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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics

Work / Exhibition

Wang & Söderström on their watery identity and exhibition design for Ocean Plastics

If you were inclined, you could spend all day shouting ever more overwhelming plastic stats at passersby. For instance every day eight million pieces of plastic wash into the ocean, meaning that there are something like 5.25 trillion pieces floating in the sea, with a weight as heavy as about 20 Eiffel towers. Close to 700 species of marine life are facing extinction due to the increase in plastic pollution; while nearly half of all plastic ever made has been produced since 2000.

But rather than descend into despair Gothenburg’s Röhsska Museum has devised a new exhibition, called Ocean Plastics, that brings together a new generation of designers who are offering often collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches to reducing plastic consumption. The exhibition, which runs until 5 Jan 2020, has been designed Copenhagen-based duo Wang & Söderström, and features fluid CGI underwater scenes.

The concept for the identity stems from the the idea of the ocean surface as an “interface” where us land-dwellers meet the ocean. “Signs of the ocean’s health bubble up from the depths into our reality,” Anny Wang tells It’s Nice That. “More optimistically we’ve used the concept in relation to modern technologies and design solutions that scratch the surface to find revolutionary sustainable and innovative approaches.”

In the visual identity, plastic rubbish and bags swirl together creating an abstract version of the ocean’s surface. The pair then contrasted a rabble of shiny, synthetic and fluid objects with a more upright typeface, Crastino by Tor Weibull. “Crastino is a classic Didot typeface that reflects the serious theme of the exhibition, but adds playful soft curves inspired by the water surface tension,” says Tim Söderström. The pair also created a series of animations that aim to marine pollutions. “We believe that even if the subject is horrifying and sad, the visuals can be intriguing anyway, as there is beauty in everything,” says Anny. “By working with a strong visual concept, we believe we can reach a broader public and get the visitor interested about the subject – to use a different approach to show the problem rather than frighten people.”

The water’s surface has also been used as a visual device in the 1000-sqm exhibition space, with the upper exhibition hall appearing as though above the surface and the ground floor below the depths. Below, a 22m textile wave made from post-consumer recycled plastic undulates through the show’s first room, with foil mirrors making the objects arranges by their plastic group look bottomless, with waste floating up towards the ceiling. Upstairs polished flooring and podiums create rafts and islands on the surface, and Anny and Tim used recycled pellets (sometimes called mermaids’ tears) to create a small beach.

The pair’s favourite area encircled the video work Plastic Bag by Ramin Bahrani, which is shown together with a bench and stools made by Wang & Söderström. The video is a beautiful and strong work which gives plastic a voice and personality. “It is an almost ten year old film, but more than ever relevant,” says Tim. “The translucent materials in the seatings comes alive with the light from the projection and it is a nice play that the seatings are made of recycled plastic packaging and bags while you sit and watch the plastic bag in the film, that wants to be able to die.” Anny adds, “In the end, we hope that people walk out from the exhibition inspired and remembering what they saw and learnt, rather than making it blend into all the environmental news.”

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics, Crastino typeface by Tor Weibull

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics, Crastino typeface by Tor Weibull

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Wang & Söderström: Ocean Plastics