Exercise: Museum posters

Exercise: Museum posters

For this exercise I chose to work on a small Museum I discovered recently, which is situated in the rooftop of a church in London Bridge area, right next to the Shard: The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret. As you enter the museum, you step in a timber framed rooftop where herbs where desiccated and kept for medical purposes; you can also access the oldest operating theatre in Britain, built in 1822, where surgeries and dissections were operated under several dozens of eyes.
The collection basically consists of medical equipment, from instruments to containers, of human specimens and of medical archive material.
I visited the museum and after exploring it I took pictures to document the collection and to record the interesting visuals I wanted to remember.
When back home, I started brainstorming on the ideas which could interest the different audiences the exercise asks to produce illustrations for.


I thought the major purpose, common to all three of them was to inspire curiosity. I thought in fact the kind of collection and even the location of this museum has a particularly high potential.
For the children poster I chose a mortar, particularly because I found in a corner of the museum a recipe for a curious syphilis’ remedy which I thought could be interesting in a kid visual. The recipe mixes snails, to worms and herbs and it is called ‘Snail water’. I chose the mortar as a symbol of the former medications’ making process.
The object I chose for the teens poster was one of the surgeon’s instruments, particularly the saw.
I thought this could interest teenagers because of its creepy role in the surgery practice of the time.
I later chose to consider a whole set of instruments because of its resemblance to a carpenter’s one.
The adults poster its based on a picture I took of one of the museum’s windows. The object related is an old glass bottle containing anaesthetic. I thought an adult audience could be particularly interested on the development of anaesthetics and on the management of the pain before their discovery.
I tried different ideas through thumbnails and once decided, I quickly sketched my final ideas in bigger thumbnails, trying to position the text as well.

I then made final sketches, from where I copied the outline for my colour visuals.

sketch1 sketch2 sketch3

The children poster final arrangement sees a character in the foreground: a shocked snail has approached the mortar and discovered she is part of the recipe on the book behind it. On the table only few other elements, an herbalist scale and a candle. I tried to chose colours which in my opinion suggest a mystery and magic feeling, as the old medicine was strongly connected to magic beliefs and superstitions.

Colorvisual1 copy
For the teens poster I selected the most ambiguous surgeon’s instruments and placed them as we are looking into one of the typical velvet lined wooden boxes. The text questions: Carpenter’s tools kit?The answer and the red background, suggest a different use of it.

Colorvisual2 copy

The adults poster sees a human skull placed between glass bottles of anaesthetic, as a clue to the risks they were bringing as poisonous elements poorly investigated. I kept the composition of the picture took at the museum as I thought it was very interesting and made me think of the era when pain was a main problem, something today we are totally unused to think about.

Colorvisual3 copy

In the making of those posters I noticed one big difference between the kids’ poster and the other two: when thinking of an image attractive for kids, I made the image describe an action through a character, while the other two images rely much more on the text to give the complete message. I thought it was very interesting and made me think a lot on how kids are more immediately influenced by pictures, particularly the ones who cannot read yet.
I think that even having different subjects, the posters are like a family because the images respond to a style (in its early stages!) and also because I used the same lettering and layout when stating the museum name. I think this is very important to understand that the posters are representing a specific unique place.

I chose to produce a final work for the adults poster using watercolours, which I thought would be the most suitable to picture the glass bottles.
I completed the poster on photoshop by adding a coloured strip as a base for the lettering. I chose the fonts which gave me that ‘old printed books’ feeling.


I pretty satisfied with the results and even though I am still experiencing a lack of skills regarding visuals and particularly colour visuals, I feel I made some progress.


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