You’ve decided to plan or update a museum exhibit. Congratulations! Step 1 is complete! Give yourself a pat on the back, a high five, a gold star!

We’re going to break down the first few steps of beginning a museum exhibit in this post. While not all of this content is applicable to every project, it’s the most common formula we use at Edwards Creative to get projects rolling in the right direction.

Where do we start?

Next step? We like to break up the exhibit journey into phases. It might look something like this:

  1. Planning/Onsite Workshop
  2. Conceptual Design and Content Gathering
  3. Final Design and Content Development
  4. Production and Fabrication
  5. Installation

Keep in mind that these phases often run into one another, overlap, and get rearranged. It’s just a good way to visualize the project as a whole.

Planning

The primary goal during the planning phase is to help you organize your thoughts, ideas and priorities. It’s all about figuring out what you have in your arsenal – themes, concepts, artifacts, exhibits, where you want to go with it, and what needs to be done to achieve it. This is where we establish a clear direction, a mission statement of sorts. It’s the most important part of any new exhibit. It’s what we often refer back to if we ever feel we’re going off the tracks a bit.

Onsite Workshop

To kick things off, we like to hold an onsite workshop with you. Typically, we begin with a tour of the space to gain some familiarity with the layout. After the tour, our team holds a creative brainstorming session with you to identify high level themes, storylines, ideas, media and your initial exhibit wish list. It’s also an opportunity for you to educate our team about the history, culture, science, etc. you want to share with your visitors.

Conceptual Design

Once we’ve gathered the bits of information we need to start our engines, conceptual design can begin. The goal of this step is to flesh out the scope and character of the project, as well as conduct our own research into the subject matter. We start to dive deeper into interpretation goals, think about visitor flow, incorporating important micro and macro artifacts, how A/V elements could enhance the experience, and the overall look and feel of graphic treatments. At this point we begin working on pencil sketches and get approval from you on the themes, sub-themes and concepts presented.

Once you’ve provided feedback on our proposed concepts for the overall exhibit we begin to polish sketches, make edits, enhancements, changes, etc. and continue to bring the exhibit to life, most commonly in the form of a conceptual design package. This package is meant to be used as a visual guide for our team and for yours as we enter the final stages of exhibit planning and execution.

Final Design

After multiple rounds of proofs, edits, and approvals, our team starts putting together final designs. These designs incorporate final artifacts, final written content, audio and digital elements, materials, colors, and exact sizes. During this stage, in-depth conversations are had with production and fabrication departments. Installation is also coordinated during this stage. Estimates are also provided at the conclusion of this stage to take the project from design to fabrication and installation.

We’ll discuss the final steps – Fabrication, Production, and Installation – in a future blog post, and give you a glimpse into our production world.

Communication

The glue that holds all of these steps together is clear, consistent communication between our team and yours. Our team is dedicated to keeping in touch with you every step of the way, providing guidance, and progress reports as we move along.

We’ve developed a preliminary list of guiding questions that will help guide you through this initial planning phase. Feel free to download it here.

Tim Wren
Director of Museum Services
tim@edwardsideas.com