Sunday, December 30, 2012

Less Fuzzy

Be less fuzzy. As the New Year approaches, that's my resolution for my own work, as well as my advice for my clients.

There are lots of "fuzzy" terms in the museum business: Interactivity, Prototyping, Evaluation ...

Everyone has a basic idea of what they think those terms mean, but it often becomes clear(er) as a discussion or design meeting progresses that the use of a term like "interactive" could cover everything from a simple flip-up label to a more complicated design activity.  If you don't lay down some markers at the beginning of your discussions, you can really end up in a bad spot further into the design process.

This has come up recently as I've been speaking with clients and colleagues about "Maker Spaces." "Maker" and "Making" have become a sort of nebulous (and essentially so fuzzy as to be nearly worthless) shorthand for "spaces where visitor do creative things."  (Also, true to Museums loving to jump on a marketable bandwagon, the term"Maker" latches onto both the success and notoriety of Make magazine and Maker Faires.)

Unfortunately, without being a bit more specific, one museum's "Maker Space" could be an unstaffed table with glue sticks and recycled scraps, while another museum's space could be a staffed area where people could use tools like soldering guns and 3D printers.

While shorthand terms like "Maker Space" are a reasonable place to start a design conversation, the devil really is in the details.  Find a way, early in the process, to get specific about each person's starting point and expectations.

So as 2013 beckons, I wish all my ExhibiTricks readers a happy, healthy, and less fuzzy New Year!

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