2-D Design

Exhibition Design Reading Topics:

  • Graphics
  • Branded Exhibitions & Typography
  • Legibility
  • Readability
  • Production


Pre existing walls or structures in an exhibit involve a lot of work from the graphics dept to repurpose them. Features built for the exhibition from scratch often don’t contain as many graphics, but the 2D designers are still involved. Way-finding graphics help the visitor create a mental map of the distinct spaces within the exhibit . The hierarchy starts with large directional signs and goes all the way down to the labels. When designing graphics. allow the users to scan the space and be drawn in by what interests them- this means creating a clear understanding of the structure of the content by breaking the material into well labeled, “bite sized chunks.”

Branded Exhibitions & Typography

Graphic consistency established the exhibit in the visitor’s mind. If the exhibit is not for a brand, than the designer must create this consistency and theme around the context of the exhibit. If it is for a brand, brand manuals will dictate the type treatment. However, most don’t translate to exhibitions directly, so that still remains the job of the designer. It is recommended that graphic panels tilt to face the viewer, and that designers print out their text and test in in the appropriate angle and distance to make sure their design choices fit the space. In the Churchill museum example, the designer chose different fonts to reflect different ‘voices’ – text from different viewpoints or people. Also in this example were carefully chosen color swatches to create a respectable “non digital” feel.


Legibility can depend on the distance of the text to the viewer– and 18 points is the smallest you’d want to go. The biggest challenge for a graphic designer transitioning to exhibition design is adjusting for the appropriate scale. Consideration must also be taken for people with dyslexia or limited eyesight. Labels should be readable by wheelchair users and small children, and are often set at the height of the bottom of the smallest frame on the wall.


Keep it simple, stupid. Maximize the content’s reach by making all descriptions at about a 12- year old reading level. Short, to the point paragraphs are much easier to understand, less intimidating, and more inviting to read. The text states that “Museum specialists also emphasize the importance of including facts that may resonate with the audience whenever possible.” And I thought -duh! – BUT actually, this concept may deserve consistent attention — never stop making sure that there is something worthwhile in every touchpoint and piece of text. Make text seem conversational — like speech. Follow the Ekarv method. (pg.177)


Many graphic panels are adhered to the wall with UHB tape. Vinyl text is great for headings because it can be transferred easily onto many surfaces but not good for long paragraphs because the installer has to weed out all of the internal parts of letters. Dry transfer is used for the paragraphs and small text because the image is just transferred to the wall as is with nothing to cut out. Foamex seems to be a very popular material to mount prints to– thin foamex can even be curved on a wall. Printing can range from traditional inkjet to Lambda or Cibachrome ( I believe these are digital prints from photographic negatives.) to direct-to-media, where the ink is printed directly to a substrate like wood, board, or plastic. Dye sublimation is a beautiful printing technique for fabrics and has replaced silk-screening for all applications except printing on materials that won’t fit in a printer. Most boards are wrap-mounted for durability and a finished look. Giant magnets are also great for adhering to metal. There is a great example of a graphic panel with acrylic sides that glow with light placed behind— inspirational!


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