Friday, January 23, 2015

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City


I designed this catalogue Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City to accompany the exhibition of the same name late last year. This was one of those charmed projects from the outset –  a creative joy from start (a coffee date with its writer and exhibition curator Melissa Miles in North Carlton during the last school holidays) to finish (the arrival of hand delivered freshly printed catalogues wrapped in paper and a bow courtesy of the always diligent team at Adams Print). When I break it down, what then constitutes 'creative joy' in a project such as this with several players: a gallery, an independent curator and a printer? It had a team of good listeners with expertise, a sense of confidence, and a healthy perfectionism. It had an adequate timeframe, not overly long, nor too tight. It had a great subject and visual material. And I had autonomy.

The exhibition – documenting modern photography in Australia – straddles the period from the 1930s to the 1970s. Keeping this in mind Melissa and I wanted the design to reflect the time and to keep the emphasis squarely on the photographs. Given that the photographs are all gelatine silver prints we decided on a monochromatic palette with a single steely blue as an accent. That accent appears only in the image credits and on the inside cover, a late addition thanks to Shane from Adams Print who was not certain that the shade of the cover and inside paper stocks would marry well – a good call).

The font is Quadraat, a digital serif font created by Fred Smeijers in 1992. Although it is contemporary in feel it actually draws on pre modern typefaces Garamond (from the 1500s) and Times (late 1700s). I've always liked using Quadraat for body copy for its qualities, legibility and a touch of eccentricity. The headings, credits and footnotes are in Scala, another font designed in the early 1990s. Both Scala and Quadraat were conceived in the Netherlands, a hotbed of typographic innovation. As I'm thinking about it, it strikes me as slightly wondrous that two font families from the other side of the world designed in the same language and within a year of one another would be so right for a historical project from the Antipodes.

Naturally, I am tormented by two or three things I would have done differently (goddammit!) but overall I was happy with the result. Can I say I like it? In fact I am not the only one. A number of people have liked this catalogue. One enthusiast, blogger Peter Costigan, has even posted on it. How nice is that?

Dreams and Imagination: Light in the Modern City 
Closes 1 March 2015
Catalogue costs $25 from the MGA shop.

Monash Gallery of Art
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Wheelers Hill Victoria 3150
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