industrial heritage
in genk

manifesta 9

The 2012 edition of the European Biennial of Contemporary Art (Manifesta) was held in Genk, Belgium. Each edition is specifically influenced by its location, both in terms of form and content. This has a strong impact on the design and visual communication for each consecutive biennial.

inspiration  The overall look of Manifesta 9 differed dramatically from previous editions. It adopted a new design to reflect some of the issues proposed by the curatorial team under the guidance of curator Cuauhtémoc Medina and director Hedwig Fijen. But above all we took inspiration from the mines that are so intertwined with the history of Genk and its surroundings. We spent many days exploring the old mines and shafts, talking to people who once worked in them, immersing ourselves in the history and absorbing what life was like for the miners working underground. We were fortunate to meet the migrant community and be part of their rich history.

As a result, the font we developed for Manifesta 9 is an imagination of that life and those mines. The tunnels that connect the mine with the shaft form the basis of the typography, the downward movements showing the depth of the hidden, deep world of miners.

how it got done  We proposed creating a new typeface inspired by the industrial architecture of those former mining sites which hosted the Manifesta 9 events, and took further inspiration from the cultural heritage of the host region. Although the typeface should stylistically suit the post-industrial sites, it also needed to be able to go beyond the immediate historical association. The design incorporated both monumental and unfinished elements – it is as bold as it is suggestive.

client profile  Manifesta is the only itinerant European biennial of contemporary art, and together with events such as the Venice Biennale and Documenta in Kassel, it forms one of the foremost art events of Europe.