Designing for James Cameron – ‘Challenging The Deep’ Exhibition Identity Design

A closer look at the design process


For who: Australian National Maritime Museum
w/ Luscious International & the Avatar Alliance Foundation

Where: Sydney

When: May, 2018


The artwork needed to:

‣  work in portrait, square & super wide landscape aspects.

‣  work on large format outdoor applications.

‣  take cues from Russian Propaganda designs, maintaining our colour pallet of greys / blues / blacks / accented with green.

‣  be graphical rather than photo-realistic.

‣  be mysterious in mood, high-tech, cool.

It’s rare to be involved in a job with such great content, an amazing brief and actually creative clients. The holy trinity of design work.

Concept sketches

For speed, i mocked up some ideas on paper. Strangely enough the very first idea that came to me felt the strongest. There was something about it, yet wasn’t quite working. After loads of trial and error in composition, i ended up back at the symmetrical design.


The design should take cues from Russian Propaganda designs

Seeing that the “artwork should take cues from Russian Propaganda designs” i gathered relevant CCCP poster ref.

My takeaways from the poster research were:

‣  Strong lines / striking angles

‣  Exaggerated scale

‣  Bold figure & ground separation

‣  Limited colour palette

Other considerations

The client requested some other subtle integrations

‣ Visually represent James (Jim) Cameron shining a light on the deep sea world and unlocking secrets / exposing new worlds through his scientific exploration of the ocean.

‣ A nod to Jim’s ethos of ‘the eye has to see’

‣ Lights revealing a ghosted / silhouetted part of the wreck of Bismarck or Titanic / mysterious deep-sea creature / natural phenomenon.

3d elements

The main elements of the design are heavily stylised 3d rendering from supplied and purchased model.

Quite a bit of work went into getting the lighting just right, and fine tuning the balance between too realism and a 2d poster style.

Titanic 3d model, simplified
Titanic 3d model, simplified
One of the Mir submersibles
One of the Mir submersibles
3d scanned rocks
3d scanned rocks
3d scanned rocks, rim lit
3d scanned rocks, rim lit

Work in progress

Early mockups led me to a nice colour scheme early on. Dark muted blues, greys with a subtle pop of the DSC (the green submersible)

I went back to black and white to try and nail the composition.Being able to focus purely on shape and brightness helped me immensely. It got me most of the way there, in terms of composition.

The finished product

Both the client and I were extremely happy with the result; a seemingly rare occurrence.

James Cameron Challenging the Deep Exhibition Identity Banner with type
James Cameron Challenging the Deep Poster

The exhibition is on until January 2019, why not go and see it yourself

See more at Australian National Maritime Museum

Exhibition Overview Video

Short video showing the exhibition


James Cameron Exhibition –
Interactive Touchscreen

An engaging, interactive touchscreen experience showcasing 3 vessels’ descent to the bottom of the ocean.

By simply swiping up & down, the user can drive a complex animation sequence, exploding the ship into parts and revealing snippets of the storyline, with minimal input.