What is Exhibition Design? by Skolnick and Lorenc

The reading: What is Exhibition Design?

As I read about the history of exhibition design it makes me aware of my own stigma and appreciation of the attitudes of the past. I often feel that I am not wealthy or cultured enough to be spending time and money on extravagant interests like collections and art. It is interesting to read about the vantage point where wealthy people collect interesting things simply because these oddities are, in current terms, awesome.  And as the thirst for knowledge and entertainment combined with the World’s Fairs, it must have been a revolutionary time for the general public. Even today when I visit a museum it is a reminder of just how interesting the world can be.

Coming from an advertising background, many concepts and strategies seem to transfer to the world of exhibit design. Like advertising, defining your target is key. When convincing someone of anything you must consider who they are what they know and what they want. In exhibit design you consider the preferences of their most prevalent learning styles and abilities, but also assure that the design is universal enough for everyone. And, if possible, engage the audience in multiple ways (senses, viewpoints) to strengthen their understanding and interest. Also mostly true in advertising, but exhibit design has an opportunity that advertising rarely has – immersion – the less real life distractions are present, the more immersive and successful the storytelling.

Experience Design vs. Themed environments

The author seemed adamant to distinguish the disciplines of experience design and themed environments, so this is how I understood the difference: Themed environments tell an immersive story, but experience design is a broader, more user centered discipline. Themed environments are design for the venue- the layout of the space, lighting, focal points, materials, touch points, audio etc. Experience design is design for the user. What will he see? smell? read? what does he want and is it clear how to get there? How does he feel? How does he feel after leaving? Will he return? With friends?

Designing for the Museum

Relevance through many years must be difficult. I recently visited a museum with videos that were clearly taped in the 80’s (because of the clothing on the actors.)  This distracted me from the exhibit- I stopped to think about how old the exhibit was instead of focusing on the topics presented. But, it was also a historical mark- a time stamp explaining when the exhibit was created- “This topic through the eyes of designers in the 80’s.” So I both hate and like it. I also prefer linear museum layouts over more open layouts. I appreciate the curator and creators doing the work for me to tell a linear story. This is a welcome contrast to our current lives in which random topics can be searched in google sequentially giving no structure to linear thought. Linear museum layouts are vacation for my brain.


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