Key Factors of Designing Interactive Exhibits…
We receive many briefs for exciting new interactives at Unusual Projects, the ones which often work best are those which are clear on the final message and learning outcomes from the start of the process.
One of the biggest challenges we face when developing the design of an interactive is the initial brief or idea itself. Sometimes the vision of the concept is impossible to create within the realms of current scientific understanding, whilst another common problem we encounter is that an idea is brilliant but cannot be produced to the proposed budget.
This can be due to a number of factors and it’s our job to help guide the design from an initial idea to a fully finished, engaging and reliable exhibit that is easy to use and understood by a wide range of visitors.
The best interactives are normally those that have been developed by the concept designer and then further developed following consultation with our interactives team, we help to iron out potential technical flaws that may not always be apparent at concept.
Some of the considerations that we focus on are:
- What is the Message of the Interactive? Is it an education piece, designed to inform? Are there any learning objectives or Key Stage outcomes? Or is the Interactive more game based and fun, experiential or competitive?
This question normally involves Educational Teams and Curatorial Staff to make sure that any content matches the expectations of the client and provides the desired level of education & information.
- Who is the target audience? Is the exhibit aimed at a specific age group or Key Stage level? Can it be used by a range of age groups and abilities?
This is an important and often overlooked factor, as target audience can affect things such as user height for interfaces and controls, as well as the level of complexity to any gameplay elements. Access consultation is normally taken at this point in order that we identify and consider issues such as DDA compliance.
- Does the design need to blend in with a series of existing exhibits, or into an existing gallery? For example, do control elements such as handles and handwheels need to match an existing or preferred design language?
- Budget is obviously a huge factor towards the quality and complexity of a completed design.
Quite often, we undertake value engineering in order to make the finished product achievable. Doing this early on helps to manage client expectations and prevent additional unexpected costs from being incurred further into the detail design process.
- Processes and Manufacturing Techniques need to be considered very early in the design process. We identify and advise of feasibility of manufacture at the earliest opportunity.
With almost 180 years of combined experience, plus a large collective of experienced specialist subcontractors, we can provide realistic advice and estimations regarding whether something can be built the way the concept designer has imagined, or whether some processes can be changed in order to make a design more cost effective.
Quite often, we’ve already made something before, or have tried and tested mechanisms which we can suggest, saving development time and costs.
Cost of manufacture is often underestimated, with the requirement of special equipment or expensive processes. By identifying these early on, we try can often provide cost saving solutions and simpler detailing, whilst still delivering the original design intent of the concept designer.
- Maintenance is also an area which can get overlooked. We encourage concept designers to consider whether the client has an in house maintenance team. Its no use designing a complex mechanical exhibit, if the final location is an unstaffed visitor centre up a mountain, with no one to provide basic checks and maintenance.
Unusual Projects do provide the option of maintenance contracts so don’t rule out complex exhibits in places with little to no staffing, however it is an expense that needs to be considered in order to enjoy long lasting and reliable interactives and an enjoyable visitor experience.
- Safety can often be easily overlooked, because of a desire for an aesthetically pleasing solution, however its one of the most important things when designing high traffic exhibits for inquisitive young minds.
We rigorously follow guidelines for DDA accessibility as well as regulations for playground equipment. This is also accompanied by substantial Design Risk Assessments which allow us to identify and eliminate accessibility and safety issues which may not always be considered at concept level.
Making fun, engaging exhibits is what we do best.
By considering all of the factors I’ve talked about at brief level, this helps to get us off on the right foot from the start and often avoids wasted time and design modifications.
It also allows us to spend all of our creative energy on delivering the designers vision, rather than having to design in or out details as an afterthought, which quite often looks like exactly that…..an afterthought.