Terracotta Warriors Of The First Emperor
Exhibit In The Making 3 of 3: Graphics, Setting the Tone

April 20, 2018

Creating Engaging Graphics

We knew from Day 1 that we needed to tell the story of the Terracotta Warriors to a diverse audience with many different learning styles.  Before a visitor reads a single word, they take in the images, icons, and colors in the graphics surrounding them. As such, we knew the look of the graphics would be a key component for creating the mood and tone of the entire exhibit. On top of that, we needed to be sure that the graphics could be easily transported and installed in two very different venues. The two biggest challenges we faced for our exhibit graphics were:

1. How do we create a strong and unique approach to storytelling through our graphics?

Through our development process, we knew that we would be telling a complex story of a faraway land and time. It was imperative that our graphics reference that history, and help transport our visitors to another place.


2. How can we interpret the terracotta figures, calling out the unique components of the ten figures we received?

There have been, and will be, other Terracotta Warriors exhibits. We wanted to make this experience stand out for visitors, by telling the story of China’s first emperor through a scientific eye. We also wanted to call attention to the items that are unique to our exhibit. The ten figures we received have unique characteristics that can help us tell our story.


Our Solutions

We worked closely with USA, Inc our fabrication partners to ensure our designs would be both within budget and good choices for the needs of a traveling exhibition. Their insights allowed us to maximize efficiency during the design process. Their expertise provided creative solutions. When wall murals became cost-prohibitive, we shifted to creating large banner graphics. When exhibit spaces provided challenges for fastening graphics, we came up with freestanding panels that would work in a range of locations.

  • Graphics Overview
  • 11 double-sided Freestanding Graphics
  • 48 Case Object Labels
  • 6 Case Graphics
  • 23 Warrior Object Labels
  • Approximately 160 sq yards of fabric banner graphics
  • Approximately 320 sq feet of vinyl mural graphics

Special thanks to USA Inc. for being a great partner in our design/build team.

During our development process, we dove into the history and art of ancient China, immersing ourselves in the motifs, colors, and icons of that distant past. Early on, we created mood boards and logo treatments to establish the look and feel of the exhibit. Large-scale, bold imagery paired with textural backgrounds and a limited color palette created a striking look for the exhibition. Custom patterns were also created from actual artifacts being displayed in the exhibit for a truly unique approach to graphics. We came up with several sign types to consistently present certain types of information.

Several sign types were created to consistently present certain types of information. The following images are pulled from our working documents.

Large scale banners were used as section headers. They were meant to orient visitors to each section, and provide a glimpse of some of the objects and themes they would encounter.

Freestanding floor graphics were used for primary topic labels. One side introduced the subject in the form of a question with a short answer, and the second side went into greater detail about it. This two-sided approach provided a quick overview to visitors not wanting to read in great detail, but also the detailed information that other visitors desire.

Two styles of warrior object labels were created. The first was a traditional tombstone-style label for basic provenance and information on the type of figure displayed. The second label went into greater detail about the specific figure in front of the visitor.


Custom illustrations were created for each warrior with detailed call outs of things the visitor could find on the figures themselves.

Large cases incorporated interpretive content into the case itself as well as object label information. This helped maintain the storyline connections with objects, even when the exhibit was presented in different configurations.

Interactive stations used purple and yellow to help distinguish these hands-on activities from other areas of the exhibit.

Working with USA to Prototype and testing every aspect of the exhibit graphics. Matching color palettes across several different mediums proved to be a challenge. Vinyl, direct print and fabric were all materials used to create graphics as well as video content and media.


The final graphic installation.


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