Five Steps to the Fantastical: Our Museum Exhibition Design Process

Five Steps to the Fantastical: Our Museum Exhibition Design Process

Turning your dreams into reality can be daunting if you look at the entirety of the project in one go. But we don’t do daunting, and it’s why we think of the museum exhibition design process as a recipe. We take this five-stage approach one step at a time to produce results that never fail to rise to the occasion.

Our methodology has been refined, primed, and perfected over the years, and while we’re strict about following that process, we’re also really serious about making it fun (what a divine paradox). From interdisciplinary workshops and brain-thunderstorming sessions, to simple conversations that lead to moments of brilliance, this is a team effort with you. So, let’s dive into the secret sauce that will bring your project kicking and screaming to life.

  • Step One: A Voyage of Discovery

    A Voyage of Discovery

    To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, “help us help you.” This first step on our journey is a deep dive into who you are, what you need, and any problems you must overcome. But don’t worry, we’ll always keep it light. And it starts with a casual Q&A session with decision-makers and stakeholders to understand your combined experiences, strategy, and goals.

  • Next, we explore an audience analysis to determine what your museum visitors should feel, see, and do. (We want to get inside their heads, in the best possible way). This part of the discovery phase is when we really dive into the immersive storytelling, uncovering narratives, the paths visitors will take, and brainstorming (with you) how they can fit seamlessly into the exhibition.

  • Then we'll conduct a materials and requirements audit to understand those all-important key visitor touchpoints and project needs. Our structured, insight-driven concept workshops (they’re always a blast) will help uncover your exciting new vision for the space. Part of this is identifying and prioritizing the main targets to set “north star” objectives, ensuring we’re all driving to the same goal.

  • Finally, we use everything we’ve learned to create a visitor floor plan, mapping out an unforgettable journey that supports your narratives and themes. And then we (all) get to have some fun, digging into concept development and ideation to surprise and delight your guests through new experiences. And of course, this is all supported by a budget analysis; we give you the cost ranges and timelines you’ll need to make those all-important creative and financial decisions.

  • Step Two: Landing on a Strategy

    Landing on a Strategy

    Now it’s time to move forward with the preliminary concepts and approved budgets, creatively fine-tuning each piece and figuring out how to make your goals come alive. We'll refine the storytelling and parameters of each concept, prioritizing the best features for maximum interactivity. This step helps us clearly define the scope and focus on what will make the experience engaging and memorable.

  • From there, it’s time to conduct a thorough technology analysis to determine what's required to build each experience. We'll validate the feasibility and technological requirements, ensuring we have the right tools and systems in place. We'll also provide recommendations to influence the look and feel, using mood boards, photo and video references, sketches, concept art, and who knows, maybe some clay sculptures! As each concept takes shape, we'll firm up our estimates and timelines, detailing how everything will come together. This ensures we stay on track to make our creative visions a reality.

  • Step Three: The Birth of the Creative

    The Birth of the Creative

    So… together, we’ve nailed down the concept(s) and understand the functional requirements. Now it's time to shift gears and start thinking about design and accessibility. This is where we get to be even more creative and focus on what every aspect of the project will look and sound like. Here, we discuss the voice of the storyteller (the tone, thematics, and anything else that adds life and dimension) and we’ll sometimes need to examine the role of the visitor as an active character in the experience.

  • We literally put ourselves in their position, and it’s what makes everything so much more visceral. Then we move onto content inventory, where we’ll list all anticipated content, roles, and specifications to ensure nothing is overlooked. This is followed by the technical design phase, where we’ll design the physical structures, from scene-setting and kiosks, to finalizing materials and planning any hardware requirements.

  • From that firm foundation, we dive into interactive and media design, leveraging our team’s creative expertise in sound, motion, UX, and writing to bring digital components to life. Throughout this phase, we'll continue to track and refine the project scope, providing refined estimates and timelines to mitigate risks and identify opportunities for that little extra polish. We are a little obsessed with staying firmly on schedule and budget, and we think you’ll appreciate that.

  • Step Four: Let’s See What Develops

    Let’s See What Develops

    At this point, we’re so close to the finish line that everyone’s getting pretty excited to bring your project to life. The designs are ready. The requirements are accounted for. All the boxes have been checked. It’s time to enthusiastically dive into the development, building, and testing phases to ensure every single element, no matter how small, comes together perfectly.

  • Interactive development comes first. Here, we complete the mechanical building of software to meet the vision of functionality, hardware, and design. From there we move on to technical fabrication, creating all the physical elements and scenery to match the design’s intent. Finally, we conduct thorough quality assurance testing, meticulously kicking the tires of the experiences to identify and fix any bugs or usability issues. Our goal is clear; to ensure a smooth, flawless, polished user experience for the visitors of your museum.

  • Step Five: Testing, Testing, Testing... and Deployment

    Testing, Testing, Testing... and Deployment

    These final steps of the process can seem like nit-picking… because they are! From the final installation of the experiences (whether on-site or off) to every other aspect of the finished project, these steps are absolutely critical. That’s why we always dedicate the right amount of time for testing and optimizing in advance, ensuring a smooth and stress-free installation.

  • Our serious attention to detail starts with integration and installation, making sure the software is seamlessly integrated with the intended hardware and all physical components are properly installed. Next, we conduct one final round of testing after integration to ensure everything functions just as it did during quality assurance. And even after the launch we continue to provide support, collaboratively checking the experience's performance and identifying any strengths or areas for improvement. We tweak and tinker to further refine the experience, even after launch, to continue to make it better and better, adding those dream enhancements to make a perfect project even perfecter (hey, it’s a word…sort of). This ensures that everything runs perfectly and continues to delight visitors.

One Extra Step: The Proof of the Pudding

Hopefully, you now understand the nuts and bolts of this process from a high level. And to show you how this has come to life for many of our clients and award-winning projects, let’s just take a quick look at some of the areas we’ve brought our visions to life:

  • Reach Out and Touch Awesomeness
    We’ve created touch interactives for a wide variety of clients, and we’re pretty crazy about the results. From kiosks of all sizes, to touch tables and other interactive experiences, we’ve done it all.
  • See the (3D) Light
    Holograms have come a long way baby. And the ones we create have to be seen to be believed. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, or life-size “living” characters, they’re a fantastic way to delight your visitors and create flights of the imagination.
  • Movement that Moves People
    Video may have killed the radio star, but not our clients. We fuse gripping visuals with masterful layouts, interactivity, and a cunning blend of animation and video. It’s ideal for education, entertainment, or as is the case with your museum exhibits, a perfectly balanced blend of both.