Typographic consistency

National Coal Mining Museum, Wakefield: Northcross

The National Coal Mining Museum opened its Social History Gallery in May, part of Northcross’s £1.4m facelift of the entire building. The gallery has three themed areas: Home Life, More to Mining than Underground and Living Life to the Full, and incorporates artefacts, machinery, audio-visual material and film footage.

For the graphics, a consistent typographic style is used throughout. Large, newspaper-style text panels with headlines, standfirsts and a body of text are designed to give visitors the choice of stopping to read or just skimming them, ‘like a newspaper, even if it’s just the headline and intro’, says Northcross senior graphic designer Peter Fox.

Type hierarchy is introduced to the gallery from the outset, from a sub-head denoting a new subject area to a 3D headline indicating a new gallery section.

The gallery is packed with information on miners’ lives; social interaction at work; strikes; domestic lives; leisure activities such as inter-pit boxing and football matches; and even cultural pursuits such as drawing and tending allotments. As a result, a clear, consistent information design system was vital, says Fox.

Images are culled from the museum’s archives, and visitors interested to know their origin can cross-reference against a credit board in each section.

Each area, including the museum’s entrance orientation hall, has a different colourway, which is designed to differentiate one from another. The entrance area is black, to mirror the darkness of the pits and emphasise a giant photograph of a miner’s blackened face, one of the first things you see. The Living Life to the Full section, by contrast, is green.

A second gallery, entitled The Coal Interface, opens on 11 July and features larger machinery and interactive elements such as tunnels, designed to provide a taste of life underground.

To enliven the long corridor between the two galleries, Northcross has created a huge ‘typographic wall’ listing every mine once in use in England. ‘As well as providing an illustrative way of linking the galleries, it is a homage to our country’s closed pits,’ Fox adds.

The National Coal Mining Museum’s Social History gallery opened in May. The NCMM is at Caphouse Colliery, New Road, Overton, Wakefield WF4 4RH. The Coal Interface gallery is scheduled to open on 11 July

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