Titanic: The Unsinkable Invitation

Edwardian splendor. Mankind’s hubris. Blockbuster film. The RMS Titanic has been many things to many people since it met its icy fate in April 1912. When “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” opened in New York City in 2012 to mark the disaster’s centenary, design student Erkan Cetin chose as his class project to craft an invitation design for that event to highlight something he thought had always been overlooked. “The Titanic was really a good idea,” he says, “but because of some bad coincidences it didn’t work. I wanted to express how important it was — in its engineering and as this historic event.”

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition invitation by Erkan CetinTitanic: The Artifact Exhibition invitation by Erkan CetinInspired to do some engineering of his own, Cetin created his invitation — a three-dimensional one — for a course at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta. (He had another motive for this as well that we’ll get to soon enough.)

The piece incorporates a haunting die cut of the sinking ship that pops up when opened, the seas into which it plunges featuring “1912” on the left side, “2012” on the right. In the foreground, a lone die-cut suitcase serves as a tasteful reminder of the lives lost that fateful night.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition invitation by Erkan Cetin Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition invitation by Erkan CetinThe whole scene plays out against a starry nighttime sky, the cool blue and white of the deadly iceberg flush with the backdrop. “This was all one piece of 24-x-36” Inkpress Duo Matte Paper,” Cetin explains. “I printed the iceberg on the back side and folded it into the background.” Tucked into the side of the invitation: an illustrated RSVP card.

Until that point the only pop-up work he’d done was a book project best forgotten.

Produced on the large-format Epson 9880 printer, the project’s greatest challenge was fitting everything on that single sheet, he says. “It was tight printing because I didn’t really have any bleed or crop line — it fit exactly on the 24” x 36” sheet. Then I printed on the other side; it really took a long time. I must have used 10 or 11 sheets for that. Every time I printed one there was something wrong — I spent all night doing this.”

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition invitation by Erkan Cetin Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition invitation by Erkan Cetin

Despite hours of printing and hand die cutting details using an X-Acto knife, he maintains the hardest part of the whole project was not downplaying the tremendous loss of life exactly, but making sure it wasn’t the primary focus of the piece.

Back to that Titanic exhibit at New York’s South Street Seaport Museum. Cetin was actually taking pictures at that time for the promotions department of Premier Exhibition, the company that managed the showing. He lost no time in suggesting they use his invitation design for the event. Alas, it was not to be.

“They loved it,” he says, “but they said it was out of their budget because it was a very special die-cut design.”

And so this haunting paper art sits in our shared online limbo, one more silent memorial to the unsinkable story of Titanic.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition invitation by Erkan Cetin

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