Opulent Oceans: an invitation to enjoy scientific art

By Mariana Bernárdez S.

The prompt and the exhibition

“For our final project you must do a promotional package of a museum exhibition: a poster, an invitation and a handout”, said Astrid as the end of the semester was approaching. While she explained her expectations, I began mentally going through those I had recently seen or wanting to see, and finally decided on the one I believed I could have more fun with: Opulent Oceans.

Opulent Oceans is an exhibition being held in the American Museum of Natural History that includes 46 beautiful reproductions from 33 rare and historic scientific works on marine life. I’ve always been interested in the merge of things that are normally seen as separate, so with this project my goal was to motivate people to discover and enjoy scientific art.

Key ideas and initial steps

My first step was to sketch out ideas based on my first visit, and put down on pen and paper (yes, I’m old-fashioned that way) the basic information of the exhibit: where and until when it was taking place, what it was about, what it was based on, what kind of illustrations were there, from what authors, who curated it, and any testimonies and reviews that had been written on it. After this exercise I realized I still wasn’t sure about the hows: how was it structured? How was the information displayed? How did it attract and retain the viewer? (Did it?). To answer these questions, I hopped on a bus and visited it again.

The second time around I photographed all the reproductions and the information they were accompanied by so I could revise them later (120 pictures in total). Immediately after, I walked through it again to enjoy it and “soak it in”. As I went on from French naturalist Pierre Belon’s woodcut of a dolphin (published in 1555) to an unnamed Indian artist’s illustration of a saltwater crocodile (published in a book by naturalist Hermann Schlegel in 1844), I was more and more astonished by the detail in the images. This inspired me to decide to (1) make the images the heroes of my pieces, (2) respond to the shapes of the animals portrayed and (3) be keen on selecting appropriate parts of the images that would give enough idea for the viewer to understand what they were about and how beautiful they were without giving out “the whole thing” (I decided not to display the images in their entirety to generate curiosity).

135 pictures later, I started playing around with them. I wanted to mirror the aesthetic of the exhibition without copying it, keep my compositions simple and use a neutral palette that would bring out the colors of the images. In this sense, I chose a light beige similar to the one around the exhibition as a background color for the images and a blueish-greeinsh-aquamarineish spot color as the PMS color for display type and the ocean (PANTONE P 174-16C). In terms of typography, because Opulent Oceans was both about scientific works and somewhat playful art, I chose a serif font that had a warmth to it and that could also be versatile: Miller Text.

The design process and execution

With all this in the table, it was time to start designing! I started off by making some posters and at some point decided to make them horizontal to express the opulence and extension/direction of the ocean. The handout was next, and this was a lengthy process: I went from a traditional trifold with basic information, to a trifold with a map inside where you could see where the illustrations were made, to an octopus that was grasping the trifold, to a crocodile whose mouth opened and the information was inside. At this point you might be thinking… why a trifold? I wanted to make something that would go “from small to big” (one-panel size to three-panel size) but was also easy to carry around. The crocodile, though, wasn’t a trifold, but I found it to be a thought-provoking solution. After many mockups, I ended up going for the octopus-grabbing trifold, which presented one fundamental and challenging problem: adapting the already-existing illustration of an octopus to the shape of the handout (It took some research, several cutting experiments and prints to get this right!)

Last but not least, the invitation. This was the most limited option: it had to be sent through mail, so it had to fit very specific criteria. My idea was to “invite to explore”, so having read about voyages in the book the exhibition was based on (Opulent Oceans: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History), I set my mind to making a ship where the receiver of the invitation would come in to join the breakthroughs. The wow factor seemed simple, but proved to be complicated in its execution: the ship was a pop-up. After four different ship models, several mockups, experimentation and the discovery of the concept of “kirigami”, I finally managed to construct a suitable ship. I added the text, accompanied it with showcased imagery, and sent it off to print.

At this point you might be thinking everything was ready, but it wasn’t. Although printing is generally the final step, I had to cut the shape of the handout and the ship. The handout was not complicated, but if you ever decide to do a pop-up and there isn’t a laser cutter available, I have one essential recommendation for you: don’t be shy on the blades! You’ll probably need lots of them to get it right.

In case you want to visit it (and you should!), Opulent Oceans is up until December 1st 2016.

To check out photographs of my process and solutions, visit -> https://www.flickr.com/photos/143075634@N04/albums/72157668383851275



Self Portrait Poster Project

Ah, the first project of the semester!  It’s wild to look back on this and see how I’ve grown both in skill and confidence.

