April 19, 2010  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Design, Film
3D Burton: Shadows and Reflections

Three-dimensional rendering of the entrance to Tim Burton (left) by TwoSeven, Inc., based on an untitled drawing (right) by Tim Burton for the unrealized project Trick or Treat (1980)

Tim Burton was one of the most challenging exhibitions our graphic design department has had the pleasure of fully developing. It explores a wide spectrum of Tim Burton’s creative work, including drawings, paintings, photographs, moving images, concept art, storyboards, puppets, maquettes, costumes, and cinematic ephemera. For the exhibition graphic design, our goal was to take all these diverse visual references and distill them into a simple graphic treatment that celebrated Burton’s work.

In addition, the exhibition’s entrance presented us with a unique problem to solve. At Burton’s suggestion, the design team developed a method to translate his untitled drawing (above right) into a three-dimensional walk-in sculpture. With help from both our Exhibition Design and Production Department and TwoSeven, Inc., a fabrication consultant from Brooklyn, the drawing was successfully translated into the entrance—which instantly became the iconic visual of the exhibition.

Burton head
Burton eye

Three video clips show the making of the entrance sculpture. Milo Mottola from TwoSeven, Inc., worked on the sculpture for the exhibition entrance. Video courtesy of TwoSeven, Inc.

Shadows and reflections are a crucial part of Burton’s artwork. This spirit was integrated into the exhibition design, particularly in the first sequence of galleries. As designers, we always anticipate the result of our visual choices, and try our best to predict how that may affect the visitor’s experience as a whole. We believe exhibition graphic design is about the creation of an experience beyond the title wall. We design for a 360-degree experience—an experience that leads you into the artist’s world and gives you insight into his or her artistic intentions.

Shadows and reflections are a very important part of Burton’s artwork. It was a fun process for us to be able to capture the fantastical realm of his creatures and artwork in our exhibition graphic design. Photos by Jason Mandella

Extensive use of hand lettering was also strategically used throughout the exhibition, including on the title wall and in a large timeline of Burton’s career. Hand lettering reflects the confessional nature of Burton’s sketchbooks, found throughout the exhibition. The typography design invokes the nature of his nervous, compulsive sketching and restless, eccentric spirit.

For this unique exhibition graphic design challenge, our goal was to take all these visual references and distill them into a simple graphic treatment that celebrates Burton’s work. Photos by Jason Mandella