Following the success of their Ming: The Golden Empire and Tombs of the Liao Dynasty exhibitions, local company Nomad Exhibitions brought me on board to create a suite of exhibition graphics for their latest project that tells the story of one of the greatest land empires in history and the powerful Khans that shaped it.
The Nomad team had grand plans for the visuals, beginning with a series of large-scale murals depicting key scenes from the rise and fall of the Mongol empire in an eye-catching illustrated style. These murals would be complimented by a comic section that describes key scenes in Genghis’ life and illustrated branding to advertise and decorate the exhibition at its initial destination at the National Military Museum in Soest, Netherlands.
Taking visual cues equally from historical illustrations and modern comic art we aimed to find an outcome that would engage both older and younger viewers and spark their imaginations, whilst giving them plenty of information about the Mongols in an easy-to-digest format.
As a cornerstone of the exhibition graphics created, the illustrated murals aimed to give the visitors to the museum a chance to ‘walk through’ the story of Genghis itself. Being both decorative and educational, they aimed to be a captivating introduction to each section and provide contextual information without relying on additional text.
Working closely with Nomad Exhibitions’ research and design departments we selected five of the most dramatic scenes that would work within the narrative flow of the exhibition, often using the physical layout and location of the murals in the room for added impact.
A great benefit of using murals was the ability to include in the illustrations a large number of the artefacts from the exhibition. This brought the objects, safely stored in their displays, to life and gave viewers an insight into who would have used these objects and what roles they would have played in their lives.
The life of Genghis Khan, according to the ‘Secret History of the Mongols’, was an incredible story, and Nomad Exhibitions felt that to truly understand the Mongol empire it was vital to understand the story of Genghis himself.
To try and capture such an epic tale in an easily digestible format we decided to create a series of comic panels depicting key scenes from the story, accompanied by narrative text. Each scene was carefully chosen to be an evocative and informative scene in Genghis’ life, with the Great Khan himself as a recognisable figure acting as a link between each scene. Spread out, this sequence allows viewers to watch Genghis grow from an eager young man to a seasoned leader and follow him as he experiences both great success and great tragedy.
In addition to the murals and comic sequence, Nomad Exhibitions had identified the need for an illustrated family tree in the exhibition. They were keen to have the historical figures depicted in the same style as the murals, tying the design to the rest of the exhibition and bringing these figures to life.
As I created the series of portraits of Genghis and his many descendants it was often a challenge, as almost no visual references for the many members of his family exist. Ultimately, relying on the expertise of Nomad Exhibitions’ team to provide accounts of the traditional dress, health and social status of each of the family members provided enough clues to appropriately envisage the various historical figures with a degree of accuracy and personality.