Graphic design for exhibitions is most commonly considered a kind of support practice: it gives form to the thoughts of curators, to the ‘brand’ of the gallery, to the exhibition itself and to the artist(s) involved. It also increasingly mediates the space between audiences and exhibited artworks – often through curatorial intervention and collaboration – resulting in a heightened contribution to the understandings that exhibitions are able to generate in audiences. Unlike catalogues, invitations and other designed ephemera, the actual exhibitions almost always last a predetermined length of time, with 3 months being a common maximum. The associated objects of graphic design come to represent exhibitions into the future in ways that are often removed from the experience of the exhibition itself.
While we might reasonably consider exhibitions to be slotted permanently into the archive, in reality it is the interpretive and parallel objects of graphic design that do this task. This paper proposes a methodology of practice that takes account of the increasingly intertwined relationships between exhibitions, artworks and ‘supporting’ graphic design and suggests methods for adapting these relationships to new models. These concerns are exemplified particularly by a project of my own (that constitutes part of my current PhD research) which is discussed at length: Making Public the Making Public, performed recently at the NGV Art Book Fair, 2016.
In conclusion the paper argues for the emergence of a particular cross-discipline: one that takes account of its conditions of production and display by utiltising those conditions as both its material limits and the object of its inquiry.