A Black-Tape Affair: Pentagram's Big Idea for AIA Exhibition

Whether the budget is big or small (or practically non-existent), it’s always about the idea. Pentagram Partner Natasha Jenand her team had almost no budget to create a high-impact exhibition for AIA New York’s New Practices competition, but they managed it anyway—with black vinyl tape and IKEA picture frames. They even created a custom tape typeface (yes, really).

Jen and her team created the identity system and exhibition for the biennial competition, which AIA New York’s New Practices Committee uses to recognize and promote NYC’s new and innovative architecture and design firms.

The exhibition design won a 2015 SEGD Global Design Merit Award.

New Practices New York 2014 was organized around the theme “Action!” The Pentagram team’s design for the exhibition was inspired by the New Practices Committee logo, which presents a convergence of three lines: two come together to form a directional arrow, while the third creates a corner or symbol of dimensional space.

While exhibitions about architecture often rely on large printed boards mounted to the wall to display content, the Pentagram team wanted to liberate the content from these boards and present it in a dramatically different way. With a very limited budget for the installation, they also had to find a high-impact solution that was inexpensive and easy to produce.

In the exhibition space, the designers recreated the strong black lines of the logo, partitioning the space into various thematic areas with black vinyl tape affixed to both walls and floors. Drawings and photographs were mounted in simple black frames, some mounted perpendicular to the wall to create a dimensional effect. The names of the six honored firms are linked with the images and models of their featured projects and quotes about their work. The mesh of lines resembled a network or the streets on a map, suggesting themes of connection.

The design team also developed a custom typeface for the tape lettering. Display typography for names, titles and quotes was directly affixed to the wall with the black tape. The weight and size of the letters complemented the original New Practices New York logotype, which is set in Gothic 13.

The total cost of materials for the exhibition was just $635, including $382 for 46 IKEA picture frames and $253 for 35 rolls of black vinyl tape.

The SEGD Global Design Awards jury called the project “a good example of doing a lot with a little. A smart way to create a high-impact space… The way the floors, walls, and ceiling are all brought into play makes an otherwise unexciting, low-ceiling space very dynamic.”

“All you need is tape!” noted another juror. “New Practices New York 2014 reminds us that great ideas don't necessarily require high budgets.”


Client: AIA New York

Location: New York

Design: Pentagram

Design Team: Natasha Jen (partner in charge, designer); Jeffrey Waldman, Yenwei Liu (designers)

Installation: Center for Art and Architecture

Photos: Pentagram

Get your Big Idea recognized in the 2016 SEGD Global Design Awards!Entries are due Jan. 31, 2016. Make 2016 your year to shine!

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