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Top 10 Tips to Great Museum Exhibit Design

By

Maria Lorena Lehman

|

Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

Image Credit: © baboon™ | Flickr

DESIGNING A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE

When it is a great experience, going to a museum can teach us, delight us and inspire us; however, a lot of effort goes into a museum exhibit design. As architects, we can learn a lot by understanding the ingredients that make such designs so successful. It is not as simple as you might think.

A museum is constantly looking for different ways to attract visitors, but what happens once they get there? Often they suffer from three main problems — they can’t find a specific piece of information, they must leave too soon because they are bored or they stay a long time but miss key lessons from the main exhibits. (1)

Obviously, visitor accessibility and attention are paramount, but that’s not all it takes to design for a great museum experience.

WHAT MUSEUMS MUST DO

The following is a diagram including 10 ingredients for successful museum exhibit design as adapted from a research paper by Dr. Saul Carliner. To learn more about these and other fascinating insights related to Museum Exhibit Design, please Click Here to see Dr Saul Carliner’s research paper entitled Lessons Learned from Museum Exhibit Design.

In the diagram below, you can see the 10 ingredients through “physical, intellectual, and emotional” (1) building blocks. This will help you to better understand how to heighten museum exhibit experience using each of the 10 ingredients.

Tips for Current Museum Exhibit Design Diagram. Image Credit: © Maria Lorena Lehman | MLL Design Lab, LLC

By taking a closer look at museum exhibit design — you will see such designers are able to tap into the senses as they choreograph different elements like narrative and interaction to spark visitor curiosity. As architectural technology progresses toward more dynamic and interactive solutions, you will have even more ways to give your occupants a “complete” experience. The 10 tips listed above are a good place to start for current museum designs. But do note that with emerging trends in interactive and adaptive technologies, it is becoming evermore possible to dynamically personalize museum exhibits for visitors.

BEYOND THE MUSEUM EXPERIENCE

The latter design tips apply to more than just museum experiences. Each taps into some common problems that many other architectural building-types face. As an architect, you should move your occupants “physically, intellectually and emotionally”. (1) It is important to give attention to how architectural design conveys information, whether the building be a school, home, store, museum, or other building type. By better understanding how people perceive and process such information, architectural design can work to make conveying a concept, idea, or teaching accessible to more people. This will help to make the architectural design successful, as it conveys deeper meaning through its forms.

Reference:

(1) Carliner, Saul. (2001) Modeling Information for Three-Dimensional Space: Lessons Learned from Museum Exhibit Design. Models, Processes, and Techniques of Information Design

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what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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