Plan B’s exhibition identity for Design Museum uses sustainable materials and decolonial mapping

For the Design Museum’s annual residency programme, the London-based studio weaves together a group of projects focused on environmental, geographic and social climate challenges.

11 July 2023

This year, the Design Museum’s residency programme revolves around the theme of Islands, showcasing work that explores numerous climate challenges. Plan B Studio have been enlisted to create the visuals to accompany the exhibition, tasked with weaving together a unique set of projects – which delve into subjects as diverse as land literacy, laundry drying strategies and pigeon creations – under one identity. To achieve this, the studio incorporated sustainable materials, decolonised mapping strategies and sign painting, all the while paying close attention to the central theme and its ties to the sea.

Led by Bakhtawer Haider and Betty Brunfaut, Plan B is a studio firmly committed to “disseminating concepts rooted in sustainability and cultural decolonisation”. Through “championing intersectional and underrepresented viewpoints”, it aims to create “impactful experiences”. This ethos feeds directly into the Island’s identity. To inform the contextual basis of the project, the studio collaborated with Bushra Mohamed from Msoma Architects and used decolonial mapping strategies. “Departing from the traditional view of maps as factual and precise representation, we approach them as expressive and communicative tools,” Bakhtawer explains. Applying this throughout the exhibition space, the studio treated each resident project as an independent island “brimming with its own biodiversity, culture and laws”. Betty continues: “Embracing the spirit of symbiosis, these distinct islands coexist and evolve, forming a rich tapestry within the residency.”


Plan B Studio: Islands Identity (Copyright © Plan B Studio, 2023)

To ensure such messages translated throughout the rest of the identity, the studio took careful consideration when deciding upon each graphic and material element. The main typeface running throughout is Authentic Sans; created by Christina Janus and Desmond Wong, the typeface is one that “challenges Eurocentric typographic standards, advocating for inclusivity and diversity”.

The central visual – flowing waves of blues – was hand painted by sign painter Good Night Vienna. This material approach allowed for easy removal at the end of the exhibition, and avoided unnecessary plastics like PVC, which is more commonly used in signage printing. The exhibition plinths throughout were made with hemp boards and created by 121 Collective with a production process free from harmful chemicals. The exhibition publication – made in collaboration with Plaintiff Press – uses hemp paper from G.F Smith, and the bookmark is made from Notpla paper, a “groundbreaking seaweed material”. Both maintain the sustainable ethos and also align with the exhibition’s theme.

On the whole, the identity not only compliments the exhibition and work on display, but raises important questions in regard to the relationship between design, sustainability and cultural diversity.

GalleryPlan B Studio: Islands Identity (Copyright © Plan B Studio, 2023)

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Plan B Studio: Islands Identity (Copyright © Plan B Studio, 2023)


Curator and Editor: George Kafka
Assistant Curator and Editor: Lila Boschet Exhibition

Producer: Rebecca Gemmo

Residents: Rhiarna Dhaliwal, Marianna Janowicz, Isabel Lea, James Peplow Powell

Branding, 2D Design and Publication Design: Plan B Studio - Bakhtawer Haider and Betty Brunfaut

3D Design: Msoma Architects - Bushra Mohamed

Exhibition Building and Installation: 121 Collective - Alex Williamson-Bell, David Spicer, Max Pevsner, Michael Henley, Will Kendrick 

Bookbinder and Material Specialists: Plaintiff Press - Kristina Chan and Jojo Villas 

Window Painting: Good Night Vienna - Nick Blaney 

Typeface: Authentic Sans - Christina Janus and Desmond Wong 

Paper: G.F Smith and Notpla

Photos: Felix Peller and Plan B 

Location: the Design Museum 

Partners: Future Observatory and Arts and Humanities Research Council

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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