How-to-design-your-exhibition


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Produced by the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, with assistance from the New South Wales Government through its Environmental Trust.
DESIGN YOUR EXHIBITION
An exhibition tells a story to a visitor. It appeals to people through their senses using:
• visual
stimulus,
which
is
the
strongest
and
most
memorable
• sensation,
such
as
hearing,
which
is
immediate
and
associative
• words
and
reading,
which
require
the
most
effort
and
mental
processing
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
ensure
that
it
works.
The
design
comes
after
decisions
are
made
about
what
to
display
and
why.
The
storyline
informs
the
amount
of
space
required,
the
placement
of
objects
and
the
sequence
in
which
visitors
will
move
around
the
exhibition.
BASIC PLANNING
Putting
together
an
exhibition
involves
set
of
tasks
that
is
unlikely
to
change
much,
regardless
of
the
size
and
scope
of
your
particular
project.
The
main
variables
will
be
the
length
of
time
allocated
to
each
task,
the
Stage one: planning
• General
planning
and
drafting
of
the
budget
and
schedule
• Writing
the
brief
developing
the
story
• Collecting
the
objects
and
material
for
display
Stage two: design development
• Evaluating
the
objects
and
doing
potential
layout,
including
graphics,
title
wall
and
any
other
support
material
• Getting
quotes
for
any
production
work
Stage three: production
• Writing
labels
• Constructing
plinths,
including
time
for
paint
drying
and
off-gassing
(the
release
of
fumes
from
paints,
varnishes
and
certain
building
materials;
allow
at
least
two
weeks)
�nal
installation)
• Producing
graphics
(eg
reproduction
photographs,
graphic/text
panels
or
vinyl
lettering
for
title
wall)
Stage four: installation and completion
• Printing
the
labels
• Organising
lighting
• Installing
plinths,
showcases,
graphics,
labels
and
other
exhibition
support
material
• Installing
objects
• Opening
or
launching
the
exhibition
SPATIAL PLANNING
The
initial
phase
in
spatial
planning
is
to
work
out,
from
the
story
or
brief,
how
many
main
ideas,
or
themes
that
the
exhibit
will
have.
Usually
an
exhibition
has
up
to
�ve
main
themes.
Then
you
need
to
assess
each
grouping
of
objects
for
scale
and
size
to
establish
what
their
display
requirements
will
be.
For
example,
will
they
need
plinths
or
will
they
need
to
be
displayed
on
walls?
Do
you
have
budget
for
graphics?
You
also
need
to
determine
an
appropriate
structure
for
the
exhibition
layout
and
the
sequence
in
which
the
visitor
will
move
through
the
exhibition.
There
are
two
main
types:
(1)
directed
and
(2)
undirected.
Figure
Undirected
�ow
OBJECT DISPLAY TECHNIQUES
There
is
no
single
way
to
design
an
exhibition.
You
need
to
consider
the
physical
relationship
between
the
objects.
Think
about:
• how
you
will
divide
the
space,
either
horizontally
or
vertically
• whether
you
will
use
symmetrical
or
asymmetrical
layout
• making
patterns,
particularly
if
you
have
multiples
of
the
same
object
• contrast
between
forms
• back-drops
Use
strong
visual
impact
to
engage
the
visitor.
You
can
do
this
through
the
placement
of
two
or
more
objects
near
each
other,
variation
in
shapes,
and
the
use
of
other
visual
elements
such
as
colour.
Focal points
When
visitor
�rst
walks
into
the
exhibition,
what
are
they
going
to
see?
Will
it
attract
and
draw
them
in?
The
point
to
which
the
eye
is
drawn
is
known
as
the
focal
point.
The
�rst
focal
point
is
long
view.
It
should
be
supported
by
other
focal
points
throughout
the
exhibition
to
keep
attracting
visitors
from
one
point
to
another.
It
is
always
important
to
create
hierarchy
of
the
objects
you
intend
to
display
so
you
can
establish
which
objects
to
use
as
focal
points.
The
colour,
texture
and
form
of
the
objects
need
to
be
considered
when
making
these
choices.
Grouping and alignment
Grouping
is
very
powerful
way
of
concentrating
the
attention
of
visitors,
either
through
precision
grouping
or
studied
carelessness.
‘Precision
grouping’
uses
alignments
that
are
accurately
measured
(use
tape
measure
for
exactness).
‘Studied
carelessness’
creates
dynamic
in
display.
For
example,
sewing
box
can
be
displayed
with
its
contents
arranged
so
as
to
appear
spilled.
Flat
objects
such
as
paintings,
photographs,
prints
or
drawings
need
to
be
hung
at
comfortable
viewing
height.
For
adults,
this
is
generally
1500mm
from
�oor
level,
measured
to
the
centre
of
the
objects.
After
setting
this
line,
you
can
vary
some
of
the
smaller
objects
just
above
and
below
the
line,
with
larger
objects
on
the
line.
