Professional Jeweler Archive: Designers Help Museum Craft Image

November 2000


Designers Help Museum Craft Image

Even museums are branding with store design experts' help

American retail has been called the “museum” of 20th century life, so when a leading science museum designed an expansion of its space, what could make more sense than using retail designers to help mold its image?

Like an upscale store, the new space at the Center of Science and Industry, Columbus, OH, features natural surfaces, comfortable seating and art, albeit not wearable. Exhibits showcase the building’s modernist architecture, emphasizing the walls, lighting, furniture, floors and content. A place for quiet reflection is provided also.

The good news? Attendance – museumtalk for “sales” – is 30% over projections, according to Visual Merchandising & Store Design magazine.

Traditionally, COSI exhibits have been designed for children and their parents. In planning for its new space, however, the museum decided the “Life Learning World,” one of a series of seven exhibits, should be designed with adults in mind. “Life Learning World” encourages visitors to contemplate three critical aspects of life – the body, the mind and the spirit – through exhibits that explore birth, disease, death and thought.

Museum directors decided such adult subject matter required a sophisticated design and turned to Retail Design Group, a Columbus company whose work for a travel agency caught their attention. “We decided a retail designer would have the right ideas and be open to working with the different vendors,” says Ly Foor, exhibition producer for COSI’s in-house Design and Production Studio.

As is its custom, Retail Design Group approached the museum’s issues as a brand-building challenge. In this exhibit, for instance, “life” is the big brand, with “body,” “mind” and “spirit” as sub-brands geared toward adults, says Luanne Carleton, vice president of Retail Design Group.

Graphics are a key tool, with each of the exhibit’s three main areas distinguished by its own colors and distinct displays, but unified by integrated graphic schemes.

Forsaking the interactivity common in contemporary exhibit design, Retail Design Group took an old-fashioned approach. Exhibits attempt to provoke thought, but most don’t do anything. Instead, they engage the viewer’s interest with graphics that range from huge murals to small “touch here” labels.

– by Mark E. Dixon

The Center for Science and Industry in Columbus, OH, hired retail store designers to create distinctive color palettes for its “Life Learning World” exhibit. Here, rich reds, oranges, yellows and browns combine with hardwood floors to tie together the exhibit’s section on the mind. The graphics are integrated with the exhibit’s other sections on the body and spirit. The coordinated graphics and three complementary color schemes help build the museum’s brand image in consumers’ minds. Sound familiar?

Photo courtesy of VM+SD magazine.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications