Fresh from the field – Vertigo Sea by Strategy

1 year ago by

Fresh from the field this week showcases the advertising campaign for Vertigo Sea, a short film that explores humankind’s relationship to the ocean, touching on issues such as colonialism, refugee migration and whaling.


The Christchurch Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA), reopened in February 2016 after 5 years of closure following the earthquakes. Strategy was tasked with developing the campaigns for each show. In creating the campaign for their second show since reopening, Vertigo Sea, it was important to create a unique take on the work, while remaining part of a consistent underlying brand voice.

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The titular feature work of the exhibition, Vertigo Sea, is an hour long film by artist-filmmaker John Akomfrah. Further work, Tirohanga, was exhibited by Bridget Reweti. Vertigo Sea is a mesmerising cinematic exploration of humankind’s relationship to the ocean.

For the first show, a visual tool-kit was developed, based on the triangle, circle and square together with an open colour. While the first show had been bright and vibrant, there was a need to use the same tool-kit to promote work of a much different tone.

The Strategy concept for Vertigo Sea was all about creating a sense of premonition and foreboding to reflect the feel of the film. A single, large triangle dominates the poster. An overlaid, slightly angled waterline swallows the triangle in an uncomfortable manner. Echoing the feel of a submerged iceberg or the hull of a massive ship, the composition creates a sense of discomfort in the viewer.

To complement this graphic layout, a single, striking image from the show promotional material was selected. The colours in the graphic layout were crafted to sit alongside the show image, with cool purple and blue hues utilised to create a sense of moodiness and space.

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The graphic and pictorial executions were both furnished with identical typographic layouts so that they could work either alone or as a pair. Simplicity was important to ensuring the designs would stand out in a range of media from outdoor poster spaces to online platforms.

Street postering and social media formed the backbone of the campaign. To create more visual traction on the street Phantom was instructed to simply flip the graphic poster upside down to create an even more dominant, eye-catching shape that echoes the feel of submersion and reflection. For social media applications graphic was animated so that the horizon line rises and falls to swallow the triangle.

Finally, invitations were printed using black foiling to create intrigue and boost the quality perception of the overall brand.

The success of the work hinged on how well the imagery of the design could reflect the meaning and feelings from the work. The Vertigo Sea ephemera and imagery now works as an interesting piece in the body of COCA design material, continuing a relationship between the designing and art viewing actions.

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