On August 21, 2017, those of us in North America will have a front row seat to a total solar eclipse, an astronomical event that hasn’t been seen here since 1918. The “path of totality” as it’s called, will be visible from coast to coast across the contiguous United States, and though the sun will only darken entirely for about three minutes, people are pumped nevertheless.
Rooms within a 70-mile radius of the eclipse’s shadow path have been booked out a year in advance in anticipation of the celestial event, and art and music festivals are springing up at campsites in places like Oregon’s Snake River Valley, where Atlas Obscura is hosting a sold out two-day festival complete with a cosmic performance by the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra.
Even the U.S. Postal Service is joining in on the celebration with the release of a commemorative forever stamp, the first of its kind to use thermochromic ink—just touch the stamp and the heat from your fingers will reveal the moon behind the shadowed image of the eclipse! AIGA Fellow Antonio Alcalá designed the special-edition postage, and Journey Group, a design firm that works regularly with the Postal Service, led the design of a lushly illustrated accordion-fold booklet as a companion piece; to visualize information about the eclipse, Journey commissioned Liz Meyer and Gavin Potenza of “design-minded illustration studio” Script & Seal.
The husband-and-wife team met in design school while studying at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. Meyer says, “We had essentially the same interests and goals, and luckily very complementary abilities, so eventually we saw the opportunity—and logic—in merging forces.” They specialize in creating infographics for clients within the science and tech industries, but their bright, playful aesthetic offers a brevity and ease of understanding to concepts that might be otherwise inaccessible to those without a background in science.
“We like to let the data dictate the form,” they say about their approach to visualizing scientific information. “While we stay true to the data, we also like to push the ways in which that information is represented. Infographics have gotten pretty stale over the last few years, so we’re always trying to be as interesting and wild as we can without compromising the integrity of the data.”
For Meyer and Potenza, the Postal Service was a dream client. Their mutual love for science and astronomy, plus Potenza’s interest in postage design (see his letterpress print series, Homage to the Stamp, or his illustrated poster, A Field Guide To The Stamps of the World) made them the perfect illustration team for the job. Alcalá’s eclipse stamp preceded the designing of the illustrated folio. Meyer and Potenza explain, “By treating the folio so differently, from the stamp—so abstract, bright, and graphic—we felt it contrasted the stamp design and images of space and eclipse nicely. Journey Group made sure that the folio was as bold and bright as can be, so we chose the brightest Pantone colors in the book.”
It’s not surprising then that Meyer and Potenza love that the celebration of the eclipse has turned into a national event. “This one feels particularly special since a total solar eclipse is so rare for us in the United States. We think it’s awesome that it’s gotten so much attention. Any opportunity to bring awareness to these special events—especially for kids—is great.”
When asked if they would be making the journey from their Hudson Valley studio to the narrow arc of towns that will witness 100% coverage of the sun, they say, “We wish we could experience the total eclipse! But we’re making a special trip to a local mountaintop park, in which we’ll still experience a very solid 70% totality.”