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From January to May 2005 my junior graphic design class at West Virginia University collaborated with the West Virginia Humanities Council to develop a traveling exhibit consisting of five kiosks on the subject of the creation of the state of West Virginia. The title is "Born of Rebellion - West Virginia Statehood".

We began our relationship in December 2004, when Mark Payne, Program Officer for the Humanities Council, attended our Studio 2453 Open House event where he viewed work done for other clients and decided to take a chance on us. We proposed a plan and budget and he provided a rough draft of the script for us to work with beginning in January.

When our spring semester started, sixteen students and I traveled to the Smithsonian museum in DC to study the Holocaust Memorial Museum, a museum dedicated to one historical event as our would be. The students brought back ideas and criticisms, which informed us of viewing distances for text, incorporation of objects, color unity and ways to handle personal stories. I photographed the statehood exhibit at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling, and we looked at many tradeshow exhibits by different design firms online to establish a context for designing in this scale. We were able to distill our best ideas into a series of objectives for the design and subject that we used to keep us on target as we tried out compositions. We did a couple of skill-building projects the first few weeks, such as making a mechanical device that could pop up, flip, or slide, to reveal new information. We also built portfolios using bookbinding cloth and board to explore how those materials can hide hinges and make parts that are very flexible and sturdy in case our ideas might require such mechanics.

Having so many people was helpful in accomplishing our work in one semester. As we began the research phase, we divided the work into teams. One team researched available exhibit structures, and others researched imagery for the different topics in the script. It helped that I had previously designed five textbooks on West Virginia history for the West Virginia Historical Education Foundation, and had a fair idea of what some archives in West Virginia held. We were able to take advantage of the many holdings now posted online, and could quickly find many of the people mentioned in the script in the Library of Virginia, C-Span, the Virginia Historical Society, the Library of Congress, commercial photo archives, the West Virginia and Regional History Collection at WVU, the state archives and state museum. The teams reported their findings to the group and we again evaluated and prioritized possible shapes, materials and hierarchy of images for conveying the premium messages.

Once we had agreed upon the information and structure we would use, we ordered a sample of what we believed to be the best structure, and divided ourselves into a new set of teams to propose a design for each kiosk. We critiqued our first set of these against the criteria we had agreed upon after our museum studies and then made up a new set based upon the best ideas that had come around on this try. We also discussed what had been missed.

The second round now included elements of design consistency such as the hillscape curves, an emphasis upon one large-scale person in each, montage style imagery, and a large vertical title. We also had agreed upon stacked modular units of two feet by four feet. Some groups had four panel kiosks and some three. When we looked at them all together, we decided that all units of triangles were too monotonous and offered only tall thin compositions. Working with the models we had made like kids playing with a dollhouse, we came upon the configuration that we have kept? combining three kiosks into one that makes a large triangle with wings on each side so that as you view each side, it feels like a large mural. A fourth kiosk remained a triangle and summed up the topic as well as provided a voting booth for the viewer to voice his or her own opinion. A final, shorter triangular kiosk introduced the exhibit and provided you with a brochure and voting ballot.

At this point we felt ready to invite the Humanities Council to look at our ideas. Most were approved, even the addition of Belle Boyd who was not in the original script. Since women could not vote or hold office at the time, their role was not obvious. We then got a final copy of the script, ordered the actual high-resolution images and permission forms from the sources that held them, and began fine-tuning our layouts.

Waiting on the images was a bit scary as some sources had an order time of 4 to 6 weeks, just under our deadline. While we waited, we began to work on a brochure that would accompany the exhibit. We also rejected the sample of the structure we ordered because it looked too fragile to withstand lots of assembly and disassembly. We designed our own and commissioned Alison Helm, our sculpture faculty, to build it for us. She, being amazing as always, completed it in three weeks while teaching full time. Next came a series of proofing back and forth between Charleston and Morgantown. During our spring break, four students presented the model and design to the Humanities Council board of directors at their Morgantown meeting.

After that, it was more checking and proofing. The graphics are printed in 2-foot by 8-foot strips with solvent-based inks on lexan, which is laminated on one side and attached to black vinyl on the other to block light and blend it with the structure. When Alison finished the structure we primed it and painted it charcoal to make the structure disappear behind the graphics. Shaila Christofferson, our foundations faculty in the Division of Art, designed and built the crates for the exhibit.

We would like to thank the West Virginia Humanities Council for their trust and for the opportunity to have this much fun learning about exhibit design on their dime. The students learned so much from this very real project and feel that they would be able to direct such a project now if asked. We hope this is the beginning of a longer relationship.

Eve Faulkes
Professor of Graphic Design
West Virginia University

Junior Graphic Design Class Students

Eric Losh
Anyta Lin
Toria Quesenberry
Frank Vranovich

Emily Frye (also designed the brochure and voting cards)
Kyler Quesenberry
Doug Siedman

Robin Reed
Marianne Bisaccia
Lori Costello

Matt Livengood

Laura Radcliff
Bobby Dillon
Adam Glenn
Dustin Mazon