Superposition: 21st Biennale of Sydney

Identity, Physical, Digital, Environmental





The Biennale of Sydney is recognized as one of Australia’s premier cultural events. Held every two years, the three-month-long exhibition is accompanied by a program of artist talks, forums, guided tours and special events, nearly all of which are free to the public. The 21st Biennale of Sydney, under the direction of Mami Kataoka, opened on March 16th, 2018.


The inaugural Biennale of Sydney was held in 1973 as part of the program of events celebrating the opening of the Sydney Opera House. Widely respected for working with independent artistic directors, the Biennale has a reputation for having shown the work of renowned artists early in their careers. The Biennale was also the first to focus on Asia and the contemporary art of the region (1973 and 1976); the first to show Indigenous art in an international contemporary art context (1979); and in 2008, the first biennale to present an online venue.

Organization Type

Arts Organization, Non-Profit


Create a brand system inclusive of a variety of environmental applications and a microsite that visually represent the 21st Biennale’s theme, “Superposition: Equilibrium and Engagement.”


The identity system had to both illustrate the abstract curatorial theme of “Superposition: Equilibrium and Engagement” and make this theme accessible to a wide public audience. The biennale exhibits across seven venues in Sydney over the course of two months, as such, the identity system needed to be flexible enough to accommodate an ever–evolving variety of environmental, print and digital applications, whether they be flags, gifs, t–shirts, brochures, billboards, or museum vinyl.


Civilization developed the identity system and identity guide and worked closely with Sydney–based design studio Mira Yuna to execute a wide variety of print and environmental applications. Simultaneously, Civilization worked with Sydney–based development studio, Interaction Consortium to design and develop the digital platform to house the festival events and the archives of past biennales.


Biennale of Sydney


2017 — Present


Sydney, Australia


The Wu Xing cycle of creation and destruction serves as a conceptual platform for the 21st Biennale of Sydney design. The Wu Xing philosophy is juxtaposed with the concept of superposition: all states of being existing simultaneously in equilibrium. We have translated the relationship of these two elements into visual dualities: order versus chaos, connected versus singular, and static versus in motion.

Along with conceptual alignment — usability, flexibility, and modularity are important components of the 21st Biennale of Sydney identity design, given the myriad environmental and digital applications of the brand. The visual system is multifunctional. In addition to representing a structured representation of the Wu Xing philosophy—adhering to the sequence of the cycle–(wood, fire, earth, metal, water)–the shapes can also be overlayed creating background patterns that are the perfect solution for extending the graphic language of the design across large areas. These alternate iterations of the Wu Xing symbology represent the characteristics of superposition: fluid, amorphic, and ever-changing.


Physics, Wu Xing, Cycles, History of previous biennales


The Biennale attracts an average of over 600,000 visits to each edition across seven venues throughout the city and features over 70 artists from 35 countries.

The 21st Biennale is a two–month event occurring March through June 2018.

The Biennale opened with a keynote address from Ai Weiwei at the Sydney Opera House addressing today’s global refugee crisis.


“Where many recent biennales have had overinflated or inexplicable curatorial themes, BoS21 is…certainly among the best of the last 10 years.”
The Guardian


Identity Manual, Animation Styles, Interactive Styles, Collateral System, Environmental Graphic System, Promotional Print Materials, User Experience Design, User Interface Design and Development

Technical Specs

HTML, CSS, Javascript, AJAX, Glamkit

…the exhibition highlights the concept of superposition in quantum mechanics as a metaphor to link the notions of equilibrium and engagement and provide us with insights into the world today. Mami Kataoka, Artforum

This announcement site introduces the 21st Biennale of Sydney’s identity system. The cyclical movement of five color forms are representative of The Wu Xing, while a computer-generated script randomly displaces the Superposition wordmark across the viewport.


The announcement site displaying the seven venues and 70 artists from 35 different countries.


Vinyl application of the environmental system.


Vinyl application of the wayfinding system.


The announcement site displaying the curatorial statement from Mami Kataoka of the Mori Art Museum.


Vinyl application of the environmental system displayed on information booths on Cockatoo Island.


Collateral system displayed in the visitor guide.


Environmental system displayed during a keynote address by Ai WeiWei and Mami Kataoka.


Exhibition label and information for Ai WeiWei’s Law of the Journey artwork.


Promotional totebag for attendees.


Curatorial statement display.


Collateral system displayed in the visitor guide.


Environmental system displayed on exhibition flags.


Promotional animation.

( ( SHAKEN ) )