THE SCIENCE OF SURVIVAL
Major exhibitions, such as the Science Museum’s The Science of Survival, tend now to marshal a formidable array of forces. ‘It’s a bit like a movie. We all come together to work on the project and then disband,’ says Ben Tomlinson, creative director of Ico Design, which was responsible for the exhibition’s graphics and four installations.
It’s an analogy that finds favour with the client, filmographer Malinda Campbell. Tellingly, her background was in feature and documentary film before becoming creative director of The Science of Survival. While she does sometimes look for a ‘onestop shop’, getting different designers to work together is more usual. ‘We like to speak to many designers and scholars, so that different voices are present,’ says Campbell. ‘But, we look for shared values – any collaboration depends on a significant amount of negotiation.’
The collaborations are overseen by a project manager and carefully policed by the client. ‘We retain copyright and sign-off for the different stages, which gets round the issue of ego,’ says Campbell. ‘The final decision is always in-house. The difficulty is balancing this with allowing creative freedom.’ And, as with films, the designs are submitted to evaluation groups, something now built in to the contracts.
While the host of consultancies working on The Science of Survival were chosen separately, rather than pitching together, Tomlinson says the forced collaborations turned out to be harmonious, particularly with Enigma, which was responsible for 3D design. ‘The crossover was quite fluid – sometimes we thought of 3D ideas, and sometimes it was the other way around. There were no fixed boundaries,’ says Tomlinson. ‘It’s nice to see how people do things differently.’