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Public Typography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

TYPOART

G R APHY

Written and designed by Katie Whiteman


TH E NELSO NATKI NS M USEUM O F A RT typography at


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INTRODUCTION


01

INTRODUCTION

MONET, HICCUPS, & A LITTLE BIT OF INSPIRATION After finishing up my third round of documentation through the museum, I decided to find a place to sit down, collect my thoughts, and write some “do not forget this” notes down before heading home. With the Impressionist gallery being a highlight and a favorite at all my visits, I decided to break on the bench in the middle of Renoir’s tight, expressionistic brush strokes, Caibot’s articulate shape-driven compositions, and Monet’s thought-provoking layering of color. Just as I opened up my sketchbook to start pouring out my thoughts, a little girl with big blue eyes, a shock of white hair, and a bad case of the hiccups crawled up next to me on the bench. She sat there for a few seconds, (hiccup) legs crossed (hiccup), giving me a quizzical stare. After a couple seconds, she

couldn’t take it anymore, “What you (hiccup) doing?” Before I could answer, her mother ran up and immediately tried to coax her back into her recently escaped stroller. The little girl refused to listen to the stroller invite, focusing on me and my soon to be unexciting answer. “I’m doing my homework for my art class,” I replied. She seemed genuinely interested despite the hiccups. She smiled at me and looked at her mom who replied, “Maybe someday, when you grow up, you’ll be a student like her.” And with that, the little girl was satisfied. She crawled down, climbed into her stroller to be wheeled off to the Dada exhibit. Hiccup girl, thank you for making my day, and I hope some day you can share my passion for art and design and enjoy your homework as much as I did that day.


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S IN C E IT S OPE NIN G I N 1 9 3 3 , T H E N E LSO N -ATKI NS M US EUM OF AR T

TH E NELSO NATKI NS M USEUM O F A RT

Has been bringing the Kansas City community together with art

typography and

as its central focus. Recognized internationally as one of the fin-

est general art museums in the United States, the Nelson-Atkins

currently maintains collections of more than 33,500 works of art. The museum’s vast holdings provide the opportunity to create new connections and unique experiences at every turn.

In order to accurately determine its role, we must begin to peel

This is a narrative of an experience, an experience filled with im-

back the layers of typography within this context. One must learn

pasto paintings, geometric sculptures, tiny lithographs, giant tap-

the factors that determine the field of lettering, coined by Phil Ba-

estries, and typography. Lots of it. Whether its informational, ex-

ines and Catherine Dixon in their publishing, Signs: Lettering the

pressionist, or directive, typography weaves itself throughout these

Environment. According to Baines and Dixon, there are four fac-

33,500 works of art, serving as crucial support for the art as well

tors that dictate typography: 1. Letterform 2. Placement 3. Scale

as enhancing the viewer’s experience. This book is dedicated to

4. Material. Throughout this narrative, public typography found in

digging deep inside the walls of the Nelson-Atkins and bringing

the Nelson Atkins, can be broken down into categories: Exterior,

to the surface the experience that typography creates for its visitor.

Permanent galleries, Exhibition galleries, will be analyzed through Baines and Dixon’s four factors. Questions will be asked, ideas will be articulated, and beauty will be discovered. Get excited. Typartgraphy’s exhilarating.


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THE JOURNEY


02 JOURNEY

GETTING THERE: THE TYPOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

Traveling from Lawrence, the Nelson-Atkins is about a 65 minute drive on K10, through I35, weaving through Westport and the Plaza. And while on this journey, wayfinding typography becomes evident. Whether its a red stop sign, speed limit notifications, billboard advertisements, or directions to the museum itself, this particular typography is crucial in giving you, the driver and navigator, the information you need to reach your destination.

4525 Oak Street Kansas City, Missouri


Directional road signs to Nelson-Atkins

Letterform: Interstate Placement: En route off of I35, downtown KC Scale: Large, noticeable Material: Metal sign, flat, silk screen printed

Interstate Signage along K-10 directing traffic towards I435 Parking Garage signage, plus logo, facade with banner advertising the exhibition, Impressionist France


T H E B E AU T Y O F T H E P A R K I N G G A R A G E

Turn onto Oak Street and you’ll immediately start seeing more street signs directing you to the parking garage. You follow them and turn into a large cement structure that has you drive down the ramp, parking underground. You know you’re in the right location because signs highlighting the Nelson-Atkins logo and “Parking Garage” greet you at the entrance. You park, get out of your car, and immediately look up. What in the world? Natural light?

