Case Study: Big Bugs Exhibition Identity

Big Bugs Exhibition Identity
The U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, DC
August, Lang & Husak, Inc. Advertising Agency, Bethesda, MD
Copywriting: Chuck Husak / Art Direction, Design & Logo Illustration: Tony McEachern

The U.S. National Arboretum is a U.S. Department of Agriculture research and education facility and a living museum.  It is dedicated to serving the public and improving the environment by developing and promoting improved floral and landscape plants and technologies through scientific research, educational programs, and display gardens. During the summer of 2000, this national center for public education sponsored the BIG BUGS exhibition.  This event featured 14 giant-size wooden outdoor insect sculptures created by noted artist David Rogers.  The purpose of the exhibition was to educate adults and children about the positive contributions of insects to agriculture.


The Problem

The design problem was to develop a visual identity program for this exhibition that communicated the key message that insects are not the negative pests that they are portrayed to be but are an essential part of the agricultural environment. It was intended for the target audience to become familiar with the 14 individual types of insects and their agreeable relationship with various plant-life. The first challenge was to develop one all-inclusive graphic mark that represented all 14 sculptures yet did not give the appearance of infestation and pestilence.  The second challenge was to create a package that communicated to the positive message about insects to both adults and children at the same time.


The Solution

The solution for the graphic mark was to select the most memorable of the 14 insects and use it as a character mark the represented all of the others.  It had to be instantly recognizable by the target audience.  Since Dave Rogers has exhibited his BIG BUGS sculptures through out the US he could give feedback on which sculpture received the most positive feedback.  The preying mantis won out right so it was used as the ambassador for the Washington, DC exhibition. A series of logos were sketched using the preying mantis symbol, named “Prymus,” and the word mark of BIG BUGS.  The preying mantis had to appear to be friendly and playful, yet be anatomically correct.  This logo had to work in black and white and in color and would be used on all other publications and printed materials.  The US National Arboretum chose to use their institutional letterhead for corporate correspondences regarding this exhibit, so no stationery systems were designed.

To communicate to the adult segment of the target audience, a four color, three-paneled brochure was designed.  This brochure provided visitors with a map of the exhibit area showing the locations and descriptions of the each sculpture and a suggested tour route.  An accessible tour route was indicated for the disadvantaged touring in wheelchairs. Information graphic symbols for restrooms, water and the gift shop were incorporated into the design. The layout for the cover panel consisted of the graphic mark with exhibition dates and times, Arboretum address, phone number and web address.

For children ages 5-12 years old, a four color, quarter folded, booklet was designed.  When the folded booklet is fully opened, it transforms into a poster for a matching game that the children can learn from.  This booklet included poetic insect facts, bug jokes, and six insect stickers for the children to remove and place on the poster.

The lobby of the Arboretum Administration Building was surveyed and lobby panels were designed.  These wall mounted panels introduced visitors to the BIG BUGS exhibit with text and graphics that creatively highlighted the purpose.  Also incorporated were exterior banners located on New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road and hung from the pillars at the entrance of the Administration Building.  As an extra-added element, oversized ladybugs were illustrated and placed strategically on the floor to create a path to direct visitors to the start of the exhibit. This technique is called, “bread crumbing.”  In order to keep the playful tone consistent through all applications of the identity no photos were used in any of the pieces, only illustrations.

The exhibit ran from June 1 – October 31, 2000.  Thousands of tourists visited the Dave Rogers’ BIG BUGS exhibition in Washington, DC and the event was a success.