Friday, February 22, 2008

What do highway safety and exhibits have in common?

Designing exhibits for outdoors presents a whole new set of challenges. Things like rain, snow, insects, and UV exposure need to be carefully considered when sourcing appropriate materials for an outdoor environment.

Many museums use floor graphics to help their visitors navigate throughout their spaces. Arrows, footprints, and lines can be used to clearly mark the right path, making it easier for the visitor to find their way around a large museum. Floor graphics are a great use of space but what if your exhibit is outside? Painting is an option but between weather conditions and heavy foot traffic, you'll find yourself repainting every few months. 

This was a problem I was faced with at the Bronx Zoo Tiger Mountain exhibit. Visitors could come to watch the tigers being fed at scheduled times throughout the day. Tiger paw prints were stenciled on the ground with paint indicating the point which visitors were not allowed to cross once the feeding began. After a few months, the paw prints would start to wear away. Not only did this not look nice, but it was ineffective as a safety barrier. 

Presented with this challenge, I was determined to find a solution that would literally "stick."

I made a call to 3M and was told that regular Scotchprint floor graphics would not work for outside but they did recommend using their 3M Stamark highway marking tape. I figured if this tape was designed to withstand a snowplow then it should (hopefully) be able to hold up against Bronx Zoo visitors. All I needed to do was send a CAD file to them of the paw print and they were able to cut them to shape. Of course, you can get the standard pre-cut arrows and lines as well. The ground surface needs to be above 40 degrees to apply the tape and I would also recommend power washing first. The colors are limited to white and yellow but my hope is that 3M will broaden their color palette and not limit the use of this material to just highways. This can be a great wayfinding tool for large outdoor venues like zoos, aquariums, and amusement parks. 
Click this link for more info on 3M Stamark products:

Sunday, February 17, 2008


In November I took a trip out to California and went with a friend on my first trip to Disneyland. I have been to Disney World a couple times but that was approximately 20 years ago and my memory of it is vague and apparently, a lot has changed since then. Now as a "grown-up" and a professional exhibit designer I can really appreciate the creativity and hard work that goes into these illusions/rides. The animatronics in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was fantastic. They were so realistic it looked like Disney hired Johnny Depp to stand in the display and act the part of Captain Jack Sparrow. They have really come a long way since the "It's a Small World" ride that I loved as a child.

My favorite of all the rides that I went on was definitely the Buzz Lightyear. Thumbs up to Disney for adding a bit of interactivity to its rides. On most rides, the visitor just sits in a car that takes them on a track through the immersive environment and they just passively watch the entertainment. On the Buzz Lightyear ride, the visitors have ray guns and have to shoot at targets while the car moves. When the ride is over it shows you who got the high score in your car. It's like being inside a video game. When you get out of the car you can go to a kiosk and type in your email address and it will send you a picture of yourself on the ride (see above). This part is hilarious. My friend and I had no idea it was taking our picture so you can see from our expressions how seriously we took the task of defending our planet. 

I loved this ride and applaud Disney for adding this interactive element. I think they should keep moving in this direction of making the visitor part of the experience.

Black History Month Exhibit

In honor of Black History Month, I would recommend visiting the African American Museum of Nassau County located in Hempstead, New York. Currently on display is the Weusi Collective.
Weusi, or "blackness" in Swahili, is a group of artists based in Harlem who began working together in the 1960s to focus on bringing Pan-African cultures to Harlem. They have mounted exhibitions, festivals and celebrations that encourage the exchange of ideas among artists. African heritage is a common theme in their work, but unlike some other collectives or movements, their work maintains individual originality and aesthetic diversity.
It features their work from their beginning in the 1960s through the present, covering almost every inch of wall space in the museum. This is one of the most exciting exhibits I have seen at the African American Museum so far.

The show features the paintings and sculptures of Abdullah Aziz, Gaylor Hassan (painting "Three Sisters," shown above), MLJ Johnson, Dindga McCannon, Ademola Olugebefola, Okoe Pyatt, Otto Neals, Emmett Wigglesworth, Kay Brown, James Sepyo and Nii Ahene La Mettle-Nunoo. The exhibit is up from February 1st-April 21st 2008.