Arabian Journeys Exhibition Design

Client: Ithra Cultural Centre / Aramco. Year: 2018

The “Arabian Journeys” exhibition is one of the most high-profile exhibition design projects we have worked on at Tarek Atrissi Design: The exhibition space of 1300 square meters is certainly the largest exhibition we have worked on in a long design process that started in 2009 and finished in 2018. The project reinforced our expertise in designing graphics for exhibitions and enriched further our experience in exhibition design.


The “Arabian Journeys” exhibition is a permanent exhibition at the Ithra Cultural Centre (The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture), Saudi Arabia’s astonishing new cultural project. Hosted in Damman, in the iconic building designed by Snøhetta, Ithra centre is a world class museum hosting exhibitions, public libraries, historical archives, children’s educational centre, conferences and performances facilities. “Arabian Journeys” is the Natural History Museum within the centre, presenting the roots and cultural identity of Saudi Arabia through a journey of the past, present and future of the region. Graphics, Multimedia, and impressively staged narrative spaces presented in different themes offer each visitor an engaging and educational experience. The exhibition consisted of 6 different zones of the following themes: Island Arabia; Desert Trek; Mountain Crossing; Costal Voyage; and Into the future.


Tarek Atrissi Design’s involvement in the project consisted of conceptualising and designing all the 2D graphics for the exhibition, creating the visual identity of the exhibition, and supporting the 3D exhibition design with the necessary art direction to keep the space visually unified and culturally relevant, and present information in the clearest ways. Our support included as well defining the look and feel and styling for all multimedia graphics of the various installations in the exhibition space. Our work on the exhibition was from the start to the end of the project, following all phases of the exhibition design: Concept Design; Scheme Design; Detail design; Tendering; Procurement Support; and Final artwork / Production / Implementation supervision.


With the exhibition being bilingual, the Arabic script was an important part of its design, and Arabic calligraphy and typography played an important role in the creation of the graphics. The exhibition’s main title, as well as the different zone’s introduction panels, were crafted in a custom-made modern calligraphic style inspired by the nature of Saudi Arabia. These were cut out of the Corian walls and backed with a colored acrylic sheet as part of a light-box. Qur’an quotes that were placed through the space were designed in a classic Arabic calligraphic style and were finely produced as acrylic letters with aluminium golden sheets glued on top of them.


An elaborate graphics guideline was developed for the exhibition, specifying every detail for every 2D elements within the space: its design, rules of usage, production technique, etc… A well studied color palette was developed, specifying the primary and secondary colors for each zone, how to apply them within different mediums; and with specific codes for different material and production techniques (Print, Screen, Paint, Physical Material, Light). Typographic guidelines defined the hierarchy and style of text across the entire exhibition, and specified the design and layout rules for using bilingual typography across all type of text panels. Floor graphics were designed for each zone, complimenting the showcases and interactive stations present in each thematic space. In addition, hundreds of object captions were designed, providing information both in Arabic and English about the artefacts displayed, including illustrations that represented complex objects in a simple consistent drawing style. The same illustrations were used in various information graphics and activity instructions across interactive stations, labels, and graphics within showcases.


Upon its opening, “Arabian Journeys” became an instant success at the Ithra Cultural Centre and attracted visitors from all over the country, introducing a new approach of scenography within museums in the Arab world. The complex project was a result of a collaboration between various parties and experts in collaboration with Saudi Aramco; with Atelier Bruckner taking the lead on planning and exhibition design; LDE Belzner Holmes designing the lighting; and the media / films / sounds being design, planned and produced by iart; Tamschick Media+Space; Medienprojekt p2; and Idee und Klang- and Tarek Atrissi Design developing 2D graphics and identity.


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