Can design carry a conversation beyond the walls of a lecture hall? Can it create richer context for the event itself? Can it spark new dialog and debate? These were some of the questions that design studio Post Typography and the Baltimore Museum of Art grappled with as they worked together to promote The Necessity of Tomorrow(s), a high-profile BMA lecture series that features prominent Black artists and thought leaders. In the end, the answer was a resounding “Yes” and language and ideas came to form the centerpiece of the promotional campaign, which incorporates radical, whimsical, and provocative visions of the future. Many of these visions, in statement form, have appeared on billboards, bus shelters, and posters around Baltimore over the past 18 months. The catalog of statements has grown as the public contributes their own “tomorrows” via comment boxes and bmatomorrows.org.
One of the most unusual elements of the campaign is a series of “interrupted” objects where provocative messages disrupt vernacular advertising and signage. No Loitering notices, We Buy Houses bandit signs, and takeout menus have all been interrupted with hopeful expressions of “ Tomorrow…” as part of the campaign. Comments Bruce Willen, Creative Director and co-founder (with Nolen Strals) of Post Typography: “Many of the signs and messages we see each day are selling us unhealthy products and perpetuating unhealthy systems. Interrupting them with unexpected, optimistic messages, asks us to turn a more critical eye on these systems.” By injecting these surreal detournéments into the public realm, Post Typography and the BMA aim to spark further questions and conversations related to The Necessity of Tomorrow(s) themes. Appropriately, the lecture series on art, race, and social justice takes its name from an essay by black science fiction author Samuel Delany, discussing the importance of speculative futures.
Post Typography’s visual approach to the campaign borrows equally from retrofuturist science fiction and contemporary design iconography, creating a look for the campaign that is “decidedly weird and instantly recognizable.” The use of the Torque and Queue type families from the Baltimore foundry Type Supply and a loud color palette further set the campaign apart. Creating a distinct look that sidesteps impersonal, modernist museum design was an important parameter for both Post Typography and the BMA.