Project Lead: Marta Bernstein
Designers: Jessica Cooper, Eli Kahn
Project Manager: Samantha Segar
Jill Randerson Exhibition Management
Fabricators: Dillon Works, Imagine Visual Services
Over 200 objects from around the world feature in Designing Motherhood: everything from tiny IUDs to large-scale textile prints, photography, product design, maternal and newborn health innovations, and maternity fashion. Working with a joint curatorial team from the Gates Discovery Center and Designing Motherhood, one of our challenges was to help the visitor to make sense of such a wide array of items. A long, winding ‘umbilical table’ organizes the eclectic but powerful content into the chronological stages of pregnancy, to help guide the visitor.
To give the many small artifacts visual presence and contrast against the wood and dark steel of the Discovery Center, we introduced white as a backdrop for the content, both in the winding table and in the surrounding alcoves. In a nod to the gridded architecture, we established a modular system throughout the space for everything from the radial curves of the table (made the same width as the floor tiles), to the display system of square pedestals and captions along the table tops.
Designing Motherhood examines not only the design of objects connected with childbirth, but their powerful socio and political impact.
Audience engagement—rather than just passive looking—was a key goal. Our team worked to design four different types of activity, including building a collective timeline about parental leave, as well as trying out what it’s like to ‘wear a baby.’
Designing Motherhood is free to the public and open throughout 2023.
“Designing Motherhood acts as a prompt for future scholars, curators, architects, designers, and audiences to tackle, as part of design history, the political and material considerations of having a reproductive body, including—we hope prioritizing—empowerment, body autonomy, and better outcomes for everyone involved.” —from Designing Motherhood
Communication Arts 2023 Design Annual, Award of Excellence