It’s all thanks to Walter de Maria.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Parking Garage, Underground view

“THE ARCHITECTS’ USE OF BOTH NATURAL AND ELECTRIC LIGHT IINNOVATES AND PLAYS PERFECTLY INTO WALTER DE MARIA’S VISION OF THE MOON IN ALMOST LITERAL SENSE.”


One Sun/34 Moons, Walter De Maria, 2002

UNEXPECTED ILLUMINATION Flanking the west side of the museum, sitting directly above the two-level underground parking garage is the JC Nichols Plaza. A black granite plaza, this part of the museum showcases American sculpture artist Walter de Maria and his piece One Sun/34 Moons. A large, square reecting pool, made from gilt bronze and stainless steel, Maria’s piece establishes the area as a welcoming entrance for the west side of the museum. One Sun/34 Moons is composed of a square wading pool with a large, gold square at its center. Around this square and inside the pool, are 34 circular skylights that cut down into the parking garage, directly below it. These skylights act as the main light source for the garage during the day as well as changing neon illuminations at night.


“WE ARE BUILDING THE MUSEUM

ON CLASSICAL

PRINCIPLES


BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN

PROVEN BY CENTURIES.” —THOMAS WIGHT BUILDING’S ARCHITECT


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EXTERIORS


03 EXTERIORS

NE

CLASSICAL

I n f l uen ces Estab l i sh es L o ng evity

While the parking garage is the main point of entry for most visitors, other entrances highlight public typography around the exterior of the Nelson-Atkins structure. A large, Neoclassical-style building with “William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art� is engraved into the upper tier of the buffed limestone facade on the west side of the building. Flanking either side of this west side are short proverbial sayings articulating the importance of art within a community.


ON THE LAWN: OLDENBURG & BRUGGEN’S SHUTTLECOCKS

TO THE LEFT: NELSON-ATKINS LOGO ON BLOCH BUILDING FACADE

IN FRONT: ENGRAVED TYPOGRAPHY ON SANDSTONE BENCH

NELSON-ATKINS MUSEUM OF ART BUILDING A large, Neoclassical-style building “William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art” is engraved into the upper tier of the buffed limestone facade on the west side of the building. Flanking either side of this west side are short proverbial sayings articulating the importance of art within a community.


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Shuttlecocks, Claes Oldenburg and Coojse van Bruggen 1994

CLAES OLDENBURG & COOJSE VAN BRUGGEN ARTIST STATEMENT “Asked to create a large-scale project integrated into the setting of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, we traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1991, prepared to transform the vast, imposing lawn that stretches before the massive neoclassical facade of the museum. What if, as Coosje suggested, feathers were combined with the ball form to become a shuttlecock, a lyrical object, with the ability to float, spin, fly, and land in many different ways? We proposed three 17-foot-high shuttlecock sculptures for the lawn, each in a different position.�


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SHUTTLECOCK TYPOGRAPHY The captions identifying the sculptures throughout the museum’s exterior are simplistic, informational, and even-keel in expressionistic qualities. These signs, like the one identifying Oldenburg and Bruggen’s shuttlecock sculptures are first informational, then expressive. They identify the artist, the title of the work, as well as a paragraph explaining the sculpture and a diagram of the four shuttlecocks.

“SHUTTLECOCK SCULPTURES GRACE THE FRONT AND BACK LAWNS OF KANSAS CITY’S FAMOUS NELSON ATKINS MUSEUM OF ART AS IF HAVING JUST BEEN USED IN BADMITION.”


Nelson-Atkins Signage, just outside sculpture garden along Oak Street


Facade of Nelson Atkins, Engraving on upper tier


“TRUE PAINTING IS ONLY AN IMAGE OF THE PERFECTION OF GOD”

Letterform: All caps serif Placement: Upper tier of facade Scale: Large, flank sides Material: Engraved, sanded limestone

On the right hand side of the building, the saying reads: “Seraphs share with thee knowledge but art and man is thine alone.” This large, but understated typography reinforces the purpose of the Nelson Atkins as an artistic hub as well as referencing its Neoclassical influences articulating its historical background, the art within its walls, and the longevity that is to come.www


“ALL PASSES—HIGH

ART ALONE

IS ETERNAL.”

—THÉOPHILE GAUTIER ENGRAVING ON FACADE


West facade of Nelson Atkins, Engraving depiction/translation below:

“TRUE PAINTING IS ONLY AN IMAGE OF THE PERFECTION OF GOD.”

“As all natures thousand changes but one changeless God proclaim so in art’s wide kingdom ranges one sole meaning still the same this is truth eternal reason which from beauty takes its dress and serence through time and season stands for aye in loveliness.”


