

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Part II: Production

Peter Hayward - Graphic Designer, Production

As the exhibition begins to take shape, what is your role as a graphic designer?

My role was to take the concept design provided by Jess and basically make it work and fit for purpose in the exhibition environment.

Two-dimensional concepts are one thing but in order for them to work in a built environment they need to become 3D objects in their own right. They need to be given structural integrity, respond sensitively to the material around them and above all connect with the visitor, allowing them to digest their content as quickly as possible. My role was to work closely with the display team in order for the 2D and 3D to be successfully integrated.

3d meets 2d. Simon Gamble, Volume 3d Production Manager with graphic designers Peter Hayward and Nick Eagles

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

What a lot of people don’t realise is that 50% of my time is spent working out what I call the 2D/3D interface. Graphics don’t just magically glue themselves to walls. Fixtures and fittings have to be considered too. How will this graphic be hung? Taping, screwing, bolting, split batons etc. These decisions affect the printing process and the substrate choice which in turn can affect how a wall is constructed and out of what material. Therefore, production drawings have to be produced for manufacturers and installers alike. People forget that graphics, once produced, have mass and volume, and therefore need structures to support them. It’s basically engineering.

Also, even though people like to pigeonhole me – to me, 2D, 3D, lighting, AV and digital are one. It’s just 'design'. They are all connected, interrelated and dependent on each other. And my role is to be involved in the management of all those relationships.

Elevation from the 1970s section for Dave Dobbyn and Th’ Dudes

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

How do you work with other teams?

We are incredibly lucky in this Museum to have departments of such diversity, skill base and experience. There are not many work environments where so much diversity exists.

With this in mind, I see working with others as an opportunity to expand my knowledge base, and most importantly appreciate what others can do and offer. Only through the appreciation of someone's skills and knowledge can we personally give them value. With appreciation comes empathy, and with empathy comes understanding our interconnectedness. At this point, I can work out what they might need from me and what I might need from them. When I was a scout our motto was ‘be prepared’. Therefore, understanding someone's needs means you can anticipate them and also be prepared for them, even before they ask. This is basically forethought, an incredibly important and useful skill that all designers must learn.

What sort of testing process do you go through to get things right?

R&D is very important. I wish I could do more. However, the most important thing to test is the scale of 2D graphics in their built environment. Their scale, proportion and colour change dramatically when put on a wall or in a case, are subjected to real lighting conditions or clustered with other elements. Too often decisions are made at a desk or on screen. This can lead to false perceptions and therefore poor decisions.

Elevation from the 1960s section showing acoustic paneling and the section for Ray Columbus

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

What’s the hardest part about turning a digital design into a printed reality?

Digital designs are true and precise. Every line is crisp and sharp and can be measured to three decimal places. However, when printed and given a physical form, a design’s precision is already compromised. This is because a digital design has to go through an industrial process in order to gain physical form. So the hardest part of turning a design into a reality is understanding the effect a mechanical process will have on its form and finish. Nothing will come back perfect when you engage with an industrial process. You have to understand and accept this.

Can you talk about the level of detail you have to consider? How many images would you have to work with?

The number of images and text labels are neither here nor there to me. The details I considered could be the width of a router blade, the sequence of a label’s printing and finishing, or the number of suppliers a graphic has to go to in order for it to acquire its desired physical form. Let’s just say the real detail is in the logistics of its creation.

Elevation from the 1960s section showing wall case in-situ and and respective paint finishes

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira


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