Materials & Construction

Exhibition Design Reading Topics:

  • Choosing Materials
  • Portable Exhibitions
  • Technical Drawings
  • Construction

Choosing Materials

Materials must be chosen based on durability, order times, price, maintenance, assembly time, and of course, aesthetics. Considerations include: fire ratings, environmental sustainability, strength and longevity. A materials board helps visualize and make sure materials work together. Sometimes materials from a previous exhibition may be reused. Materials in the vicinity of real artifacts must be tested for chemical content that may erode the objects, so specify alternate materials in case the chosen ones don’t pass the test.

It must be an incredible undertaking to figure out not only what materials to use, but how to match the color to graphic panels, inks, and lighting. I suppose there is a lot of trial and error. Building a library of samples that designers may understand through experience.

Portable Exhibitions

For trade fair exhibitions, modular systems can be purchased and reconfigured like a closet shelf system to accommodate many designs and be reused from show to show. These systems are easy to install and transport, but are hard to differentiate from other exhibits that may have used the same system. Here the designer tries to disguise the system with unique graphics and displays.

The example of the Harley Davidson traveling exhibit was a great example because it is a traveling show for a traveling bike! The show’s temporary tent structure worked with its transient theme that reminded me of an airplane hanger or car shop.

Technical Drawings

Initial sketches and models are done many times throughout the design process. At first they should be thought of as provisional and rough, gaining detail as the design progresses. Before the final drawings, all changes need to be made to reduce cost of re-doing the final plans or paying for labor that needs to be re-done. Once they are set, the preliminary drawings are remade by the designer into technical drawings for contractors. To make sure the contractors understand, visitors drawn to scale are incorporated and multiple stages of interactives may be drawn to describe the intended visitor experience. They also include detailed descriptions of materials and notes. Drawings find a balance between creating crystal clear communications and instructions and avoiding unnecessary work spent over-describing what is to be done. 


For anything that travels, weight is a big consideration. Construction materials are selected to be only as durable as they need to be. So, children’s & permanent exhibits may have durable paints and finishes, but temporary exhibits may have cheep paint. Exhibits are often left unfinished in any “backstage” areas. Contractors are specialists, and it’s best to find one that has experience in each facet of your needs, and are big enough to handle your job. Or, look for a contractor who has worked at the venue before if you haven’t – they will bring experience and insight to the space. The Building Research Establishment in the UK suggest green building specifications & low embodied energy resources.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s