Pentagram’s London Design Biennale identity envisages Darwin’s seven universal emotions as paper masks

Date
25 May 2018
Reading Time
2 minute read

For its second edition, London Design Biennale has turned once again to Pentagram partner Domenic Lippa for its graphic identity. The 2018 festival taking over Somerset House will centre around the theme of Emotional States, exploring how design affects all aspects of our lives and influences “our very being, emotions and experiences”. Therefore the identity looked to convey human feelings, taking inspiration from Charles Darwin’s “seven universal emotions”: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, joy, sadness and contempt.

Lippa’s team commissioned paper artist Andy Singleton to create a series of expressive and intricate paper masks channelling these emotions, worn by cloaked figures and photographed by John Ross. Sticking to the colour palette of the inaugural London Design Biennale – orange, black and white – the vivid masks stand out starkly from posters and other comms promoting the festival, with a haunting and darkly comic aesthetic.

Darwin’s theory The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, published in 1872, stated that all humans, and other animals, show a shared universal range of emotions through remarkably similar behaviours, regardless of culture. The masks abstract these behaviours by replacing human faces with more avant-garde paper interpretations, which also allow the emotions to be conveyed devoid of race, gender and age.

Pentagram came up with the designs by first compiling an audit of words, symbols, actions and facial expressions associated with each of the emotions, and then creating mood boards identifying recurring shapes and forms, to inform the “visual signature” of each emotion. Each mask was then sculpted in paper by Singleton.

“A universal phenomenon that spans centuries, masks have been used to interpret and illustrate the beautiful, the grotesque, the sublime – and everything else in between,” Pentagram says. “[The aim] was to create a series of masks that could subtly, yet coherently, communicate this diverse range of emotional states.”

It’s Nice That is excited to be supporting this year’s London Design Biennale as digital media partner. The festival at Somerset House takes place from 4-23 September 2018, with 35 countries and cities taking part with an expansive show of installations exploring the theme of Emotional States.

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Pentagram: London Design Biennale 2018 identity

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Pentagram: London Design Biennale 2018 identity

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Pentagram: London Design Biennale 2018 identity

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Pentagram: London Design Biennale 2018 identity

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Pentagram: London Design Biennale 2018 identity

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Pentagram: London Design Biennale 2018 identity

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Pentagram: London Design Biennale 2018 identity

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Pentagram: London Design Biennale 2018 identity

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent the last ten years working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on news@itsnicethat.com.

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