East facade of Nelson Atkins, Engraving depiction/translation below:

“SERAPHS SHARE WITH KNOWLEDGE BUT ART O MAN IS THINE “Art deals with things forever incapable of definition and that belong to love beauty joy and worship the shapes powers and Glory of which are ever building unbuilding and rebuilding in each man’s soul and in the soul of the whole world.”

ALONE”


00

e

TH

I

NK


Rodin’s The Thinker sits outside, in the front of the building, looking out onto the lawn. A cast of the 1880 original, the bronze figure sits, pensive, deep in thought. This sculpture is yet another example of the typography found on the exterior of the building. The title and artist of the sculpture, “The Thinker, Rodin” is carved meticulously into the

E

R

front of the podium. An all-caps sans-serif, it is a stoic, traditional choice that mirrors the other typograpy engraved on the building’s shell. Rodin’s signature, carved quickly on the side of the figure’s sitting block exemplifies the humanistic qualities of typography that exist around the walls. Intriguing, Rodin’s signature as well as the other typography, leads the interested visitor towards the inside of the building where they will discover even more in-depth, the role that typography plays in the museum’s setting.

The Thinker, A. Rodin (cast) 1949


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JUXTAPOSITION


04 J U X TA P O S I T I O N

J U X TA P O S I T I O N :

NELSON-ATKINS BUILDING VS. BLOCH BUILDING


The museum is broken up into two separate buildings, the Nelson-Atkins building and the Bloch building. Upon entrance from the parking garage, you, as the visitor, enters into the clean, geometric architecture of the Bloch building. Built in 2007, the Bloch building holds the contemporary exhibits where the Nelson-Atkins building holds majority of the permanent galleries as well as the offices and archives. This juxtaposition establishes the museum as a whole, one that is committed to both the history of traditional art on a global scale, as well as a museum that also focuses on contemporary art and the ever-growing art community.


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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Forum at stairs, Looking up


William Rockhill Nelson came to Kansas City in 1880 to find a raw frontier town full of potential. Nelson soon became a crusader for civic improvements, starting projects that improved KC’s parks, boulevards, plantings, and most imporantly, its art galleries. After founding the KC Star, Nelson decided it was time to turn his focus towards establishing the city’s artistic community. Little did he know, there was someone else with the same idea.

Mary McAfee Atkins moved to Kansas City in 1878. When her husband passed away in 1886, Atkins was left with a fortune. Having always been a patron for the arts, Atkins decided, like Nelson, that she wanted to build an art gallery. In 1927, the two combined their fortunes and with $3 million started building the Nelson-Atkins.


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T WO PAR T S M AKE A WHO LE

While the 1933 building is traditional, the Bloch building is con-

The original Neoclassical building was built in 1933 by archi-

temporary. While the 1933 building looks back at the historic, the

tects Wight and Wight. Made of warm, buff limestone with a

Bloch building looks forward, towards budding modernism. His-

central hall over forty feet tall, the building serves as a central

toric versus future. Neoclassical versus clean, linear, geometric

heart for the permanent galleries. In 1983, on its 50th anniver-

shapes. The differences in these two buildings, while wildly no-

sary, the museum was officially named the Nelson-Atkins. And in

ticeable, make up for what the other is missing. Most notibly for

2007, in honor of Henry W. Bloch and wife Marion, the slender,

this instance is the difference is typographic treatment. The mu-

elongated extension of the museum was built, the Bloch build-

seum has two typefaces, Garamond and Scala Sans. Garamond,

ing. Connecting the eastern side of the 1933 building and run-

a traditional serif font is used primarily in the 1933 to reference

ning 840 feet to the eastern edge, the Bloch building provides a

the more traditional aspects of the art. Scala Sans, a humanistic

delicate counterpoint for the museum by respecting the earlier

sans serif is used primarily in the Bloch building adhereing to the

architecture while retainins the integrity of the iconic silhouette.

more modern elements of the structure.

Bloch Building Outside Signage, Scala Sans 2007


Bloch Building Entrance Signage, Scala Sans 2007

GARAMOND VERSUS SCALA SANS Garamond’s letterforms convey a sense of fluidity and consistency. Some unique characteristics in his letters are the small bowl of the a and the small eye of the e. Long extenders and top serifs have a downward slope. Garamond is considered to be among the most legible and readable serif typefaces for use in print (offline) applications.[1] It has also been noted to be one of the most eco-friendly major fonts when it comes to ink usage. FF Scala Sans provides advanced typographical support with features such as ligatures, small capitals, alternate characters, case-sensitive forms, fractions, and super- and subscript characters. It comes with a complete range of figure set options – oldstyle and lining figures, each in tabular and proportional widths.


SCALA SANS REGULAR SCALA SANS BOLD SCALA SANS ITALLIC

Scala Sans

Aa Ee Hh Ll Pp Tt Xx

Bb Ff Ii Mm Qq Uu Yy

Cc Gg Jj Nn Rr Vv Zz

Dd Ff Kk Oo Ss Ww 00


GARAMOND REGULAR GARAMOND BOLD

Garamond GARAMOND ITALLIC

Aa Ee Hh Ll Pp Tt Xx

Bb Ff Ii Mm Qq Uu Yy

Cc Gg Jj Nn Rr Vv Zz

Nelson-Atkins and the Bloch Building, Kansas City, MO

Dd Ff Kk Oo Ss Ww 00


J U X TA POSITI

N


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PERMANENT


Atalanta and Meleager with the Calydonian Bear , Francesco Mosca


TYPOGRAPHY Articulation in the Per manent Galleries

From the Nelson-Atkins’ exterior shell to the Bloch’s entrance, to this very spot in the permanent galleries. Typography is the permanent galleries is used as a communication device to inform you, as the visitor, as well as provide mental information such as wayfinding and directional advice. Like it was stated in the previous chapter, Garamond is the dominant typeface, with Scala Sans as its secondary counterpart. As the visitor continues to travel deeper into the museum they will see hundreds of works from artists from around the world.


05 PERMANENT


Garamond (primary) + Scala Sans (secondary) = Traditional art galleries

Letterform: Traditional serif Placement: Informational boards at gallery entrances Scale: Header + body text Small but readable from three to four feet away Material: Vinyl letters on masonite board, hung on wall


50

DO

NOT

TO


U

CH

Persephone, Thomas Hart Benton 1889-1975, American Art Gallery


Typography in Impressionism Gallery

Letterform: Garamond (primary) & Scala Sans (secondary) Placement: Informational tiles at entrance of gallery and on the side of each painting, additional handouts, laminated Scale: Small, 2nd in hierarchy to paintings Material: Vinyl Headers + screen printed signs on board


Water Lilies, Claude Monet 1840-1926

MONET’S WATER LILIES Water Lilies is a series of approximately 250 oil paintings by French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840–1926). The paintings depict Monet’s flower garden at Giverny and were the main focus of Monet’s artistic production during the last thirty years of his life. Many of the works were painted while Monet suffered from cataracts. The paintings are on display at museums all over the world, including the Musée Marmottan Monet and the musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the National Museum of Wales, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Portland Art Museum.


Persephone, Thomas Hart Benton 1889-1975, American Art Gallery


I NTERV IE W WIT H S US A N P AT T E R SON : Process of Laying Out, Printing, & Installing Informational Boards

Susan Patterson is one of the exhibition graphic designers at the Nelson Atkins. I had the wonderful opportunity of getting to meet with her one afternoon. She took me around the museum and explained her role in and around the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

What is your part in designing the informational panels? We receive the text from the curator and it is our job to layout everything but the mounting. Every piece of artwork has an informational board as well as an opening, over-arching panel explaining the gallery’s focus.

What typefaces are used in the museum? With the exception of expressionistic branding typefaces, we use Scala Sans and Garamond. Scala is used as the primary typeface for the modern galleries and Garamond is used as the primary typeface in the traditional, permanent galleries.

While your job seems perfect, I figure there are frustrating points, anything in particular? Time. So much of what I do, and the quality I output it at depends on how much time the people I’m working with give me. If the curator is late in getting me the content on the informational panels, I get stressed.

Close up of Informational Panel at entrance of American West gallery Small, individual informational panel for Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Buddha)


Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Buddha)

“ S U CCE S S T H ROUGH S E NS I BLE A ND SENSITIV ELY MANAG ED R ENDERS STILL IN V ISIB LE ”

—BAINES AND DIXON


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CONTEMPORARY


06

C O N T E M P O R A RY

TYPOGRAPHY Articulation in the Contemporar y Galleries


As the viewer transitions from the traditional to modern, they should begin to notice a fresh feel.Typography is the contemporary galleries is used as a communication device to inform you, as the visitor as well as provide mental information such as wayfinding and directional advice as well as adhere to the image side of things and work to develop a “brand� for each exhibition.


