Some ideas for a successful exhibit design process

By November 25, 2017Blog

This is a welcome opportunity to share some thoughts on the process of designing an exhibition. These ideas first coalesced for us during our work on the Northwest Territories Pavilion back at Expo ’86 and they have become the founding principles upon which we have based all our work over the years.

 A good team is key

  • Choose a team who are interested in the material to be presented.
  • Team should be comprised of people who are good listeners as well as doers.
  • Whenever possible, the core team should remain intact throughout the project. This can help minimize revisiting founding ideas when new team members, who were not part of the initial decision making process, come on board.

Establish a strong foundation that can be built upon throughout the project

  • Establish your goals early in the process.
  • Ensure decisions made during the design development process are sound building blocks for future decisions.
  • Take time to discuss objectives and how they might be met in various ways.
  • Do not draw conclusions too quickly; always be prepared to challenge your concepts and change them if necessary.
  • Be aware of the viewer’s expectations as well as the client’s and your own.
  • Be honest with the viewer, respect their intelligence, their curiosity and their desire to know more.
  • Budget time and money for good research at the beginning of the process.

Approach

  • Be flexible in your approach and process so you might continuously adapt and improve.
  • Design to service the contents. Don’t allow the design team to use the content to service themselves.
  • Keep the presentation simple, with each section of the exhibit more or less self-explanatory and self-contained.
  • Encourage people interaction; people remain the best communicators. First person and simulations of first person experiences communicate well.
  • Do not give up content for the sake of simplicity too quickly. Considerable information and emotion can be conveyed with very few well chosen words and images.
  • Try to encourage people to move through the exhibit, but don’t force them on a particular path. Let people enjoy things at their own pace and find things that meet their own needs and level of understanding.

Dispel assumptions

  • Do not assume static museum type exhibits with artifacts and printed words are inherently boring; likewise, do not assume high tech, kinetic presentations are inherently interesting.

Stick to your guns!

  • Don’t be intimidated by what others have done or are doing. If you believe you are right, see it through. Too many are producing safe but thoughtless copies of past successes.

Finally, be prepare to give in to better ideas at any time but, until then: stick to your guns!