Created by Pentagram’s Abbott Miller and team and produced and curated by Monotype, the 2014 exhibition Century: 100 Years of Type in Design was designed to celebrate the incredible diversity of typefaces and their integral role in design over the past 100 years. Held at the AIGA National Design Center in New York and organized as a part of AIGA’s centennial year, the show served as the hub of two months of presentations, lectures, workshops and receptions.
The exhibition design transformed the gallery into an immersive environment of typography. The walls and ceilings were covered in a pattern of 1,058 different periods, drawing from 630 typefaces from the Monotype library, and the exhibition’s identity, a letter “C” rendered in segments of different Monotype fonts, was displayed in the gallery window. A pair of dynamic animations further expressed the variations of different typefaces, each cycling through hundreds of different fonts during its run time.
The design set the stage for the remarkable host of artifacts on display, including rare works from the archives of leading design organizations including Monotype, AIGA, Pentagram, Mohawk Paper, and the Type Directors Club, amongst many others. Exhibition artifacts were presented in cases on the walls and represented the evolution from typeface conception to demonstrations of fonts in use. Typeface production drawings by leading designers of the last 100 years, type posters and announcement broadsides were supplemented by publications, advertising, ephemera and packaging.
The challenge for Miller and his team was to create a compelling framework for a display of highly divergent typographic materials from the past century, all drawn from a consortium of different archives with very different emphases. The exhibition space had to establish a broad thematic of typography without becoming overly tied to anything related too specifically. The design did this by focusing on the period as a common denominator of all typefaces, and using only the white of the page and the clarity of black ink. In a more practical direction, the installation also activated zones of the gallery—low and high expanses of walls, as well as the entire floor—that could not be used for display.
Century was very well received by the public and was extended for an additional month as a result of its widespread success. The exhibition has also received a number of honors, as well as considerable coverage from major media outlets, including Fast Company, Core77 and It’s Nice That.
“A smart design for a notoriously difficult exhibition space. Period.”
“An artful, immersive environment activated by the smallest of typographic components – the period. This is a perfect of example of didactic purpose
supported by an artful presentation. Discipline and subtle humor serve to enhance the story telling mission.”
“A celebration of typography uses punctuation to make a point. The curation of 1,058 periods makes a dramatic opening statement as the stark white sawhorse tables elegantly float glass in the middle of the room. A bold red line draws you deeper into the exhibit and frames the weathered artifacts with an unexpected splash of color. The fractured “C” mark anchors the room and nods to a type designer’s slightly manic obsession over the details.”
Abbott Miller (partner in charge, designer); Jesse Kidwell, Yoon-Young Chai, Andrew Walters, Young Sun Compton (designers)
Marcin Ignac (animation producer)
Springworks (fabrication and A/V)