Exhibition Design, Museum Planning

Museum Exhibition Design

2 Comments 25 July 2011

Defining and describing “Museum Exhibition Design” is not an easy task.  After 20+ years working in museum exhibition design, I have arrived at my own definition.  The first tough part is a definition of a “museum”.  I have kludged together a definition of “museum”:

Museum – “An organization in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which  researches, communicates and exhibits things and ideas, for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”

  1. Many museums are non collecting, so a museum is not about displaying a collection
  2. Some museums are “for profit”, so a museum can’t be defined by tax status
  3. Some museums don’t have a building or a “home”, so it is not about a location

Second tough part “exhibition”, I kludged together:

Exhibition: “An event at which displays are put out in a public space for people to view and interact”

Third part “design”, I kludged together:

Design – “The making of a plan for the construction of an object or a system”

Now, can I create a definition of  “Museum Exhibition Design” that can apply to all the different types of museums?

Science Center
Natural History Museum
Airport Museum
Natural History Museum
Traveling Exhibition
Art Museum
History Museum
Aquarium
Mobile Museum
On line Museum / Virtual Museum
Zoological Park
Botanic Garden

Definition:

Museum Exhibition Design:  “The making of a plan for the construction of  public displays for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment,  in the service of society and its development.”

Exhibition Design Process — Phases

The museum exhibition design process can be divided into five distinct phases:

  • Concept Development
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Final Design
  • Construction Documents

The output of the design process:

  • Fabrication
  • Installation

Exhibition Design Process – Concept Development

Concept Development provides the “road map” for the project, where is the project going?, how will it get there? and a definition of the resources available to complete the project. Concept Development is culminated with the signing of a Project Charter outlining all of the components of the project.

  • Project Objectives
  • Project Filters
  • Project Charter
  • Initial Budget
  • Initial Schedule
  • Project Narrative, included in the Project Charter
  • Front End Evaluation Umbrella Concept
  • “Look and Feel”

 

Style Board

Exhibition Narrative

Design Process – Schematic Design

The goal of Schematic Design, is to flesh out the scope and character 0f the project. This enables all parties involved to confirm themes, interpretation goals and to review spatial arrangements, appearance, artifact use, materials and cost.

By the and of the Schematic Design phase, the team will have visuals, narratives, look-and-feel boards and layouts to initially review the allocation of space, traffic flow, audi0—visual components, interactive displays, lighting and special effects. An overall graphic identity for the exhibit at this stage of design.

Typical Deliverables for Schematic Phase in—person meetings (and distribution of meeting notes)

  • Content: description of project goals and messages
  • Content: visitor experience narrative
  • Content: outline 0f major components
  • Design: Rough plan view w/content
  • Design: Diagrams 0f content relationships
  • Design: Traffic-flow diagrams
  • Design: Sketches 0f key points in exhibition
  • Design: Color perspective sketches (for fundraising and exhibit naming opportunities)
  • Graphic Design: Collage of look & feel for exhibits and graphics
  • Schedule: Fabrication and Installation schedule
  • Schedule: budget development
  • Schematic Design Phase deliverables: bound II” x 17″ booklets + electronic master copy

Bubble Diagram

Exhibition Rendering

Schematic Floor Plan

Design Process – Design Development

During Design Development, section and elevation drawings of exhibits in the space are created. Content research is compiled into draft text and descriptions of the exhibits and the interactives. Functions of Audio-visuals and computer programs that will be part chartered

The family of graphic elements is complied and a graphic schedule of all the graphics is created. Graphic directional and identification signage for interior and exterior spaces of the exhibit area become part of the program.

Typical Deliverables for Design Development Phase

In-person meetings (and distribution of meeting notes)

  • Content: Final outline
  • Content: Draft text
  • Content: Initial image and object list
  • Content: Interactives and audio/visual outlines
  • Design: Plan w/content (CAD drawings)
  • Design: Elevations and Sections (CAD drawings)
  • Design: Preliminary Electrical plan (CAD draft)
  • Design: Preliminary Mechanical plan (CAD draft)
  • Design: Preliminary Lighting plan (CAD draft)
  • Design: Exhibit Component Database
  • Visuals: Interactive sketches
  • Graphic Design: Exhibit graphic design
  • Graphic Design: Inventory/matrix
  • Graphic Design: Layout & design of typical panels
  • Graphic Design: Directional Signing (way-finding) — locations plan and elevations with specifications for interior spaces
  • Schedule: Revised fabrication and installation schedule
  • Schedule: Revised fabrication budget
  • Database of graphics
  • Prototyping of interactive exhibits

 

DD Floor Plan

DD Exhibit Detail

 

Prototyping

Design Process – Final Design

By the conclusion of the Final Design phase, a complete package that illustrates the full exhibit design—h0w it will be built, where every component is located and how each works within the larger space. This package includes exhibition identification, exhibition descriptions, a database of exhibit components, measured CAD plans with content, floor plans, elevations, artifact lists, measured graphic design elements and samples, draft scripts with details for audio visual components, interactive exhibits, final text, sound and lighting systems specifications, production schedules and a fabrication cost estimate.

