May 9, 2012  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Design
Sometimes It Does Take a Rocket Scientist to Design a Title Wall

The Born out of Necessity title wall in the Architecture and Design Galleries. Photo: Stephanie Huang

When we first started meeting with curators Paola Antonelli and Kate Carmody about creating graphics for the new Architecture and Design exhibition, Born out of Necessity, they explained that one of the exhibition’s main themes was the design process itself. Born out of Necessityfeatures objects that were created to address a wide range of problems, from natural disasters to listening to music. It was this idea of making connections between the problem and the solution that informed our early thinking about what the exhibition title wall should look like.

After several rounds of exploration, we arrived at the idea of using electrical circuitry as the inspiration for the wall graphics. The concept was to integrate the exhibition title and intro text with lines and symbols mimicking electrical paths and connections. But after a few rounds of refinements, Paola pointed out that our graphics might not hold up to the sharp eyes of visitors with actual knowledge of electrical circuitry. Though we hadn’t meant to design the wall graphics to be functional in any way, Paola made an interesting point: Were the graphic symbols we were using accurate from a technical perspective? We immediately rushed to find someone in the Museum who would be able to tell us whether or not we had represented the schematics correctly. A few colleagues from other departments stopped by my desk to help, but always had to admit that their circuitry vocabulary was limited.

It finally occurred to me that what we needed was someone like a rocket scientist—someone like my dad! He isn’t an electrician of course, but it couldn’t hurt to send him my sketches. To my surprise and delight, he not only corrected the designs, but also drew up sketches of his own for reference.

In the end, we arrived at a solution that balances the design intent of the exhibition and the accuracy of our inspiration. Thanks Dad, I owe you one!

The Born out of Necessity title wall. Photo: Stephanie Huang