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World renowned exhibition spaces for art and design are based in my home city of Dundee. Both long standing clients; Dundee Contemporary Arts and V&A Museum of Design have been instrumental in the city’s development as well as in my career. Being involved in supplying exhibition graphics and displays has broadened my knowledge too.
Working with many gifted artists, designers, curators and technicians has also influenced my creativity. With every new show, I learn more. Presenting opportunities to use new methods and materials, thus enabling me to improve and hone my skills.
Coupled with my passion for typography and the challenging briefs sometimes involved with gallery work, I enjoy being a part of exhibition graphics and display projects.
Stuart Whipps If Wishes Were Thrushes, Beggars Would Eat Birds. Matt black vinyl on wall. Installation at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Typesetting by Valerie Norris.
Cut vinyl and printed lettering can be integral pieces for exhibitions and displays. Fusing the presentation together with a coherent look in addition to guiding and informing visitors.
Labelling and information is as important as the items on display. Visitors’ eyes are engaged not only with the exhibits, but also with the signage presenting them.
A good understanding of type and layout is useful in the production of vinyl lettering. In knowing limitations for cut vinyl text size and weight, as well as understanding formatting for copy, saves galleries time and expense.
I regularly produce and install large paragraphs of cut vinyl text, from upwards of 5mm in height. Stroke widths of less than one millimetre are common. There is a certain competence required for accurate production of vinyl text at this size, and I have years of experience.
Particular fonts and styles of lettering also cut and apply better in certain vinyl films, on certain surfaces. I’m always happy to discuss these matters and provide samples of materials.
Eve Fowler Patriarchal Poetry 2018. Digitally printed vinyl on wall. Installation at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Photograph by Ruth Clark.
Attention to detail
Most often in exhibition and display projects, I receive third party artwork. The project brief and artwork files are provided for me before any scaled layouts are sent back for approval, if necessary.
By default, I’m a proof reader. Staring at the screen, the cut vinyl or printed word repeatedly and sometimes over several days. If I’m unsure what the instructions are, notice any errors or have concerns about production, I notify whom I’m working for immediately.
My job is to reproduce the artwork identically to your design and how you have envisaged. I realise the effort involved in creating artwork and can advise how to prepare files for reproduction at large scale.
On occasion, it’s also important to source materials and test them. This avoids any guesswork and is sometimes necessary for colour matching, checking finishes and being confident in the vinyl’s bond.
Upon installation of vinyl graphics, the artwork is initially tacked in place with low tack tape. Any amendments to the positioning are made before levelling and then firmly applying.
V&A Museum of Design Dundee. Christopher Kane installation. High performance vinyl on textured wall. Project curator: Kirsty Hassard.
Smooth and textured
Some surfaces may pose challenges as well as the environment in which the display is set. I regularly apply exhibition and display graphics to interior and exterior surfaces. Glass, plasterboard, render, brick and wood, as well as floors and staircases.
Cut vinyl lettering is applied using a tacky paper. If there is poor paint adhesion on the surface, paint may sometimes peel off. Sample portions of vinyl can be tested on dubious surfaces beforehand.
Social distancing graphics are also commonly used for display projects. Graphics can be applied to uneven surfaces like concrete finishes and carpets. A heat tool is sometimes used to apply these films onto rougher surfaces. As well as primer coatings or post heating which is required for the graphics to bond adequately.
V&A Museum of Design Dundee: Scottish Design Relay exhibition. Fluorescent and matt grey vinyl on plasterboard wall and plywood.
Project curator: Dr. Mhairi Maxwell. Design consultants: the design kollektiv Graphic designer: Kirsten Ambrogi.
A multitude of materials
For most exhibitions, I provide matt finish vinyl. This is used mainly for cut vinyl text and diagrams.
Digitally printed images are also common. Whether cut to shape or as large segments, like wallpaper. There is a vast range of vinyls available and understanding their properties is crucial for what is expected from them.
Sourcing more specialist films and coatings requires continuous learning of available materials and advancements. As well as an understanding of how to handle and remove them.
I can advise which material will be suitable for the project. Along with technical specifications for fire ratings, floor graphics slip ratings and exterior longevity.
Hand lettering is occasionally sought after for exhibitions too. Knowing suitable and cost efficient paints which are high opacity, durable and eco-friendly requires experience as well as connections for where to source them. You can read about hand lettering here as well as learn how to do it.
Rigid substrates and individually cut out letters, are also available in a variety of colours and finishes. Along with stand-off fixings which can complement display panels.
Philip Colbert: The Death of Marat and the Birth of the Lobster. Digitally printed vinyl wall coverings. Installation at Wardlaw Museum. Curator: Claire Robinson.
Large format graphics can change the appearance of gallery spaces with every new show. Walls, floors and display stands can be altered and integrated for the display.
Using printed and cut vinyl for this purpose can carry themes throughout exhibition spaces. In addition to advertising upcoming shows.
Large areas of vinyl are tiled or butted together with no obvious seams producing a grand format, impressive result. The vinyl films are also removed with some time and effort. Leaving the surface ready for new adhesive graphics or a re-paint if required.
Johanna Basford Wonderlands. Matt black vinyl on wall. Installation at Dundee Contemporary Arts.
Due to experience, I can foresee where most challenges may occur. I invest time into discovery and managing large projects, minimising errors and ensuring deadlines are met. I respond quickly with advice and present options for successful exhibitions and displays.
Let’s work together. Contact me to discuss how I can help you with your next project.