This is one of the most important projects I’ve worked on, probably ever, and it was certainly one where we couldn’t afford to get something wrong in tone or treatment.
Bessborough was one of the most notorious mother and baby homes – where hundreds of children died over nearly 80 years, and where the resting places of 859 have never been found – and is in the Examiner’s heartland. This page was planned about a week in advance of the publication of a government commission into mother and baby homes nationally. Or begun, at least.
The general concept became clear almost immediately – how else could you commemorate the deaths of hundreds of children without putting their names front and centre? We had different options: Just the names with the years and dates, or the names with years, dates, and cause of death. Even a quick draft with the latter showed that it was too much information and it took away from the names, so that concept was dropped.
It was a rare case where I suggested dropping ads off the front page. It made sense given what we were trying to achieve. There were 13 or 14 variations in the end, many with only slight differences in things like opacity of the text frame sitting on the image by Larry Cummins. There were different crops of the image, there were a couple of versions with the image in black and white, and various measures of leading and kerning to balance fitting everything without making the names too small.
The response to this was overwhelming, and not only did it get picked up internationally but it was projected on a grand scale as part of an art installation to honour the survivors of mother and baby homes across the country.