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V&A: Alice

Curiouser & Curiouser

  • Campaign
  • CGI / Animation
  • Environment
  • Exhibition Design
  • Strategy
  • Type Design

In April 2021, museums, galleries and cultural institutions began to open their doors and welcome back visitors for the first time in 12 months, the V&A’s immersive summer show; Alice: Curiouser & Curiouser became a major catalyst for encouraging audiences to return to the physical space of the museum.

The exhibition examined the transcendence of the Alice character throughout the last 150 years, across fashion, film, theatre, music, literature and art. With a multi-layered story to tell, our campaign employed a bold typographic approach, that served as a playful framework to host a mix of messaging which evolved across the duration of the show.

Working closely with the museum, the concept, art direction, design and onsite super graphics were all created by HS, resulting in a visual language that was expansive in its narrative, working seamlessly across all touchpoints – both digital and physical.

A contemporary take on the vernacular of vintage Circus posters, the campaign messaging, also conceived by HS, plays with a repeated call to action as its lead voice, “Step Into Wonderland!”, “See the Amazing…”, ‘Don’t be Late!”. In a nod to the story’s famed exploration of perspective and size, the responsive typographic system was elastic in behaviour, allowing the campaign to perform in a dynamic way in digital environments. The letterforms themselves had an inherent stretch, flex and elasticity – shrinking, squeezing and expanding into any given space or format. A messaging hierarchy was broken down into a series of modular blocks that could be re-configured across applications.

Featuring individual characters from this famous story was essential, yet challenging, given their multitude of different adaptations and iterations over the years. Imagining an identifiable yet anonymous Alice, our heroine was shot as live action, then animated with a stop frame aesthetic, creating an intentional juxtaposition to the typographic backdrop. Only ever seen from behind, we understand her as Alice, without ever needing to view her in full. Additional characters – Rabbit, Caterpillar – were designed especially for the campaign, collaborating with puppet makers to help create ‘real’ characters. Firstly defining the personality of each –   facial expressions, body proportions and so on, these were initially realised as a mixture of drawings and clay maquettes. This character development was then re-modelled in CGI by HS, to create 3D rigged avatars that could be moved and manipulated, in order to create a variety of fully animated campaign sequences.

Credits

Design and Art Direction: Hingston Studio
Puppet Makers: Jonny & Will
3D Modelling and Animation: Markus Lehtonen at Hingston Studio
Live Action Producer: Rob Jelley
DoP: Clouded Vision
Styling: Arabella Boyce
Hair and Make Up: Dorita Nissen

At the museum itself, the playfulness of the exhibition identity is mirrored in onsite executions, where letters are stretched to huge proportions at the entrance, breaking the conventions of a more conventional arrival experience and introducing a dynamic intervention of words and language connected to the story.