For this first assignment, we were assigned a poster to be created with only three key elements- a series of photo booth portraits, found type, and a photocopier.  Admittedly, it was a project I initially thought I’d hit out of the park, as I’ve always been attracted to super lo-fi art and I have a pretty strong affinity for crafting and handiwork.  Thus, after hitting up the photo booth at Union Pool in Brooklyn after a few drinks with friends, I was feeling pretty good about myself.

That quickly dissipated after realizing how intimidating  a xerox machine can be when you haven’t used one since about 2001.  But after wrangling with it for a little while, (and jamming it several times), it was actually a lot of fun playing with it’s various settings.  Despite the machines limitations, it still allows for a little bit of creativity in sizing and contrast.  I’ve always loved the imperfections of a photocopied image, so I was pleased with how my photos looked after going through that process.

I was initially inspired by Renaissance portraits with the glowing halos surrounding their subjects, and I thought that would be an interesting classical element to include in juxtaposition to the very deconstructed and modern nature of the project.  As a fine artist and illustrator, I have a tendency to cover every inch of paper with very fine detailed drawings and patterns, the phrase “less is more” means nothing to me.  As a result, the first versions of my poster definitely had this vibe, there was a LOT going on.  I had a combination of nine different found types (I chose R to represent my last name) and hundreds of copies of my face sliced and diced and covering every available whitespace.  You’ll be able to see this version in my photos, and the resulting crit I received was to try to tone it down, simplify, embrace the white space.

No doubt, creating a simple piece is so much more difficult than making something incredibly complex.  I struggled.  However, after parring down the types to just three, and completely reevaluating my halo concept from something quite overwhelming to something much more simple and floral-like, I’m very pleased with the result.  I feel like I stuck very much to my own style in the actual portrait segment with the sliced and diced faces, and that the compromise made in changing the background helped elevate the piece from it’s previous iteration.

While I feel like I’ve grown in the several months since making this piece, I still really enjoy it (it’s hanging above my desk now), and I fear the xerox machine no more.  I’ve been using it more and more in my personal work as I love the texture it gives images, so I’m glad I had the chance to rediscover it.

You’ll find images of my process and a few versions of my piece here- Portrait Project

Exhibition Report – Friendly Futures

[ EDIT 12/8/2015 : Now the exhibition has its own website. Please check it.  http://ff.prty.nyc/ ]


Before reporting about my Photo Project, let me introduce an interesting exhibition in this city.

PARTY NYC started their first solo exhibition in USA, titled “Friendly Futures” at Usagi NY, Brooklyn.

In this exhibition, a multi-disciplinal creative lab bases in Tokyo and NY, PARTY seeks the possibilities of new pervasive technologies transformed into platforms for the connection between people and the society. The show features their 4 newly launching projects which the visitors can touch and interact with each installation. This experimental exhibition is a part of the whole creation process of PARTY and some of prototypes will be developed as real products at last.



Bookü is a book customization service that allows you & your friends to become the character of your favorite book. (And we can buy it as a Christmas Present definitely unique in the world!)

Time Travel Radio is a music player that navigates through time. Instead of tuning in to a radio station, you dial in to a year. ( I really enjoyed the amazing difference between the funky 1979 channel and the pip-pip techno 1980 channel.)

The Song Wig is a hairpiece made of earbuds that explores new ways of sharing music. (I’m so sorry to forget taking photos. During opening reception, a cute female model wore this wig and walked around the gallery to share her music with visitors.)

Disco Dog is the world’s first smartphone controlled full-color LED dog vest.You can choose an animation or type in a message using our Disco Dog application on your smartphone. ( You can see the official video here, to see how does it looks with a real dog.)


The co-founder of PARTY, Masa Kawamura’s another work are also exhibited in “StereoType: New Directions in Typography“. You Parsons students and Faculty might know it’s running on the Ground floor of 2 West 13th building, at Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center.


By the way, this title of exhibition sounds to me another meaning. Masa and I are university alumni, we had been enrolled the same laboratory of Media Design studies for years. I’m so happy to hold a reunion with my old friend in New York. I strongly recommend my classmates to have a experience, not only “seeing” this exhibition, but also “touching” their works. Yes, our future is here, smiling friendly.





Dates: November 20 – December 26, 2015
Opening hours: Tue. – Sat. 11am − 6pm
Venue: Usagi NY, 163 Plymouth St, Brooklyn, New York 11201

In the world of technology, everyone is in a rush to step forward. We want faster, smaller, smarter, and cheaper. But what if we also make the future friendlier? FRIENDLY FUTURES is our exploration of this idea. It’s a mini-expo of PARTY creations from a more friendly future.


