International Design Award Winner Best of Show 2019: Museum of Alternative Facts

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Created by student Jenna Klein, the Museum of Alternative Facts is a fictitious institution created to challenge the subjective nature of exaggerations and untruths that are often passed off as facts.

Fact meets Fiction

When Jenna Klein was a graphic design student at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), she received a very thought-provoking assignment: the “Imaginary Museum,” an assignment that called for designers to invent a speculative museum concept, and then create a brand identity and other supplemental deliverables, such as exhibition posters and gift shop merchandise.

When she received the assignment, Klein asked herself, “What is the responsibility of institutions to provide the truth to the public, and should the public always believe everything they see in museums?” This led to the idea for a Museum of Alternative Facts, where information is never questioned or disputed, but rather universally believed and accepted. The MoAF would solely present exhibitions based on falsehoods or commonly believed rumors and conspiracy theories.

“This project was assigned right as the term ‘Alternative Facts’ was coined, so it was particularly cathartic for me to take on an aspect of the current administration through the lens of a counter-narrative,” Klein says. “Partisan politics aside, I think we can all agree that the influx of disinformation is highly concerning, and this is something I wanted to address in a new way through design.”

Commemorating (Made Up) Memories

Posters tout forthcoming exhibitions that address topics such as Trump’s Inauguration (the largest in history), the Commander-in-Chief (and his unprecedented stability and genius), and the Border Wall (that Mexico has so generously agreed to pay for).

Various fictitious items are available for purchase in the museum store, including prayer candles commemorating the horrible events that took place in Sweden on Feb. 17, 2017, and buttons for those wishing to stand in solidarity with the survivors of the Bowling Green Massacre. MoAF’s signature red asterisk are available in sticker form too.

Visitors are encouraged to take the stickers and apply them to declarative statements encountered in everyday life, thereby subverting the truth and creating more alternative facts. A promotional trailer for MoAF shows the personality and versatility of the red asterisk in different applications.

 

 

The Reality Show

One of Klein’s biggest questions was whether or not to use the image of President Trump—the source of many of the fictional museum’s alternative facts. “It was a challenge to present this topic in a way where people wouldn’t immediately tune out,” Klein says. Aside from politics, she says there are so many things that she thinks deserve equal attention in a museum like MoAF, including climate change, “which shouldn’t be partisan issue.”

Klein says the first response to her project from faculty and peers was generally laughter, followed by unease that this is our actual reality at the moment. Says judge Jessica Kuhn: “This stood out as a Best of Show winner because not only is the design engaging, but the resulting commentary is provoking. There’s a cleverness woven throughout this project, from the name of the speculative museum to the asterisk used as the unifying design element. Although this was a project for a class assignment, there would likely be enough alternative facts to fill a museum.”

Klein, who has a fine arts and letterpress background, says one of her favorite things about this project was that so much of the copy “wrote itself.”

“As I was working on it, it was interesting to see the emergence of this bigger picture,” she says. “Unfortunately, it has only become more widespread, so maybe it helps to also keep a sense of humor.”

Designer: Jenna Klein
Category: Student Work, Best of Show
Project: Museum of Alternative Facts
Affiliated institution: Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore

To see work from other winners in the 2019 International Design Awards, head to the gallery! And remember to submit your own work to our competitions!

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