Saturday, November 27, 2010


Earlier this month, I had the honor and privilege of being asked to speak about Wayfinding for the Fashion Institute of Technology Graduate in Exhibition Design class.

The students were working on a project that challenged them to create a new Wayfinding system for the Central Park Zoo. Many museum or zoo visitors probably never think about Wayfinding. That is until they get lost!

An effective Wayfinding system will Identify, Inform, and Direct. It's not all just words and arrows. Wayfinding can be architecture, lighting, color, icons, images, landscape, and signage.

Think about who your audience is. For instance, if you're developing Wayfinding for an airport, people are coming from all different parts of the world and speak many different languages. Instead of using words, use color and symbols. Many symbols are universal and can be easily understood no matter what language you speak.

Make sure your design is universally accessible. If you follow ADA guidelines, your signage will be readable by people with a wide range of abilities. Not just those of us with 20/20 vision. Think about placement. Can a small child or a person in a wheelchair see the sign from their perspective? Do the colors you chose have enough contrast? Is your font legible?

Consider the look and feel of your location. If you are developing Wayfinding for the Central Park Zoo, you want to incorporate their brand and image into the design. For example, a Wayfinding system for a hospital will have an entirely different look and feel than a Wayfinding system for an amusement park or museum. Make sure your design is consistent with the brand.

Though most people don't give them much thought, Wayfinding systems are extremely important. And if designed well, people shouldn't have to give them any thought. Navigating a foreign location should be effortless. As someone who is a frequent traveler and has to constantly navigate my way through unfamiliar cities and airports, I know how helpful a well designed and user-friendly Wayfinding system can be. I also know how confusing and frustrating it can be to encounter a poorly designed Wayfinding system.

Nobody likes to get lost and Wayfinding helps us find our way. It keeps us out of danger, it informs us and directs us and gets us to where we need to go.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Circus life

It's been a busy few months. With all of the traveling, deportation, web site designing, book cover illustrating and then getting married last month, there's been no time to blog! In the midst of juggling all of the above-mentioned activities and wedding planning (see the picture of the juggling clown below modeled after me), I did manage to work on a couple of exhibits as well.

The first exhibit called "Under the Big Top," was all about the circus. My life was starting to feel like a circus so when Ring Master and Lead Developer, Paul Orselli of Paul Orselli Workshop (POW!) asked me if I could create some illustrations for an exhibit about circus life, the job seemed like a perfect fit. I created a life-sized rendering of a lion for an interactive where children could attempt to throw fake meat into his mouth. Pictured to the left are three clowns I illustrated for another activity where the children could create faces using color forms. The exhibit was displayed at the Art Space for Children at the Nassau County Museum of Art on Long Island.

"With its color, daring and explosive fun, the circus has always been a theme that intrigues and inspires artists. In Under the Big Top, The Art Space for Children presents reproductions of circus art by Seurat, Leger, Prendergast, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Chagall and others, showcasing them alongside displays that will guide the museum's young visitors through explorations of circus skills, and memory games using circus characters and activities. The Clown College station includes wall panels that will assist children to master the skills involved in pantomime, juggling and creating a clownish costume. Roomboxes include miniature circus animals."

The second exhibit which was finished just in time for my nuptials was called, "Israel-land." This exhibit was created for Temple Sharray Tefila in Bedford Corners, New York. The concept was to give Temple members an interactive museum with a variety of exhibits dedicated to helping the community enhance their knowledge of and appreciation for Israel. The design team for this project consisted of Lead Developer, Paul Orselli from POW!, who worked on exhibit development with the Rabbi and staff, and DCM Fabrication who built and installed the exhibit. I designed the interpretive graphic panels (and learned a little Hebrew in the process) and together we created a model Israel experience for the Temple. Also, thanks to Paul Orselli and Jim Polk for installing the graphics for me so I wouldn't miss my wedding!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The League of Freaks

"The League of Freaks and the Secret Key" is now available for purchase at

You can also buy a copy directly through the "League of Freaks" website using PayPal.

Both the book and website were designed and illustrated by Kim Wagner Designs.

"Embrace your differences. That's what Shree Mandvi's father is always telling her. If only he knew just how different she really is. It's not being an Indian-American from the Bronx that makes Shree stand out at her new school. It's turning into a bee that does. And if that wasn't weird enough, Shree also discovers a map-filled book from the 1600s claiming that there's hidden treasure-and a mysterious secret key-lost somewhere under the campus of Harvard University. With the help of four freaky new friends, Shree must race to solve an ancient riddle. If she succeeds, she will unlock the final door that leads not only to the treasure-but perhaps to death as well. Can she summon her powers in time to save herself and her friends?"

