How Posters Become Posters
Among the highlights at the new Poster House museum are a series of “high-impact” interactive experiences designed by Kasa, a design collective that produces these activities for cultural, corporate, and public spaces. The group values a strategic and exploratory approach to design that brings the best ideas to life, and their multimedia installations engage audiences through storytelling, technology, and design. Kasa represents the synergy of three award-winning, international design agencies.
The collaborators are: Robert de Saint Phalle, the Principal of the Boston and New York-based Conduit, which focuses on 3D and experience thdesign, engineering, production; John Kudos, the Principal of New York and Jakarta-based KUDOS Design Collaboratory, focusing on strategy, graphic design, interaction design, technology; and Masashi Kawamura, the Chief Creative Officer of Tokyo, New York, and Taipei-based Whatever Inc, where he focuses on creative direction and storytelling. I asked them to explain their concoctions for Poster House.
Poster House is filled with interactive experiential activities. Which interactive exhibits did Kasa create, and how did Kasa come to collaborate with Poster House in creating these?
Robert de Saint Phalle: Poster House initially brought me in to lead the exhibit design and project management to make sure the physical integration of the exhibits into the architecture aligns with their aesthetics and messaging. Because the museum’s vision emphasizes heavily in graphic design and technology, we decided to bring John Kudos and Masashi Kawamura into the project team to lead the content development, graphic design, and digital interactives.
Kasa created four permanent exhibits:
Poster Wall — An oversized 4K screen displaying larger-than-life posters. The screen showcases a grid of posters from the collection and automatically zooms into a random selection every few seconds. Visitors can also use a staged button to control the display’s content.
Photo Booth — Green screen photo booth that is visible from the street and embedded into an alcove at the museum’s entrance. Visitors can place themselves in iconic posters and receive the final posters via email, text message, and printed.
Poster Machine — Table-top interactive kiosks through which visitors can learn and experience the poster creation process through symbols, colors, phrases, fonts, and design styles.
Children’s Area — Blast from the past featuring New York City scenes from the 1960s. A coloring mural wall with magnetic posters, interactive vintage pay phones by a newsstand, and layering stations that explain how posters are made by overprinting cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks.
What is unique about the user experiences involved with these interactivities?
RDSP: We wanted to draw visitors beyond their expectations toward the vast cultural and aesthetic role of posters that is at the core of Poster House’s vision and mission. I wanted to have a balance of physical and digital interactive to foster visitor engagement and learning on many sensory levels.
John Kudos: Collectively, we focused on simplifying the experience design and user interface design as much as possible so that visitors can enjoy and learn from the exhibits without being aware of the design and technology behind them.
Masashi Kawamura: We wanted to create an experience that enabled visitors from all walks of life to interact with posters in a way that was not possible with just the original prints. Our work would allow them to discover details and stories that will hopefully broaden their perspectives on poster as an artform and communication platform.
Do you foresee the interactive exhibits being used by any specific demographic?
RDSP: Because a few of the project team members have kids, we made sure the exhibits are enjoyable by kids and adults alike.
JK: Posters have made so much cultural and socio-political impact in history that I think most people will find our exhibits engaging and educational.
What are the hopes for outcomes of these exhibits?
MK: We want our interactive exhibits to supplement the museum-goers experience, allowing them to understand and enjoy the multi-facets of posters.
JK: I’m personally excited about a new graphic design museum in New York (it’s about time). But I really hope visitors would leave the museum feeling excited and inspired by the poster as a versatile and powerful medium after interacting with our work. Poster design is traditionally graphic design made for print, but it continues to evolve over time to occupy animated billboards and personal touch devices. Many people don’t realize they have been skimming through advertising posters on instagram.
Do you foresee working with the Poster House for additional interactive exhibits in the future? Are there any ideas that are waiting in the wings?
JK: There are so much excitement around the museum’s opening… Not only is it the first museum in the U.S. dedicated to posters, it also has a very diverse and inclusive agenda for future exhibits and programs. We’re currently designing a station domination campaign for the West 4th subway station, to be unveiled mid-July. We have also been discussing how to make their poster archives digitally accessible.
MK: Internally we’ve been considering how to incorporate Augmented Reality and AI into upcoming campaigns and educational programs… we’ll see what the future holds!
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →