The challenge for this project was to ensure the narrative route through the galleries and sites, varying in style, character and style was joined up and legible. Our design addressed the museum’s concern that visitors would not find the show within The Fitzwilliam building, and that they could also potentially miss crucial parts of the story. We had to ensure that all visitors could find the Hockney works amongst the permanent collection and across the cross-site spaces. And engage powerfully with as wide a public as possible with an interactive and immersive exhibition.
Inspired by Hockney’s works, we developed a palette of greens that was incorporated into every touchpoint of the design. Our green had to be powerful enough to stand with Hockney’s work while not competing with the beauty and unique style of the galleries. This Hockney green visual language – on 3D backdrops to paintings, thresholds and interpretation – enabled visitors to identify which works in the gallery were David Hockney’s and to have a fantastic visitor journey. The visitors’ emotional connection to place, content and storytelling, was integral to every design decision we made.
We introduced interactive interventions across the multi-site gallery spaces. Creating experiences that allowed visitors to enter into, and explore, Hockney’s ongoing dialogue between science and art. Our ‘Disco Tunnel’ created the experience of walking through perspective, using five shades of green to enhance the transition between galleries and physically immerse the visitor in science and art.
Design + Execution
Design overcame the major challenges in this brief. From solving the practical physical obstacles of the space – an exhibition spread out across sites and starting on the second floor – through wayfinding and placemaking. To mapping and spatial design to create a connected journey across different galleries and immersive experiences.
Our creation of Hockney’s Eye visual language was crucial to providing accessible content for everyone regardless of age, education or expertise. Typographic choice, kerning, leading, hang height, density, contrast and viewing distances – ensured users on the spectrum of neurodiversity could engage meaningfully with all the content.
This visual thread throughout the experience made the curatorial dialogue accessible to all ages – especially to younger and new audiences, (potentially with no knowledge of Hockney’s work), with 1 in 10 visitors being under 16 and 1/3 describing themselves as first timers.
We designed the Hockney Handout, using mapping to guide and aid the curatorial story. It was so popular that it was reprinted during the exhibition and proved crucial in empowering visitors on their cross-site journey. The Heong Gallery received unprecedented visitor numbers and gallerists reported many visitors arriving to the show clutching their Hockney Handout.
We presented our vision to, and collaborated with, Sam Forster Associates, Omni Colour and DHA Designs to realise the build and lighting design together as a team. From specifying the minute details, they believed in what we were making, bought into the idea and put in 110% to make it a reality.
The exhibition’s success was demonstrated by the acquisition of 200% more memberships for the museum and a 373% rise in donations from the public during the course of this exhibition. A meaningful legacy and business result for the museum in a cultural context where financial engagement from visitors is key to safeguarding the future of cultural institutions.
The exhibition was voted ‘One of the best 50 shows of 2022’ by the Times. International and national press coverage referenced the unique design of the exhibition, citing the use of our Hockney green and 3D backdrops as exciting and defining characteristics, setting the show apart. Crucially these design decisions were shown to have enabled the curatorial dialogue to take centre stage.
Lucy Holmes (principal & creative director)
Rich Bell (creative lead)
Nina Eklund (3d design lead)
Wayne Mitchell (senior designer)
Clare Summerfield (designer)
Sam Forster Associates (3d build)
Omni Colour (graphics production)
DHA Designs (lighting)