Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront

Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, New York, 2010


Project brief: As graphic designers, our job is essentially one of translation, making complex content digestible and accessible. In this case, the exhibition content was multilayered and data-driven, so the design needed to work particularly hard to help underscore the urgency of sea-level rise and the opportunities for addressing it effectively through the architects’ proposals.

Approach: We started by thinking about how visitors were expected to interact with the space. In an attempt to create both conceptual and visual cohesion, the overall look and type treatment were made to appear similar to blueprints, the archetypal form of graphic communication among architects and builders.

Because of the five very different design proposals within the show, we knew from the beginning that our biggest challenge would be uniting the projects and presenting them in a harmonious way. We started with setting up some guidelines: one typeface throughout; three type sizes for basic information; and uniform width for the presentation areas.

Effectiveness: The result was extremely successful. It is visually unique yet functional, making sense of complex issues through data and design.

The unique “asterisks/glossary” wall, which connects definitions for storm surge and flood level terminology with the actual sea-level measurements, was our attempt to connect concepts with an experiential understanding for the visitor. Conceptually, the “asterisks/glossary” wall, bordered by the yellow measuring tape, captures the essence of the metropolitan problem of rising water levels. Visually, it served as the “book spine,” binding distinct proposals together.

Collections: AIGA 365: Design Effectiveness (2011)
Repository: Denver Art Museum
Discipline: Environmental graphic design
Format: Exhibit


Design firm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Creative director
Julia Hoffmann
Art director
H.Y. Ingrid Chou
Kaile Smith, Charles Wattlington
Production coordinator
Emma Presler
Barry Bergdoll
The Museum of Modern Art