“TODAY, MANY OF THE TYPEFACES/FONTS CAN BE TERMED “EYE-KONIC” OR HAVING THE SAME EXPRESSIVE QUALITIES AS ACTUAL IMAGES.” —BAINES AND DIXON

Through the use of expressive typefaces as well as color palette, patterns, and other imagery, each gallery in the Bloch building develops a different flavor. As the viewer moves through this part of the museum, they begin to separate these galleries through the help of these established brands, something that doesn’t occur in the traditional part of the museum.

“Echoes: Islamic Art” br ochur e on bench outside of its galler y


I NTERV IE W WIT H S US A N P AT T E R SON : Process of Laying Out, Printing, & Installing Informational Boards

Susan Patterson is one of the exhibition graphic designers at the Nelson Atkins. I had the wonderful opportunity of getting to meet with her one afternoon. She took me around the museum and explained her role in and around the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She is one of the designers that design the rotating exhibitions that come through. Although she has done countless exhibitions, I focused on the ones currently up and running. Explain your process that you go through to reach the final “brand” of an exhibition The curator for the specific exhibition develops a moodboard with various images, textures, typefaces that he or she has in mind. From there, I come up with a variation of different design

solutions based on that moodboard. I return those ideas back to the currator as well as other exhibition participants and we work together to develop a brand that works best with the artwork. What are the typical variables you need for each exhition? Usually, we’ll design a large vinyl banner for exterior advertising, the first wall introducing the gallery, informational panels for each of the works, some kind of brochure, as well as anything else the curator thinks that we need to make the exhibition the best it can be.


Chr omoplastic Mural, Luis Tomasello


Letterform: Scala Sans & Garamond & Unique Typeface Placement: Informational tiles at entrance of gallery and on the side of each painting, additional handouts, laminated Scale: Small, 2nd in hierarchy to works Material: Vinyl Headers + screen printed signs on board Brand: Echoes: Islamic Art & Contemporary Artists


67 This exhibition explores these questions through a se-

tors will see how contemporary artists are drawing upon

photography, paintings, ceramics and digital collage, by in-

ries visual conversations that make connections across

their cultural and visual past to explore personal, political,

ternationally recognized artists such as: Shahzia Sikander

cultures, geography and time. The installation juxtaposes

and aesthetic concerns. The artistic achievements of tradi-

and Rashid Rana. Echoes is part of a city–wide collabora-

historical objects and architecture with works by contem-

tional Islamic art will be represented by works in the Nel-

tive project focusing on Islamic art and culture, featuring

porary artists that employ traditional Islamic styles, materi-

son-Atkins permanent collection, including examples of

exhibitions, artists’ residencies and public programming at

als and subject matter as their source. Framed beneath the

calligraphy, ceramics, paintings, carpets and architectural

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kansas City Art-

Museum’s stunning 17th century Persian mosaic arch, visi-

forms. Contemporary art works include sculpture, video,

ists Coalition, and the Kansas City Public Library.

Echoes: Islamic Art & Contemporar y Artists, Opening Exhibition Wall


This exhibition explores the breadth and global diversity of contemporary photographic portraiture since 2000, highlighting recent acquisitions to the museum’s permanent collection. About Face will include works by twenty-nine artists from the United States, England, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Iran and South Africa. Though each of these photographers approaches portraitmaking differently, certain thematic threads resonate throughout the show, including questions of racial, cultural, ethnic, class and gender identity; the relationship between individuals and typologies; the way photographic processes themselves inform meaning; the relevance of historical precedents to contemporary practice; and the impact of media stereotypes on self-presentation. The goal of our collaboration is twofold: to celebrate the complementary experiences of engaging with photographs as objects and as images, and to connect museum visitors in Kansas City with an international community deeply engaged in thinking about portraiture and contemporary photographic practice.

Brand: About Face: Contemporary Portraiture


Letterform: Thin, condensed Sans serif, colorful, manipulated Placement: Info board (not directly installed on wall) and printed brochures and signs Scale: Large,noticed because of treatment not necessarily because of size Material: Silk screen on masonite board, printed Interactive element, type on screen

Susan Patterson, uses the interactive part of the About Face exhibition to view photos.


RESOURCES Signs: Lettering the Environment by Phil Baines & Catherine Dixon Review, March 2007 “The Un-Cultured Word: Vernacular Typography and Image”. Myers, The Value of the Narrative in the Education of a Typographer

BOOK TYPEFACES Scala Sans & Garamond

CAMERA Nikon D3100


A SPECIAL THANKS TO Susan Patterson Michele Boeckholt Barbara Worthington Clark

DESIGNER AS AUTHOR Patrick Dooley, Fall 2013 The University of Kansas


TypoARTgraphy: Public Typgraphy at the Nelson-Atkins  

A book looking at public typography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, MO

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