Once this phase is completed and has been approved by the team, the team can transition into fabrication.

Typical Deliverables for Final Design Phase

  • Three in-person meetings (and distribution of meeting notes)
  • Content: Final text
  • C0ntent: Draft scripts: interactives & A/V
  • Design : Plan w/content (measured CAD drawing)
  • Design : Elevations w/graphics & dioramas/murals (measured CAD)
  • Design : Sections/details (measured CAD)
  • Design : Electrical plan/schedule (measured CAD)
  • Design : Mechanical plan/schedule (measured CAD)
  • Design : Lighting plan (measured CAD)
  • Design : A/V Signal plan (measured CAD)
  • Design : Finish schedule
  • Design : Interactive operation diagrams
  • Design : Audiovisual concept sketches
  • Architectural Permit documents (as required)
  • Graphic Design: Exhibit graphic design (measured drawings)
  • Graphic Design: Image management & acquisition
  • Exhibit component database with product and material specifications
  • Schedule: Final fabrication and installation schedule
  • Schedule: Final fabrication budget

 

FD Electrical Plan

A/V Plan

Design Process – Construction Documents (CD Also called Contract Documents)

By the conclusion of the Final Design phase, a complete package that illustrates the full exhibit design—how it will be built, where every component is located and how each works within the larger space. This package includes exhibition identification, exhibition descriptions, a database of exhibit components, measured CAD plans with content, floor plans, elevations, artifact lists, measured graphic design elements and samples, draft scripts with details for audio visual components, interactive exhibits, final text, sound and lighting systems specifications, production schedules and a fabrication cost estimate.

Once this phase is completed and has been approved by the team, the team can transition into fabrication.  Typical Deliverables for Final Design Phase

  • Three in-person meetings (and distribution of meeting notes)
  • Content: Final text
  • Content: Draft scripts: interactives & A/V
  • Design: Plan w/content (measured CAD drawing)
  • Design: Elevations w/graphics & dioramas/murals (measured CAD)
  • Design: Sections/details (measured CAD) Design: Electrical plan/schedule (measured CAD)
  • Design: Mechanical plan/schedule (measured CAD) (if required)
  • Design: Lighting plan (measured CAD)
  • Design: A/V Signal plan (measured CAD)
  • Design: Finish schedule
  • Design: Interactive operation diagrams
  • Design: Audio visual concept sketches
  • Architectural Permit documents (as required)
  • Graphic Design: Exhibit graphic design (measured drawings)
  • Graphic Design: Image management & acquisition (as defined in budget)
  • Exhibit component database with product and material specifications
  • Schedule: Final fabrication and installation schedule
  • Schedule: Final fabrication budget

 

CD Detail

The tough part, I call it “Museum Voice”, how does the museum communicate with the public?, as an “school teacher”, ” a surfing buddy”, “a driving instructor”, “a best friend”, all are valid.  A “voice” will come through if you design one or not, so be conscious of how you are communicating with the public.

Sources:

“How Museum Do Exhibits Cost” by Jay Rounds and Joyce Cheney, Exhibitionist Spring 2002, Vol 21, No.1

“Architecture and Exhibition Design: A Survey of Infrastructure” by Charles Howarth Jr. and Maeryta Medrano, ASTC, 1997 (Discovery Science Center, Santa Ana, CA, / Mark Walhimer was one of the case studies)

2010, 2009, 2008 ASTC Statistics Analysis Package

www.si.edu/opanda/reports/EXCost.pdf

http://www.aam-us.org/aboutmuseums/whatis.cfm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museum

http://icom.museum/who-we-are/the-vision/museum-definition.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhibition

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design

http://www.louvre.fr/llv/musee/histoire_louvre.jsp?bmLocale=en

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitoline_Museums

 

  • http://www.hksconsultants.com/ Exhibit Design Services

    Its simply great.

  • Katie J.

    This is absolutely awesome. Succinct yet thorough. I’m going to share this with my team!

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