Digital into analogue: Julia designs the catalogue for internet art show Electronic Superhighway

We talk to Hugo Timm of Julia about the design of the catalogue for the current Whitechapel Gallery show Electronic Superhighway, and how the team got around the central problem of distilling 50 years of computer and internet art into the traditional format of a book.

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-02

You might expect the catalogue for an internet art show to be an entirely digital affair, accessible via a QR code perhaps, or by using a VR set. But no matter how techy the work might be, audiences favour traditional mediums for their exhibition guides, so for its show Electronic Superhighway, the Whitechapel Gallery in London opted for a good old-fashioned book.

Created by design studio Julia, the catalogue does carry numerous references to the content of the show, however, from the fonts used to the finish of the cover. “The cover has a reflective finish that doesn’t reflect images, just light, separating it into channels (like a rainbow effect),” explains designer Hugo Timm. “This helps convey the idea of the book being about technology, with works that discuss our relationship to screens. It also means that the book will react differently to various environments.”

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-03

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-05

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-10

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-11

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-12

The design inside the catalogue also gives a nod to code, and to early html. “The layout references the way programmers write code, with lines indented by increasing amounts. This is a popular way to create hierarchy, nesting information into different levels,” continues Timm. “The grey paper and blue typography are a nod to the standard formatting of early html pages, where these colours would display as default in case another style was not specified. The chronological sequence of images is supported by a special-format timeline that highlights events related to the content of the exhibition.”

Finally, Julia deliberately chose a font that is native to computers and immediately signals ‘tech’ to readers. “The typeface is created from an algorithm-based language called Metafont (which is created online using Metaflop),” explains Timm. “It is native to computers and a rare example in the history of typography of a system that does not stem from an analog, calligraphic origin. By being the result of mathematical equations where different variables can be input (thickness, slant angle, width, height, corner radius, etc) there‚Äôs no absolute form, but a myriad of possible outputs. We represent this by mixing different variations into a same text block.”

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-14

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-17

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-19

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-20

Julia-Electronic_Superhighway-01

Electronic Superhighway features over 100 works of art that show the impact of computer and internet technologies on artists from the mid-1960s to the present day. It is on at the Whitechapel Gallery until June 12. More info at whitechapelgallery.org.