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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Cambodian exhibition

This week saw all of the panels and the accompanying booklet for the Cambodian exhibition complete in terms of the English language typesetting. Tomorrow the translator, printer and a Cambodian designer will meet to start work on all of the Khmer typesetting (nice to have such a team in place!). Once they have set all of the type in Khmer, I will take a look and see if the English needs to be reset in anyway, so that they look beautiful together. Below is a work-in-progress. It's the booklet that accompanies the exhibition, and will be given to people attending the workshops run by the Cambodian organisation Youth for Peace and PROOF: Media for Social Justice.

On another note, one of the Cambodians just new to the exhibition is actually an old friend of mine, Aki Ra. Its wonderful to have him and his story join all of the other amazing people who tell their stories. A huge thank you to Aki Ra and Bill Morse, who helps him run his Landmine Museum in Siem Reap, and also to Nicolas Axelrod, who braved the floods to photograph him. It's a truly wonderful photograph.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Posters for schools in Bosnia-Herzegovina

During the time of the Rescuers exhibition in Sarajevo, support was given to create a series of posters for school in the country, which I was asked to design. One request was that it should be more colourful that the exhibition, which had a black background. I did leave the black background for the title and map posters, though. The posters are A1 size and in Bosnian only.

In relation to the typography, I have kept the Adobe Caslon Pro, as it supports Bosnian very well, and connects it visually to the exhibition. Also, while it's tempting to change the typeface to something a little less formal, I was wary of lessening the importance of the stories and the theme of the exhibition itself.

Below is the series.

Title and introduction poster.

Map posters, also has the details of the photographers, with the photographer colour-coded to the region they photographed.




Jusuf and Dzajo















Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Panel designs for Cambodia

As the typsetting of Khmer is quite complex, these designs are the first round only. After I've completed all the panels, they will be sent to a Cambodian designer who will work with the translator to make sure the Khmer type is perfect. Then they will come back to me and I will re-set the English type to sit nicely with the Khmer. I have to say, Khmer script makes for a beautiful layout no matter what. It's such a beautiful language. Here are the panel designs so far.

Title wall panel - a work still in progress. Will also have Khmer title.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Project Management

One of the most challenging parts of working on a project like the Rescuers is definitely the fact that all of the people working on it are scattered across the globe. With the Bosnian version, there were people working on translations and the conference schedule in Sarajevo, photographers in England, Cambodia and other countries, the curator in (and out!) of the States and myself here in Japan. Skype gets a bit of a workout, to say the least, as does email. There are times though, when it would be nice to just be in the same room and work everything out, but alas, it doesn't work that way. As for the Bosnia exhibition, I've also found it really useful with this Cambodian version to keep tabs on things with project management docs.

Leora and I have a chat about the content of the exhibition, she decides who goes in (and I add my two-cents worth!), then I make a list which we use to make sure all of the content is collected. The list looks like this, this time around:

Apologies for having to break it up into two sections there. As you can see, what we have is a list of every panel, and whether or not we have the English-language content, the Khmer translations and the high res image. I have also made columns for the first round of design, which is almost complete, then a Khmer designer will work with the translator to typeset the Khmer, then it will come back to me again and I will fix up the English typesetting so that it all sits nicely together.
Then final checks will be done and it will go off to the printer. We're pretty much on schedule at this stage, as long as the first round is done by the 15th. Here's the other project management doc that I do up right at the beginning of the project, which I do up by working back form the opening date of the exhibition.

It's pretty simple, but very useful.

The other thing that these document do is encourage you to think systematically about a project. It's not just about the design - it's about communicating with a wide range of people from other countries. Keeping it clear, simple and precise can really help.

And on to Cambodia

In my dissertation I have made the point that exhibition designers can understand context more thoroughly by taking a social semiotics approach. This is particularly important for typographic language, because it is within the field of social semiotics that typography is finally gaining some recognition as a multimodal signifying practice – that is, typographic language makes meaning in more than one way, and its meaning is contingent upon the cultural context in which it's operating. *

A Cambodian version of The Rescuers, which, like the Bosnian exhibition, is also bilingual, has its own challenges, but by approaching it from a social semiotic perspective, I believe it gives me a clearer picture of what is needed in the design. Firstly, the Khmer language in its digital form is very complex, and as the Unicode has only recently been developed, there's still a few problems associated with it. A few months back I tackled the issue of intsalling the Khmer unicode and a selection of typefaces, which means that now he design time is upon us I'm not trying to work all of that out. However, there are several issues still. Not all of the typefaces have been designed based on the unicode, so if you use them, they end up looking like this:

If you compare this typeface with the one below it, you can see that some of the characters are converted to another symbol by default. Many of the more decorative Khmer typefaces do this, making the choice of typefaces for use in the exhibition design quite limited.

I have designed the first panel and asked the translator to check the layout also. Khmer is a very difficult language to typeset because of all the sub and superscript consonants and vowels. Also, although I have been to Cambodia many time and also lived there for a while, it's impossible for me to understand what the connotations of this typeface might be visually. For these reasons, it's important that a native speaker also looks at the first round of typesetting and alerts me to anything that might be a mistake on either the linguistic of cultural level of communication.

Although this design is very challenging, I would say that understanding the cultural context is vital to its success, as is working with a team of people who you can openly communicate with.

Here is the panel layout, less any suggestions that might come from the translator.

It's very different from the Bosnian exhibition. the first thing is that the black is gone. This was requested by the curator who felt that it's a bit of a heavy colour for the subject matter. Also, as we have a bit more freedom with the size of the panels this time (they are printed, light-weight board), it was possible to bring the image right to the edge. The right hand side is actually a crop of the photograph, which I will do for all of the images. I like it because it give a continuity to the whole panel, and brings out more. The typeface in English has been changed to Carto Gothic pro (this was used for headings in Bosnia) - as we don't need to confine the English-language typesetting to a typeface that supports Bosnia, I had more freedom to choose a simpler, sans serif typeface. This was important because the Khmer is very decorative, no matter which typeface you set it in. Below are some examples of some Khmer typefaces - it's easy to see, even in a language that's not your own, how typefaces convey meaning visually as well as linguistically. The real trick is knowing what they are conveying if the culture and language are not your own.

* For more information, I suggest Theo Van Leeuwen's Introduction to Social Semiotics (2005), Van Leeuwen (2006) "Towards a Semiotics of Typography" Information Design Journal + Document Design 14 (2), 139-155, Stuart Hall's Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (1997).

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Paul Lowe's exhibition photos

Here are four photographs sent to me today by Paul Lowe, who is one of the Rescuers' photographers. He was at the opening of the Sarajevo exhibition.

Photo: Paul Lowe

Photo: Paul Lowe

Photo: Paul Lowe

Photo: Paul Lowe

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Information for survey participants

If you have made it to this page, thank you so much for taking the time to know more about this research project and completing the online survey. Please click here to open a PDF with more information on the project. Also feel free to take a look through this blog if you want to know more.

Thanks again,
Willhemina Wahlin