NOT on the road in Canada


You might have noticed that the "On the Road" blogs came to an unexpected end. After the Massachusetts trip, I was scheduled to go to Ottawa. I had a difficult time finding a plane ticket costing less than $1,500 and discovered that there are no direct flights from New York to Ottawa. The shortest trip would have involved not one but two layovers.

The best I could do was postpone the trip for a week so that I could secure a ticket that would get me to Canada with just one layover and at a comparably reasonable price of $875. Since the ticket was so pricey I tried to save money by booking a hotel and car for just one day. The total cost of this one day adventure to Ottawa was $1000.

On the morning of my trip, I left my house at 7am. I flew from New York Laguardia Airport to Washington, D.C. where I had a two-hour layover. From there I took a flight from D.C. to Ottawa.
Those of you who read my post in 2008, "On the Road in Montreal", will know that I had a little trouble getting through customs due to some confusion over business permits (which it turned out I didn't need) and after being questioned and held by immigration for an hour or so, I was allowed to enter the country.

This time I wasn't so lucky.

Because of the trouble I had on the previous trip, I was advised to say that I was there for pleasure rather than business so that I would be allowed in with no problems. What I didn't know was that there had been a flag on my passport from the previous trip. I simply checked the box on the form that said "pleasure" and when I went through Customs they told me to go to the Immigration Office and then I'd be "on my way." Only they didn't specify where I'd be on my way to.

The Immigration officer I encountered was not a very pleasant or friendly man. I was interrogated and accused of outlandish things such as "trying to steal Canadian jobs" and "trying to Emigrate to Canada." He told me he wanted to "teach me a lesson" and that my entry to Canada would be denied or else I could sit in jail for a few days and await a hearing. I chose to be "on my way" back to New York. Except I found out that they were only obligated to send me back to my last point of origin which was Washington, D.C. So I spent the next 5 hours watching people board direct flights back to Laguardia while I waited for my flight to D.C. but not before I was escorted by two very large armed men in bullet-proof vests and paraded through the airport like a terrorist. When I asked if the reason for my being deported was because I checked off "personal," the Immigration Officer told me he would've sent me home even if I checked off "business". The reason being that I didn't have the proper permits--but if you read "On the Road in Montreal" you already know that it was discovered I did NOT, in fact, need a permit to do my job! In this situation, I felt the only thing I could do was surrender to this man's insanity and go home without seeing any new museums (or even stepping foot in Canada) resulting in the disappointment of my many loyal readers.

My last On the Road adventure took me on 17 hour door to door journey involving 4 flights and two trips to Washington Dulles Airport all in one day. For the rest of my life I will not be allowed into Canada (not that I have any vacations planned!) without being questioned by Immigration and the only thing I have to show for my exciting journey is this picture.

Monday, May 17, 2010

On the road in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, MA

I'm in Boston this week so I find it fitting to mention a new book that's coming out which takes place at Harvard University in Massachusetts. It's called "The League of Freaks and the Secret Key" by Dr. Alberto Hazan. I illustrated the book cover for Alberto as well as designing the official League of Freaks website. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Also in Massachusetts is the Brigham and Women's Hospital. I worked on a project for the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in March. I hand-painted two book carts to look like dogs, Macie and Shadow. The carts are wheeled from room to room to cheer up patients.
And finally, my travels in Boston brought me to the Liberty Hotel.
Formerly the Charles Street Jail, the Liberty Hotel is super swanky, architecturally stunning and yes, there are still bars on the windows! (Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures but there's plenty to see on their website so click on the link above).
I had dinner and drinks with some friends at the hotel restaurant, Clink. The hotel also houses the Liberty Bar, Scampo and Alibi. The food, drinks, and atmosphere were all fantastic. If you're in downtown Boston it is definitely a location you must visit.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Walkin' in Memphis

This week I visited Tallahassee, Florida and Memphis, Tennessee. I spent less than 36 hours in Tallahassee and was hoping to get to see at least one cool attraction while I was there but unfortunately the "Sunshine State" did not live up to its name. Severe thunderstorms left me confined to my hotel room and by the time the rain stopped at 4 am I was on my way to the airport again and off to Memphis. 

Memphis was another quick trip but thankfully the weather was great and I was able to walk around all day. The first thing I did was follow the Mighty Mississippi along Downtown Memphis and over to Beale Street for Barbecue, Blues, and great people watching. 

