Thursday, November 12, 2009

ELVIS the Exhibit Prototyper?

This week I was fortunate to work with the students in the Exhibition Design Master's program at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) in Manhattan.

My presentations covered one of my favorite, but often overlooked, design topics: Prototyping! 

In my opinion, most exhibit design misfires could be prevented by more thorough prototyping at the beginning of the exhibit development process.

In addition to warping the minds of these young up-and-coming exhibit designers with my corny jokes and some rapid/cheap prototyping exercises using paper and masking tape,  part of my presentation also dealt with how to use the word ELVIS as a mnemonic (memory aid) for exhibit designers when they are developing prototypes:

 E = Everyday Materials
Using everyday materials makes it easier to prototype AND maintain exhibits.  I'd much rather spec something from McMaster-Carr or the local Radio Shack that does the job, rather than creating a custom component that will be tricky to replace later on.

L = Looseness
Providing open-ended opportunities during exhibit development and for the visitors.  The best exhibits (and exhibit developers!) are not one-trick ponies, they are wired up to allow multiple successful outcomes.

V = Vermicious
The word means "wormy." Good exhibits and prototypes should "worm around" your head on many different levels: old/young, art/science, beginner/expert.  If you can find a way to conceptually and actively "hook" your visitors, they'll remember your exhibits.

I = Interesting
Two things: 1) Great exhibits/prototypes always seem interesting, no matter how many times you've seen them. Think of "classics" like gravity wells and mist tornadoes.
 2) If the prototypes you're developing aren't interesting to you, how can you expect your visitors to be interested in your final exhibits?

S = Sharing
We should be sharing ideas with our visitors, and each other as professionals.
In that spirit, don't forget to check out The Great Big Exhibit Resource List, a free compendium of great resources for designers, makers, AND prototypers.

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