Tom Hingston creates an elastic typographic identity for the V&A’s Alice in Wonderland show
The identity reflects both the variety of interpretations of the classic and the need for clear communication following a year of the gallery closing its doors.
- 14 June 2021
- Lucy Bourton
Hingston Studio has designed an expansive identity for the V&A’s immersive summer show, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser. The studio, led by Tom Hingston, has worked closely with the museum to develop the exhibition identity’s concept, art direction and design, as well as onsite interventions.
As the show explores the variety of interpretations and themes present in Alice in Wonderland, Hingston’s identity leans into these various imaginings. “The show itself examines the breadth of the reinterpretation over the years – through cinema, fashion, theatre, music, literature and art,” Hingston tells It’s Nice That. Therefore the studio’s identity leaves “space in the viewer’s mind” as individual audience members tend to have “their own image of Alice and what the character means to them,” resulting in an ambiguous image approach which is contrastingly direct in terms of typography. For example, the character of Alice is only shown in the identity as a silhouette from behind yet is instantly recognisable.
Typographically however the studio is loud in its approach, while ensuring information is clear and concise. This typographic system is the key focus in the identity, especially considering this show marks the V&A is opening its doors following Covid closures, meaning “there is so much to say and communicate,” says Hingston. “It became clear earlier on in our process that this would be visual campaign that required significant messaging, so rather than shy away from that – we decided to embrace it in a celebratory and unapologetic manner.”
Referencing vintage fair posters for their “playful aesthetic” and ability to contrast typography, this treatment created a framework for the exhibition’s identity to be experimental within. “For instance, we could make a nod to the book’s famed exploration of perspective, of shifting scales and size,” explains the designer. Typography is therefore seen to be “squeezed, shrunk or stretched to interact with the space it occupies and indeed – with the characters themselves.”
This variety is included to not only reflect the narrative of the exhibition’s subject but also its communicative needs. A typographic treatment that is fluid can “adopt a dynamic behaviour in digital, in print or for the super graphics which appear on site at the museum,” Hingston describes. “As with any digital roll-out the formats vary hugely, so we were interested in this idea that the type could have an elasticity which allowed it to stretch horizontally and vertically to fit the space,” as seen below in the way the exhibition title covers almost one entire wall and in directions within the museum. “Scale, width and height are all flexible,” the designer continues. “Information and messaging is then treated as a series of modular building blocks, which can be re-configured within any given space or format.”
The ambiguous imagery mentioned was also created from scratch for the identity as Hingston’s studio needed assets it could easily manipulate across the eight-month campaign for the show. Needed in both static imagery and animation, the studio worked with puppeteers Jonny and Will to create characters that were able to “adopt a dynamic behaviour” to be animated “in a digital space, change pose or angle, in static and even appear as sculptural forms onsite, at the museum itself”.
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser runs until 31 December 2021.
Tom Hingston: Curiouser and Curiouser (© Hingston Studio)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.