Another
way
is
to
align
all
of
the
objects
at
the
top.
Remember
that
differing
horizon
lines
within
these
objects
need
to
be
taken
into
consideration,
and
directionality
in
the
arrangement
should
aim
to
direct
the
visitor’s
gaze.
As
always,
balance
is
important
to
ensure
cohesive
and
effective
presentation.
Figure
Cluster
arrangement
aligned
to
centre-line
measured
1500mm
from
�oor
Figure
Horizontal
alignment
to
top
of
objects
with
centre-line
measured
1500mm
from
�oor
LIGHTING
The
most
important
thing
to
know
about
lighting
is
that
over-exposure
of
objects
to
high
light
levels
can
cause
irreversible
damage.
Photographs,
fabric
and
newspaper
clippings
can
fade
in
full
light
levels
after
months
on
display.
The
level
of
light
is
measured
in
lux.
Measuring
devices
known
as
light
meters
can
be
bought
relatively
cheaply
from
electronic
stores.
You
can
manage
your
exhibition
lighting
by:
• limiting
the
time
objects
are
exposed
to
high
lux
levels
• reducing
the
lux
level
of
electric
lighting
to
100
lux,
using
dimmer
system
and
light
meter
• reducing
the
amount
of
natural
light
using
blinds
or
UV
�lms
applied
directly
to
the
windows
EMPLOYING A DESIGNER OR ARCHITECT
If
your
project
is
very
big
one,
consider
employing
local
designer
or
architect
to
design
your
display.
They
can
help
you
make
the
most
of
your
project
and
your
budget
through
their
experience
and
knowledge
of
design,
documentation
and
project
management.
designer
or
architect
will
work
on
�xed
fee
or
an
hourly
rate.
Working
for
an
hourly
rate
often
makes
it
dif�cult
to
assess
the
�nal
cost,
whereas
�xed-fee
quotation
will
give
you
greater
control
over
your
budget.
�xed
fee
quotation
is
calculated
on
the
estimated
total
number
of
hours
based
on
the
information
you
provide.
If
there
are
additions
or
changes
to
the
original
instructions
(eg
things
you
forgot
to
tell
them
or
you’ve
changed
your
mind),
there
will
be
variation
in
the
cost.
Therefore
it’s
important
that
you
give
them
as
much
information
as
possible.
This
is
usually
done
using
simple
written
document
or
brief
outlining
the
following:
• the
aims
of
the
project
• the
budget
and
schedule
• who
the
contacts
are
• the
location
of
the
exhibition
• visitor
information
(eg
your
target
audience)
• written
content
brief,
including
communication
aims
• information
on
the
objects
(photographed
and
measured,
giving
height,
depth,
weight
and
width)
• other
items
for
inclusion,
such
as
seating,
AVs,
graphics,
title
wall,
text
• any
other
parameters,
such
as
whether
the
exhibition
is
housed
in
building
with
conservation
order
on
it
The
brief
must
detail
the
scope
of
the
work
involved
and
clarify
responsibilities.
When
you
engage
the
designer,
these
should
be
clearly
outlined
in
signed
agreement
along
with
agreed
processes
and
deadlines.
Typically,
the
designer’s
responsibilities
include:
• doing
an
accurate
measure
of
the
exhibition
space
if
drawings
aren’t
available
• providing
design
concept
for
approval
• providing
an
object
layout
and
lighting
plan
• providing
design
and
construction
documentation
• attending
meetings
• supervising
production
and
construction
• meeting
the
budget
and
schedule
Typically,
the
exhibition
organiser’s
responsibilities
include:
• providing
exhibition
content
(objects,
graphic,
AVs
etc)
• providing
object
documentation
• providing
text
• organising
electricians
and
other
technicians
• managing
all
aspects
of
budget
and
payment
of
contractors
• identifying
who
signs
off
on
the
project
and
co-ordinating
sign-off
FURTHER INFORMATION
Exhibition
design
is
vast
and
interesting
area.
The
information
provided
here
by
the
Powerhouse
Museum
is
just
preliminary
guide
for
small
displays.
If
you
are
designing
an
exhibition
yourself
or
are
employing
local
designer
or
architect
who
is
unfamiliar
with
exhibition
design
and
museum
practices,
you
may
wish
to
�nd
out
more
specialist
information
covering
such
things
as
conservation
requirements,
designing
and
building
object
supports,
mounting
and
installation.
There
are
many
books
available.
The
following
provide
good
information:
• Exhibitions:
practical
guide
for
small
museums
and
galleries
by
Georgia
Rouette.
Published
by
Museums
Australia,
2007
• Museum
exhibition:
theory
and
practice
by
David
Dean.
Published
by
Routledge,
New
York
1994
• Designing
exhibitions
by
Giles
Velarde.
Published
by
Design
Council,
London
1988

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