Art Design / Case Study

Inspired art design catalyzes communities and initiates conversation.

What is Art Design?

An exhibition’s reason for being is the art “on the walls.” But the collateral surrounding the exhibition—the catalog, invitations, wall text—are an integral part of the experience. They can even take on a life of their own.

The catalog in particular becomes a part of the exhibition, not just a record of it. A collectible artifact that serves as a memento, a catalyst for further conversation, inspiration, a shared token of the ephemeral experience that is the exhibition.

The catalog can also become a call to action, informing constituents about your values, the role the institution plays in the community, and a proof point for further investments – of time, resources and funding.

Art Design is a further expression of your mission, providing insight into your activities and generating positive conversations about your organization.

The Paul Robeson Galleries

Rutgers University–Newark

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Photos: Paul Robeson Galleries
About the Client

The Paul Robeson Galleries is an artistic and cultural center dedicated to presenting art and cultural artifacts as well as educational and public programming in the spirit of the diverse metropolitan context of Rutgers University at Newark, the Greater Newark communities, and the northeast region of New Jersey.

The Galleries have a rich tradition of presenting high caliber exhibition to the University and Greater Newark area communities, showcasing work that advance’s Mr. Robeson’s “legacy of encouraging cross-cultural artistic freedom and cultural democracy.”

The exhibitions are primarily about art but also very much about creating dialogue, teaching about art, and establishing the role that art plays in shaping our individual and collective experiences.

The Design Brief

The initial design brief was to create a catalog for a single exhibition. This quickly evolved into a mandate to design a vernacular for an entire series of catalogs that has occurred over a number of years. This allowed us to create a vibrant, connected look and feel that represents the values of the Paul Robeson Galleries while highlighting the unique content of each exhibition.

The constants: accessibility, inspiring dialogue, supporting and promoting the living artists, encouraging audience participation, education, and to clearly communicate the quality of both the artists’ work and the gallery as an institution.

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Collaboration is Key

A collaborative creative process produces the best possibility for successful design outcomes. With each of the exhibition catalogs, the gallery director has carefully tinvetigated the topic of the exhibition and provides design inspiration based on the exhibition’s theme for the catalog.

The inspiration may be a stack of photographs or magazine clippings, a favorite illustrator, a printing technique, or sometimes, just a color or typeface. Defining parameters and narrowing focus provides a platform to allow for very specific design exploration and more high-level results.

The Value of an Exhibition Catalog

In the end, as every arts organization can attest, the catalog becomes the living embodiment of an exhibition long after the art has been taken down. It is the greatest opportunity an institution has to continue its conversation with the public about its value to the community.

The catalog:

  • Extends visibility of the exhibition and the institution beyond the gallery walls
  • Becomes a permanent record of the exhibition
  • Heightens awareness of the artists and their work
art design, brand, graphic design, exhibition catalog, art catalog, paul robeson galleries, james wawrzewski, new york
art design, brand, graphic design, exhibition catalog, art catalog, paul robeson galleries james wawrzewski, new york
Successful Outcomes

The Artists
We see how gratifying it is for the artists to see their work documented and included in a broader exhibition context beyond the walls of a gallery. We often see artists purchasing additional catalogs to share with friends and family or to send to potential supporters.

The Visitors
Gallery visitors are drawn to the catalogs because of their bold, eye-catching design. Buy purchasing a catalog, they are able to “take the exhibition home.”

The Gallery
The Paul Robeson Galleries sells the catalogs to gallery visitors and individuals interested in the topic. They can be found in the libraries of major museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and the Newark Museum.

Client Feedback

“These catalogs have become a part of the exhibitions just like the actual art works that we display.”

—Anonda Bell, Director & Curator, Paul Robeson Galleries

art design, brand, graphic design, exhibition catalog, art catalog, james wawrzewski, new york
Photo: Paul Robeson Galleries