Ever wonder how galleries determine how to design their space? What processes they go through to create the final product? Here are some tips we follow that you can be on the lookout for next time you go to a gallery or museum. See how many the space uses and impress your friends with your knowledge!
When designing a display, the gallery must consider how the visitors will move around the space. This will involve placing pieces in certain locations to draw them to every corner as well as pace the reading or interactive displays carefully throughout to keep the audience moving and intrigued. People don’t like to stand too long, especially in one place, so keeping in mind your audience’s stamina and how they might explore is important. If there is a specific story or path you wish your visitors to follow, try to make it as clear as possible or expect each individual to read the excerpts in their own way. This might mean simply ensuring each written section stands on its own and will not need further explanation from another section of text. Visitors will read, look, and interact with what interests them, so keeping the flow simple and exploratory allows for a better experience for everyone.
Does it ever seem like the artwork on the wall seems too low? Ever wonder why display cases are certain heights? There are standards for museum spaces, such as The Smithsonian’s Guidelines, which help make sure people of all ages and abilities can see and enjoy the displays. The height in particular is important that the center of pieces on the wall are at 5 feet. This way, if someone is in a wheelchair, the artwork is low enough that they can see all the detail. Display tables are also low enough for someone in a chair to see and usually the items are then propped up inside to help make them visible. When items are flat or high off the ground, it can make them less accessible.
We live in a digital age focused on images rather than words. Reading takes time and when moving through a gallery space, people read less as they want to move to the next item. As mentioned above, you must consider your audience’s stamina not only physically, but mentally how much information they are willing to absorb. A large block of text can be intimidating and if the exhibition is large enough, a lot of reading can cause tire out your visitor. This exhaustion is known as museum fatigue, which is when you are absorbing too much new information and your body begins to feel tired from the strain. Making sure your guests can move at a reasonable pace and gather only the information that is absolutely necessary will keep them energized and engaged. Having less words also means you can have larger font, and in the case of labels and descriptions, the bigger the better. You must assume some of your guests might struggle to read smaller fonts and considering simple, clean fonts in a large size makes your display more inclusive.
A new movement in exhibition design is to include audience participation or interaction. Museums are moving forward with this idea more than galleries, but it could be utilized in any exhibition space. Interaction can be as complicated as using a tablet or iPad to touch a screen and play videos, or it can be as simple as answering a question on a Post-It note and sticking it on a wall. Although technologically advanced devices are intriguing, the low-tech options offer more inclusion, can get better results, and are easy to maintain. You never have to worry about the tablet breaking if there is no electronic to break. Having an interactive component makes each visitor a part of the exhibition. You can create a conversation with your audience and really get an idea of how much they learned or how they felt. Keeping the information prominently displayed also means the visitors can interact with each other and give them an experience with even more perspective.
Every letter, item, and color is specifically considered when designing a space. It can take months to plan everything and finish with a beautiful, cohesive experience for you to enjoy. Next time you visit a gallery or museum, look at the particular style of each exhibition and see if you can find what makes that space unique.