“Pacino”! Sells the Poster? Who Sells the Play?

29DOLLPOSTER1-blog427 “The advertising agency Serino/Coyne created a muscular poster design for the sex-and-power drama about a wealthy businessman (Mr. Pacino), his fiancée and a phone call that upends their lives. It’s a bold treatment that features the sinewy back of a pricey-looking jet, above. Mr. Pacino’s name and the show’s title are rendered in clean, oversize block letters that change colors as they overlap the jet’s tail”.

See five more sample designs (all rejected designs) as well as read more of the NY Times article about the design process to promote this Broadway show that is scheduled to open in February 2016.

SECTION: THEATER “China Doll”: An Image Ready for Take Off | The New York Times | November 25,2015 |

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/theater/selling-china-doll-the-art-of-choosing-the-art.html?ribbon-ad-idx=5&rref=arts/design&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Art%20%26%20Design&pgtype=article Continue reading “Pacino”! Sells the Poster? Who Sells the Play?

Why are these 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Europe?

FROM TODAY’S TED TALK: Written language, the hallmark of human civilization, didn’t just suddenly appear one day. Thousands of years before the first fully developed writing systems, our ancestors scrawled geometric signs across the walls of the caves they sheltered in. Paleoanthropologist and rock art researcher Genevieve von Petzinger has studied and codified these ancient markings in caves across Europe. The uniformity of her findings suggest that graphic communication, and the ability to preserve and transmit messages beyond a single moment in time, may be much older than we think…

Paleoanthropologist and rock art researcher Genevieve von Petzinger studies the geometric signs found in early European Ice Age rock art sites. Full bio

Abbas: Children of Abraham

“My photography is a reflection, which comes to life in action and leads to meditation. Spontaneity – the suspended moment – intervenes during action, in the viewfinder.”
GB. ENGLAND. Yorkshire. Batley. At the Zakaria Muslim Girls High School, funded by the muslim community, girls in hijab (islamic dress) play touchball. 1989.

November 21, 2015 – March 20, 2016

“Children of Abraham presents 66 photographs of the monotheistic religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, by renowned Magnum photographer Abbas. Since 1970 Abbas has documented through his camera lens the “political and social life of societies in conflict.” This exhibition is the culmination of over 13 years of research and travel by the artist to record religious practices and their manifestations in all parts of the world. This is Abbas’ first exhibition in America exclusively devoted to the theme of religion. Abbas will travel from Paris, France to present an artist talk, and a series of related programs and events are planned.” from the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania website – 11/19/2015


For More Information: http://www.arthurrossgallery.org

A Reminder: The Grolier Club

The Grolier Club

You are missing another NYC gem for those of you that have not visited The Grolier Club on the upper Eastside especially if you are a lover of books, printing, collecting…and more. It is a treat to walk through an exhibit in this Club established in 1884.

Here is a quote from The Grolier Club Constitution that can describe this “to foster the study, collecting, and appreciation of books and works on paper, their art, history, production, and commerce. It shall pursue this mission through the maintenance of a library devoted to all aspects of the book and graphic arts and especially bibliography; through the occasional publication of books designed to illustrate, promote and encourage the book and graphic arts; through exhibitions and educational programs for its members and the general public; and through the maintenance of a Club building for the safekeeping of its property, and otherwise suitable for the purposes of the Club.”

Cover Design from Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Cover Design from Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

Here is a list of their exhibitions (now through 2016).

Go to their web site for more information.


Admission: Exhibitions are open to the public free of charge


• Now until February 7, 2016 | One Hundred Books Famous In Children’s Literature


  • December 9, 2015-February 6, 2016  |“The Grolier Club Collects II.” Curated by Eric Holzenberg and Arthur Schwarz
  • February 24-May 14, 2016 | “The Royal Game of the Goose: Four Hundred Years of Printed Board Games.”
  • June 1-July 30, 2016 | “Artists & Others: The Imaginative French Book, 2000-2015.”


  • November 19, 2015-January 16, 2016 | “Illustrated by Lynd Ward,” From the Collection of Robert Dance.
  • January 28-March 12, 2016 | “Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren’t,” from the Collection of Mindell Dubansky.
  • March 24-May 28, 2016 | “‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’,” Miniature Bindings from the Collection of Neale A. and Margaret Albert.

Location & Gallery Hours 

The Grolier Club
47 East 60th Street
New York, New York 10022

Call to Confirm the Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 am-5 pm.