Books in unexpected places


‘Books in unexpected places’ is an exhibition set up by Being Human. Being Human is a festival celebrating the humanities – arts, languages, history, geography etc. They organise events and exhibitions, which are organised by universities. ‘Books in unexpected places’ is a Being Human exhibition discussing books used through the centuries in a range of places and for a range of purposes around the world.

Restated Brief

My brief was to use Being Human’s brand guidelines to create a range of deliverables for the Books in unexpected places exhibition. Deliverables may include banners for the display boards, posters, flyers and designs for A-frames. I would also help arrange the exhibition and its layout, setting up 5 exhibits in the room. The brand guidelines were available as templates on the Being Human website, but the restrictions allowed some layout changes, whilst still sticking to the colour palette and desired typefaces. The project was originally meant to be a group project, but I approached and completed it myself.

Initial inspiration

The project mainly concerned typographic design. So it was important to produce documents with great attention to fine detail. Looking at other products that use Being Human’s design template, I got an idea of what their designs regularly looked like, but the project required typographic rules to be followed, rather than a more experimental approach, so legibility was a priority. This meant it was very important to view each design at its true size, to get a true visual of how it looks on a page at 100% scale.

Working progress

The first task was to lay out the copy text that was provided within the Being Human A5 flyer templates that were available. The A5s were the best deliverables to start with as they could be used as a good foundation on which to base designs for other parts of the brief. A challenge was to work with Being Human’s trend of using white boxes with text cut-outs. This was a design element that I hadn’t used before, and it was difficult to apply the styles throughout my designs as I faced issues with PDFs not showing any text when this cut-out style was used. There were two A5 designs that I was required to make – an announcement document, and a ‘Books in unexpected places’ overview flyer. As well as this, there were two versions of each to be created – the double-sided flyer and a PDF, single-sided version for use online. My designs were very similar to that of the template provided, and would later transform into something more unique as I got closer to the final result, which separated them from the original templates and past designs of Being Human.

The next task was to design a banner to go at the top of a display board for the exhibition. There was no template for this, so I used the provided background image, which I used throughout every deliverable, and layed the Being Human logo and a title, in the Georgia typeface that the brand used. I provided a range of versions of the banner to the client, who led me in the direction of a desired variation that I would take further. I designed about four versions that differed in the scale, position and colour of the text. The chosen design was the most legible and made the most sense in the location that it sat on the page.

Another deliverable was an A2 poster for use on an A-frame. This was a fairly simple design as it was similar to the front cover of the A5 flyers, but with some additional information to inform visitors and potential visitors of elements such as the date and location of the exhibition.

The final part of the project was to organise the exhibitions and lay out the display boards. I had been given a selection of images and data to be displayed on the boards, and was required to decide how the exhibition would work, and know how many boards per exhibit were needed, and how many banners per board would be ideal. Also, each exhibit needed a panel that explained what it was about. For this, I did not use the background image that Being Human provided, but instead used a plain colour to lay the text upon. This varied throughout the design process, but ultimately complemented the design of the banners and other elements of the exhibition.

Final design

The final design of the A5s were very different to the original arrangements in terms of the fine detail of typography and layout. Instead of the centred layout I applied originally, in the final designs everything was ranged to the left, which is a more comfortable composition as it can be read more easily, as it conforms with a design that viewers are used to in other designs of the era. Also, the hierarchy of important elements was transformed to highlight the text that needed to be noticed more. I later made the rear of the designs a more elegant style, as I used less colour in some of the text, and it was structured more clearly.

The chosen final design for the banners used white text on the background image. This was clean and simple as the banners were meant to be viewed from a distance, so needed to stand out well. Pink text on the blue background image was not ideal as it is harder to view and read the text. There were two versions of the banner – a big one for the big display boards, and small for the small boards – and the designs were made to work together, by breaking the line after ‘Books’ in the small design.

The A-frame poster ended up being more simple than initially thought. All that was required was a welcome statement, as the boards were just used to welcome visitors to the exhibition on the day. However it still did follow the general design of the A5 flyers.

I chose a light blue colour for the text panels. This pointed towards the blue colour of the background image on the banners, whilst keeping the design clean so it could be read well. The pink and dark blue colours were also clear to read ontop of this light blue. Line endings were mandatory to get right, as they would have a large impact on the appearance of each text panel.


Helping to set up the exhibition was a nice way to see how to implement my designs in the real world. It was a great eye-opener to realise how much effort is needed to set up exhibitions such as this one, which spanned across one medium-sized room. It was very interesting to see my designs all come together too. It was challenging getting the printing correct when close to the final deadline of the exhibition, as it was important to get right first time due to the cost of printing in relation to the exhibition’s budget. It was also a challenge to take on this project on my own, as it was initially meant for a group of people to tackle. However I do believe my client was pleased with the result, and I was informed that the exhibition was a great success. It was challenging of both me and the client to reach the deadline, as the information that we were provided with was often delayed, but it was interesting to work together whilst listening to feedback on my designs.

I learned that the point of designing was not necessarily to appeal to myself, but to make a client satisfied. It was also important to answer the brief of the project and provide an ideal response to the design problems and tasks that I was started with. I felt I had a great starting point as I liked the brand guidelines that I was given, and I enjoyed working with the rules and restrictions of the brand. It was interesting paying great detail to typographic detail and legibility, rather than a more traditional design project.