“Drawing can give form to thoughts, lead to new ideas, make the invisible visible, and be the means to dream. This studio is a place to use drawing as a tool in these ways and more.” This was the introduction to Out of Line, an open studio space for RISD Museum visitors during the run of the exhibition Lines of Thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to Now From the British Museum (October 6, 2017–January 7, 2018).
The RISD Museum’s Education Department wanted to create a space where visitors could participate in the drawing exhibition by engaging with the medium themselves. The space needed to make the practice of drawing available to museum visitors daily as well as accommodate for several different types of programing, and importantly, engage with all different audience skill levels. We wanted visitors to be able to experience an art-school drawing studio environment, and lose themselves in plaster casts, geometric models, and natural-history specimens. Nine different prompts based on traditional drawing exercises would provide the basis for visitors to get started and draw at their own pace. A library of objects to draw from would make for numerous possibilities in still life arrangements, textures and shapes. We wanted to create a space that encouraged experimentation with mark-making, showing how drawing can be “a means to see what has not been seen before,” informing artistic practice, problem-solving, and personal reflection.
We began our design process by researching drawing classrooms, looking at historic art-school arrangements and furniture and more temporary pop-up spaces. As a museum connected to an art school, we were interested in making the space not unlike RISD drawing studios. We looked to traditional assignments, and to the roles figure and still-life drawing play in learning how to draw. We were also thinking about the fantastic resource that is RISD’s Edna Lawrence Nature Lab.
We designed “cabinets of curiosity” that acted as walls, signage, and storage of drawing materials and for the specimens borrowed from the nature lab. Delicate specimens were entirely enclosed in Plexiglas and fixed in high or low positions on the modular shelves; while the others were positioned where they could be handled and taken to tables to draw from.
With the Education Department, the design team developed a series of nine different drawing prompts that visitors could use to create drawings for themselves. Prompts were printed individually on their own colored cards in English and Spanish. A loop of videos illustrating the prompts being followed played on a large screen in the space above where the drawing materials were stored. To inspire others and show all the drawing be done in the space, we designated a large Homasote-covered wall as an evolving gallery of participant’s work.
Because we designed the exhibition graphics for the British Museum exhibition at RISD and the Out of Line space, we were able to graphically connect the two while also differentiating them. We used a typeface family called MAD (Machine Aided Drawing) by Dries Wiewauters. Wiewauters designed the typeface based on the constraints of CAD drawing programs, in which letters are drawn with lines instead of being outlined as shapes. “With their rendering dictated by the resolution of the output device, their final form was not fixed.” Using type “drawn” by a computer seemed right for an exhibition featuring about 500 years of drawing. Luckily Wiewauters developed serif and sans serif fonts as well as outline and filled ones, providing the variations we were looking for to distinguish the two exhibitions.
This project received an internationally competitive award from the Society of Environmental Graphic Design.
Stephen Wing (Exhibition Design)
Brendan Campbell (Exhibition and Graphic Design)
Jeremy Radtke (Exhibition Design and video creative direction)
Derek Schusterbauer (exhibition and graphic design)
Rocio Delaloye (Video production)
Cara Buzzell (Tittles animation)