Humanitarian Architecture: Publication Design for the Greater Good

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The following packaging design project earned Best of Region for the Southwest in the Regional Design Annual—the most prestigious design competition in the USA. See more winners from the Midwest, and be sure to enter by the extended deadline on May 8!

When the Aspen Art Museum opened its new building in 2014 designed by world-renowned architect Shigeru Ban, it was only appropriate to pay homage to Ban through an exhibit—“Humanitarian Architecture”—focused on the lesser-known side of his work.

In the 1990s, Ban began building temporary structures for people in immediate need who have been impacted by devastating circumstances such as natural disasters or human conflicts. These buildings are easy to construct thanks to their simple designs and utilization of cost-efficient source materials such as Ban’s signature paper tubes.

Aspen Art Press, the museum’s in-house publishing arm, had the momentous task of creating a publication in conjunction with the exhibit to both document Ban’s work and generate exposure. As you flip through the project, you discover remarkable drawings directly from Ban’s sketchbook.


On each page, you’ll also note a stunning and intentional use of white space. Design director Michael Aberman says the team was constantly thinking about presenting the information in away that reflects Ban’s approach.


“An overarching question for the majority of Ban’s humanitarian work is, ‘How do you create privacy, sanctuary and personal space for people in situations where they all are at a premium?’” Aberman says. “The ingenuity of Ban’s solutions is that they often take the form of modest yet elegant material and structural combinations. Our goal was to translate this approach (both in sensibility and materials) into the form of the book.”


The passion and care that seeps from every aspect of the project—from the subject matter to how it was visually presented by the design team—is what moved 2015 Regional Design Annual judge Noreen Morioka. “Creative visuals mean nothing without great content,” she says.

For the design team, showcasing Ban’s tremendous impact as a humanitarian was top of mind at each stage. When asked what it personally means to Aberman to win Best of Region, he answers humbly:

“It’s really rewarding to know that Ban’s work will be exposed to more people.”


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