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Visual research and design for the TiO2 Project

We are so proud to announce the brilliant research-by-design by Exutoire (Bui Quy Son & Paul-Antoine Lucas) for the TiO2 Project.

Their rigorous research - critical and historical - has expanded our thinking about titanium dioxide and how to make this invisible, omnipresent material visible. The first part of the design includes typography, color schemes, signifiers, and logos, and the next steps will include exhibition design and book design for our forthcoming books.

Exutoire describes their concept as follows:

"The design of a visual identity for The TiO2 Project aims at formulating a critical visual representation of the cultural significance of titanium white. It draws direct inspiration from the inconspicuous, impenetrable, and inevitable character of the white pigment in today’s society. Through layered design strategies centered on typography and the use of colors, we want to bring about an approachable yet subversive and evolutive visual profile.

As important as words are to research work, the typesetting plays an essential role here in the communication of this project. We propose a typographic scheme composed of three distinct typefaces, each with a story to tell. First, the heading style Harber, designed by Beno.t Bodhuin (bb-bureau, 2023), is parametrically constructed from dots on a grid and has a texture that recalls atoms in molecules or the grains of pigment powder. It underlines the systemic and transformative presence of titanium white. Second, the body text is set in Limpet Granite, designed by Jungmyung Lee (Jung-Lee Type Foundry, 2023), which reinterprets the seminal 1913 old style serif typeface Plantin (whose dimensions later informed the now ubiquitous Times New Roman) by preserving the legible letterforms while adding to it a sense of femininity via cursive features. Last but not least, Amiamie, designed

by Mirat-Masson (Bye Bye Binary, 2023) and used for caption texts, carries on the 2014 open-source font project Aileron (which based itself on two pillars of modernist type design: Helvetica and Univers) by adding non-binary glyphs and contributing to the inclusive language movement. The two latter font choices have a straightforward and familiar aesthetic with subversive undertones, revealing invisibilized history and foregrounding queer feminist discourses in design.

Unlike the opaque, non-toxic, absolute white color that TiO2 is perceived as, the process of producing and making it a global phenomenon is much more complex and full of nuances. We wish to convey this complexity through a vibrant color scheme divided into three palettes, as opposed to the presumed simplicity of white. The structural palette gives the project its basic colors (Jet Black, Light Raw Umber, and Neverwhite), visualizing the process of turning the mineral ilmenite to titanium white. The earth palette (Burnt Umber, Goldenrod, and Pale Goldenrod) represents color extracts from the various chemical and aesthetic experiments at The Materiality of White. The additive palette (Fire Rust, Copperas, and Deep Sky Blue), intended for the sub-project How Norway Made the World Whiter, takes its inspiration from byproducts of the pigment manufacturing processes but also the primary colors which, when combined as light projections, yield white.

Finally, we are introducing a series of graphic ‘signifiers’ that act as playful and communicative tools of mediation for the project. They echo some of the archival materials with fascinating pictorial qualities, from the trademarks and logos in Titan Co.’s 1920s marketing campaigns to the photomicrographs and stickers from Peder Farup’s personal notebooks, while presenting a critical view on some of the questionable practices in the past. This is an ongoing part of the design, to be expanded in parallel with the development of the research project."

Exutoire, 2024

Exutoire, Conceptual Diagram for the Visual Profile for the TiO2 Project, 2024


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