‘Seeing Red...Overdrawn’

Exhibition Design

A typographic installation invites visitors to make their mark in support of animal and plant conservation.

Pentagram responded to a call from artists Ackroyd & Harvey to create a 22 ft wide and 9 ft high artwork that brings attention to the 4,734 species on our planet that are critically endangered. The piece, Seeing Red..Overdrawn, is a typographic wall that lists the most at-risk species on the IUCN Red List, the world's most comprehensive and objective resource for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

Seeing Red..Overdrawn is part of Conflicted Seeds + Spirit, an exhibition of new works by Ackroyd & Harvey that explores the links between fundamental biology, global conservation and human ecologies. The exhibition is located in the newly refurbished David Attenborough Building in Cambridge, home to the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and the Museum of Zoology.

Pentagram responded to the brief by developing a typographic system for the 4,734 species names that were to appear on the wall. To do this, Pearce and team researched the scientific practice of nomenclature—systems of names or terms—focusing on the work of the Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist Carl Linnaeus and Charles Darwin.

From these scientific works, Pentagram developed a system featuring three different typographic elements. The first is Caslon Italic, designed in 1722 and in keeping within the traditional style of binomal nomenclature. The second is Gill Sans Uppercase. The third is the use of double dots to separate the species, taken directly from Darwin’s Origin of Species and bringing moments of calmness to the work.

Using this typographic system, the species names have been faintly printed on the wall. Visitors are then invited to make their mark by overwriting with indelible pen the name of one of the species, drawing attention to it, and bringing it to visibility.

Learn more about Conflicted Seeds here.

Harry Pearce
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