Design: Planning

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Jude Simmons: We start off with a very practical exercises. looking at the quantity of pictures, measuring them, plotting that, measuring the spaces that we have, and thinking about how can we fit this pictures we have in the right context in that space.
Ian Gardner: We’ve made a giant model of it and we’ve cut little scale pictures of everything out, so it’s all being placed. And the curator, do you want a wall here, what do you want?
Jude Simmons: Once we’ve gone past that stage, and we’ve got a storyline established and we’ve got a very basic plan we start to think about colours, how we might introduce colours into a space, so two different approaches, looking at the materials, thinking if colour is appropriate, if so, what kind of colour, and then we do a whole range of colour exercises, what we call sample boards, colour swatches, and then these are all discussed with a wider group, with the curator, with the director, the gallery at large to see if people think this is the right approach, and gradually we take it step by step and the project evolves. We put together an exhibition team, so that would be design, exhibition managers, It’ll also be the marketing department, the press department, the learning department, publications, if there’s a catalogue or a book to go with it. Whoever is responsible from those departments, we meet together quite regularly every two weeks for a catch-up meeting on who’s developing what, and what’s not progressing. We all do function as quite a close team, as you say, across disciplines and across departments.
Ian Gardner: They have an image meeting where they pick the lead image, what we think is going to work well from an marketing point of view. Obviously the curators want to get involved with what they think is the most important image in the exhibition. Sometimes they’re not always the best looking things, so there’s a bit of argy-bargy with who gets their way. Usually it’s the marketing department because they’re not important. Not really. But basically it’s to look at what we think will work as a lead image on a poster or if we’ve got to blow it up for a big banner, we look at colours and typography, we hook up with marketing first, and then there’s design meetings afterwards where we’ll put forth proposals and look at treatments of different images and it just carries on from there and you just get deadlines of when things need to be done by and we just follow on from when we need to be done, really.
Jude Simmons: We create identities for our exhibition according to what our exhibition is, We usually design a logo or wordmark that will then be carried through the exhibition, through the marketing, through print, through catalogues, anything associated with it, and once that’s established, there’s the colour, so that only appears in grey or that only appears in red, and we all try to consistently use that colour through what we do.
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When people say they don’t understand design, it’s because they don’t get involved in the process

Tom Dair, Designer

Designing for a space requires creativity and careful planning in equal measure. You need to have a vision and purpose: what will success look like? How will you make it happen? You are working as part of a team and have to complement the work of the curator and marketing. You need to bring together different design elements within a three dimensional canvas. You need to think about how everything fits together.

What are you trying to achieve?

  • What is the exhibition about that you’re designing the exhibition space for?
  • What is the key message of the exhibition?
  • What objects are in the exhibition and how many?
  • Will they all fit into the space? If not what will you do?
  • What is the size and shape of the exhibition space?

Who do you want the design to appeal to?

  • Who is the target audience for the exhibition?
  • How will you ensure the design appeals to them?
  • How could you consult with the target audience to ensure they feel the design is relevant to them?
  • How will other audiences feel in the space? Can they also enjoy it or will they feel alienated?
  • How will you ensure the exhibition is accessible to all visitors?

How does the design ‘look and feel’ work together with the story the exhibition is telling?

  • After considering the target audience, the exhibition story and the objects in the exhibition, what colour will the exhibition space be?
  • What style of font will you use and why?
  • Where in the space will the exhibition start and what direction will your audience travel in? How will you make this clear?
  • How will you design the exhibition text? Will you design text panels and captions or will you consider vinyl lettering directly applied to the walls?

How will you make sure you complete the design to time and budget?

  • Design a 2D layout of the exhibition space to scale and a 3D model or macquette to scale and measure and lay out where the objects will be placed to ensure project success on a miniature scale first
  • On both layouts, consider space for the text panels and captions
  • Who do you have to work with to develop a realistic schedule to realise the project from the drawing board to the exhibition space?
  • Can you track back from the date the exhibition opens to when you need to start developing the space design?
  • What is the deadline for the curator to provide you with text for the panels and captions?
  • What does your budget need to cover?

Who else do you need to involve to ensure project success?

  • How will you learn about the exhibition story, its key message and what objects are in the show?
  • How will you learn about the size of the objects to be able to scale them up for the layout and model?
  • How will you ensure the ‘look and feel’ of the exhibition space works with the marketing campaign?
  • Who will paint the space and print the text panels and captions?
  • How will you evaluate whether the design has been successful?