Pentagram partner Marina Willer outlined how on earth you turn a body of work as recognisable (and huge) as Stanley Kubrick’s into a concise, compelling exhibition as she talked through her team’s recent design of the Design Museum’s Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at last month’s Nicer Tuesdays.
Marina started by describing the structure at Pentagram, an agency which consists of architects, artists, graphic designers and everything in between, with each partner working in a team. Behind her on the screen was a giant “ME = WE” as she said: “My work is very much teamwork and we couldn’t do the kind of things we do if it wasn’t done really collectively – it’s not solo at all.”
Marina explained how much of their work is centred around branding – she treated us to a brief showreel of the world completed in this realm so far – but also around film. Marina actually produced her own film, Red Trees, in 2017 which is now on Netflix. It’s the meeting of these two areas which led her and her team into the world of exhibition design, marking them as the perfect group to take on an exhibition centred around the famed director. “Kubrick,” she added on this, “what a dream to be invited to design an exhibition for Kubrick… The opportunity to really dive into the work of someone you admire.”
The latter half of Marina’s talk focussed on how they actually went about designing the exhibition. Sometimes, she explained, curators will have a very clear idea of how they want an exhibition so look, but for Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition Marina and her team worked in close collaboration with Deyan Sudjic from the Design Museum. “We tried, like when we are doing a brand identity,” she explained, “to collate everything we understand is interesting and relevant about that subject and then that will indicate an angle, a point of view.”
Through thorough research they identified some key themes, the first of which was chess. “Some of our team are very geeky, so they really got into this,” she joked, “how perhaps you could move in the space as you move chess pieces, we looked at the typography and how it could move based on [chess].” Ultimately, they got a bit too carried with this route and Marina reflected: “We need to remember when we’re doing something like this, we’re creating a framework, we’re there to show Kubrick’s work, not our work.”
The team then explored a second route: perspective. Throughout Kubrick’s body of work, there’s a one point perspective that crops up again and again, almost becoming a theme in his work, not just a technique employed. Having looked at how they could use these techniques when applied to typography (“again, I think the language was dominating”), the team eventually produced a trailer which showed off the one point perspective and which is shown on a series of screens as you enter the exhibition. They organised the content of the exhibition with precision and, using the themes they had identified, were able to mock up a floor plan for how visitors would navigate the exhibition. The result is a journey which initially leads you through a one point perspective before, figuratively and literally, leading you behind the scenes of Kubrick’s work on a journey through several sectioned off areas of the space, each dedicated to breaking down every detail of one film.