The Japanese are really keen on all things space-related. When we started this project there were already 13 space observatories open to the public across the country. The consortium building and designing the observatory's structure, content and exhibition spaces decided they wanted a more international approach to their graphic identity, and asked us to get involved.
When we were asked to propose a route to help ‘glue’ the graphics of the centre together, we realised that first some research was needed. As we trawled through astrological and cosmological textbooks, we discovered that the books written for children were the most help – they didn’t confuse us with jargon, or overload us with complexity – and schoolchildren would be a key audience for the new observatory.
As we spent more time on this, we wondered if an approach that visually ‘explained’ the cosmos might be viable – a route that ‘brought the cosmos down to earth’, as it were. We began looking for examples we could use, such as, when stars cluster together they behave a little like two eggs in a frying pan. Or the relationship of a cup to a saucer helping to explain planets and their rings.
In parallel we were developing a bilingual typographic ‘arrow' that would work in eight different directions, and could be used to point to the visual examples being developed. Eventually we began to combine the two elements, so the logo arrow points to an image pair that explains the motion of the Milky Way with the use of a common-or-garden washing machine and its contents.
Eventually our worked formed the ‘graphic glue’ to a series of applications, from bags and merchandise to signage, banners within the exhibition areas and public spaces, and the exterior of the building itself.
Exhibition design: Total Media