Adjaye and Thomas Manss devise NPG fashion show

The National Portrait Gallery is to kick off a high-profile exhibition on fashion photography later this month, designed by architect David Adjaye and Thomas Manss & Company.

The National Portrait Gallery is to kick off a high-profile exhibition on fashion photography later this month, designed by architect David Adjaye and Thomas Manss & Company.

Focusing on the work of five acclaimed photographers, Face of Fashion will explore how fashion photography dominates our visual culture and blurs the boundaries between advertising, editorial and art, according to the gallery.

The show brings together the two design studios with the intention of offering a ‘seamless experience’ between the book and promotional material – designed by Thomas Manss & Company – and Adjaye Associates’ design for the exhibition space itself.

Both groups were briefed to take the photographs out of the typographic context of magazines and display them as pieces of art.

Adjaye’s design employs a series of curvilinear walls, structured to move visitors smoothly from one zone of the exhibition to another. Graphics and colour are used to give each of the photographers an identity within the space, while the backdrop is a neutral grey tone to give emphasis to the images.

Thomas Manss & Company was initially briefed to design a book showcasing 130 images from the exhibition and, although it is the consultancy’s first project for the gallery, the brief was expanded to include a range of merchandising and marketing materials, says consultancy founder Thomas Manss.

‘It started with the book commission, but we began to develop an identity and I suggested ways they could use it in other ways,’ he says.

To avoid ownership rights problems associated with using the photographs on saleable merchandising, Manss developed an identity in its own right for the book and other marketing collateral.

‘The cover of the book was quite unusual, as we took more of an identity approach than a book cover approach,’ he adds.

The resulting logotype is cast in a rhodamine red ink and will be used on a range of products developed by the consultancy, including bags, fans and wallets.

The book is produced in a material called beluga, which imbues a lavish and luxurious quality, according to Manss.

The consultancy also developed an Internet microsite for the exhibition that will be used to draw in a younger audience.

The site offers participative elements, including an option to design a custom promotional poster with the user’s own uploaded photograph, which can then be sent to friends as a pdf document. It also offers mobile wallpaper and screensaver downloads.

‘The traditional audience for the National Portrait Gallery is probably about 50 years old and the marketing would reflect this. But this exhibition has a much younger core audience, so we were asked to develop materials that will appeal to that group,’ says Manss.

To drive younger people to the exhibition itself, the first 1000 visitors to the microsite can reserve a limited-edition poster collected on entry to the show.

• Runs from 15 February to 28 May at the National Portrait Gallery in London
• Features photographers Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, Corinne Day, Steven Klein, Paolo Roversi and Mario Sorrenti
• Curated by Susan Bright, curator and writer
• Accompanying hardback book designed by Thomas Manss & Company is published by the National Portrait Gallery, priced £35

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