Stratigraphy Wall

Vinyl graphic of County Durham’s stratigraphy that features key artefacts in the museum and serves as a learning resource for school visits. Commissioned by Durham University’s Museum of Archaeology for the walls of the new Learning Corner.

Client: Durham Univeristy’s Museum of Archaeology
Dimensions: 4.5m x 2.5m

CLIENT BRIEF: The museum is renovating its Learning Corner, and needs a vinyl image to place on the partition wall. The curator wants a graphic of County Durham’s stratigraphy that features key artefacts in the museum. This graphic needs to be accurate and easy to understand, as it will be used as a teaching resource during school visits. It must also visually harmonise with the museum space by using bold colours and Calibri font.

In creating the Museum of Archaeology’s stratigraphy wall, I worked as a freelance designer on contract. I communicated regularly with the museum’s curator, who provided feedback from themselves and the museum’s learning team. While the commission brief dictated which artefacts and primary colours needed to be represented, I had freedom in organising the layout of the piece and use my own illustration style in rendering the artefacts. I was also able to include the museum’s learning character Isla the Future Curator, who I had created for an exhibition.


The first iteration of this design was made to fit one face of the partition wall, measuring 3m x 2.5m. Following the museum’s colour-coded design, the stratigraphy layers were coloured to match the corresponding display (blue to match the Roman display, red to match the Anglo-Saxon display, etc.). As the prehistory and Bronze Age displays shared the same shade of green, I replaced Neolithic with orange and Mesolithic and Paleolithic with different shades of pink.

In rendering the artefacts, I maintained an equal size ratio in order to adhere to the brief’s emphasis on accuracy. However, some of the smaller objects (such as the Iron Age coin) were so small I worried that they would lose detail in printing.


Now that the client could refer to the overall layout, additional artefacts were chosen to fill the layers of more recent history. A timeline was added to the right, which would adhere to the next wall, making the graphic form a 90 degree angle. The museum’s learning team requested that the timeline’s eras were also colour coded in order to aid the students’ visual understanding. A “newer –> older” timescale was also added for this purpose.

For the final rounds of the sketch, the layers’ colouring was revisited. The client requested the prehistory layers be made into different shades of green, so that all periods before the Iron Age were grouped together. The Post Medieval layer was also changed to a muted gold, as to better fit the colour scheme of the museum’s display (I had previously made it blue in order to harmonise with the purple modern layer).

In making the prehistory layers green, I changed the Iron Age layer to a darker blue. Though this did not match the Iron Age display exactly, it was necessary to keep the layer visually separate from the Bronze Age below. I also lightened the red of the Anglo Saxon layer to improve contrast between the red and the black text.

At the request of the learning team, I added dates to the timeline and relevant stone ages to the prehistory eras. This was again to serve as a learning resource for when schools came to the museum for the prehistory curriculum.


The final design was created as a vector image. The last changes were to make the area behind Isla a light blue, and to move the timeline sectons to be parallel with the corresponding layer. I ran into trouble completing the latter task, as the Palaeolithic stone age subtitle took up more space than the layer itself. Though the client said that the stone ages could be taken out, I remedied the issue by shortening the subtitle to “2.5 million to 9,600 BC.” Subsequently, the image was able to retain stone ages as a teaching resource.

Currently the museum renovations have been halted due to COVID-19 lockdown. Once the Learning Corner has been renovated, I will contact the learning team to gauge the success of the design in aiding student’s understanding and engagement with the collections.

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