A THEORY OF VALUES CATALOG AND EXHIBITION GRAPHICS
Book design and exhibition materials for The Soap Factory
A Theory of Values was the name given to the 2010 Minnesota Biennial at The Soap Factory. We designed a catalog, poster and exhibition graphics that were a mishmash (a term used positively here) of associations brought to the table by the curators but the most notable were early American museum catalogs for abstract art exhibitions, academic journals, and classical book typography. The first 2 were purely an aesthetic inspiration while the book typography was in direct reference to show’s title being the name of a Sinclair Lewis story.
These disparate ideas were mixed together to create designs that were highly referential but, perhaps, unclear in their origin.
The 3 ideas come together clearly in the cover: the Futura title comes from 1940s and 50s exhibition catalogs but its centered to offset it’s modernist aesthetic and connect it to traditional book typography. The size—5.5” x 8.5”—and the type-only treatment are derived from literary journals.
This is a highly textural book: the covers and text sections are printed on an a textured off-white linen that’s usually used for letterhead while the images are printed on a blue writing paper.
The first 80 pages are designed to be an exhibition within the book. Images are laid out to have a flow throughout the catalog. and there’s no graphic elements on the page besides an image number. Even the artists’ names only show up on the opening page of their section.
The last page of each artist’s “space” contains all the image information. This was a gesture we found in an old Guggenheim catalog in our collection.
Detail of the work summary.
The blue paper has an effect on the images that’s almost like adjust the lighting. The stock itself has a lot of show-through (meaning you can see what’s printed on the reverse side) so when you flip through the book the intensity of the blue is constantly changing. Most people don’t even notice the color until they get to the text section where the paper changes dramatically.
Printing on colored stock means that there are no pure whites in the images and every picture is skewed toward that blue. This would normally be a really aggressive gesture to use on an artist’s work but we saw the scale and image density of this catalog as qualities that made it more like a mixtape to introduce you to new artists than say a future critical resource like a monograph.
Furthermore since virtually all art is easily seen online in its natural (or at least intentional) color this became another way to assert the physical nature of the book.
The book’s stock shifts to an off-white linen for the text section. The fonts stay the same while the layouts and styling decision are based on a hybrid of interview formats and the typography of novels.
Its hard to capture the color and effect of the paper in a mock-up but we printed a dusty grey pantone on off-white linen.
Budget was a huge consideration for this project so we maximized our surfaces by utilizing the inside front and back covers. This coupled with reversing the type out of the blue ink had a bonus effect in that it looks as if the covers were printed on blue paper and heightens that materiality that we were after.
The back cover is a direct nod to academic journals where the list of contributors or table of contents is often printed on the cover. We took that idea but threw it on the back.
The exhibition mailer was based off the graphic language of book and made use of the same off-white paper.