The picture below is of an interesting museum housed in A. Schwab's Five and Dime store on Beale Street. This is the first museum I've ever visited where I could also buy homemade jams and underwear all under the same roof.

Although A. Schwab's Museum was truly fascinating, it just wouldn't have been a satisfying trip to Memphis if I didn't get to see Graceland. Luckily, I had a couple hours to spare the next morning on my way to the airport. 

I have to admit was well worth the extra hustle. I absolutely loved it! 

There are 3 tours you can choose from. 

1. Graceland Elvis Entourage VIP Tour
  • an audio-guided tour of Graceland Mansion and grounds
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' two custom airplanes
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' Automobile Museum
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis in Hollywood Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis Lives: The King and Pop Culture Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis Presley: Fashion King Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of '68 Special Exhibit
  • a special VIP Only exhibit at Graceland Mansion
  • Front of the Line Mansion Access
  • Special All Day Ticket
  • Keepsake Backstage Pass
2. Graceland Platinum Tour

  • an audio-guided tour of Graceland Mansion and grounds
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' two custom airplanes
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' Automobile Museum
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis in Hollywood Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis Lives: The King and Pop Culture Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis Presley: Fashion King Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of '68 Special Exhibit
3. Graceland Mansion Tour

  • an audio presentation and tour of Graceland Mansion and grounds only
  • a self-guided tour of '68 Special Exhibit

If you only have an hour you can do tour #3 and just see the Mansion and still get the full experience. I had about 2 hours to spare so I took tour #2. The Graceland Platinum Tour. 

I usually prefer to have a live guide conducting the tour because I find audio tours to be dull but this audio tour was fantastic. It had Elvis' music playing in-between clips of information which really set the mood. Some parts were also narrated by Lisa Marie Presley. She spoke about memories she had of certain rooms in the mansion as you were walking through them which really brought them to life.

After touring the inside of the house, you're led to the backyard where you can tour the grounds, the office, and some of the other buildings which used to be the trophy room and racquetball court but are now showcasing exhibits of Elvis' gold records and other awards. The exhibit also showed a side of Elvis that many people don't know about. Rather than just displaying his trophy's, they also displayed an entire wall of checks that Elvis wrote to various charities. The display of gold records showed how many people he touched with his music but the display of checks showed how many people he touched with his charitable heart. 

In the backyard, are also the graves of Elvis and his family members. Everyone slowly walks through the meditation garden, pays their respects and this is where the mansion tour ends.


The rest of the exhibits were also self-guided tours so you can choose which order you see them and how long you spend in each one. My favorites were the Elvis Automobile Museum and the Lisa Marie and Hound Dog II Jets.

The Elvis Automobile Museum displays all of Elvis' cars, motorcycles, Go-carts, and even his John Deere tractor.  The tour of the airplanes was definitely worth paying the extra money for the Platinum tour. You're allowed to board both airplanes and even walk through the Lisa Marie. 

Just like the Mansion, the planes have been left exactly as they were when Elvis was alive. I think I was expecting Graceland to be something like a Disney Land adventure but the whole tour was done very tastefully and with a lot of respect. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On the road again in Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Much like my trip, this blog will be short. With only a few hours to see the sights of San Antonio, I headed over to its main attraction, The Alamo. Admission is free and contrary to popular belief it is not open 24 hours a day. You can visit the Alamo 9:00 am-5:30 pm Monday-Saturday and 10:00 am-5:30 pm on Sunday. There are guided tours about every half hour. No need to sign up or wait on line. Just follow the crowd. In addition to the "Shrine" as it's called, there's a beautiful courtyard, the Long Barrack Museum, the Sales Museum (which is really a gift shop with some artifacts on display), and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library. It's pretty small and depending on how long you linger around the grounds, it should only take about an hour to see everything.
I learned on the tour that the Alamo is a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. It is considered hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty. Unfortunately, just right across the street from the hallowed ground is San Antonio's equivalent of the Vegas Strip. Neon lights, Ripley's Believe it or Not Haunted Adventure, Museum of oddities, and the Tomb Raider 3D ride aren't exactly the first things that come to mind when I think of a Shrine. I wonder what Colonel William Travis and Davy Crockett would think if they could see what it looks like now.

After my visit to the Alamo, I headed over to the Riverwalk. Winding around downtown San Antonio with shops and restaurants along the way, the Riverwalk was even prettier than I expected. It's a beautiful feature that sets San Antonio apart from other cities. There are boat tours that you can take but I opted to wander around on foot. My self-guided tour took me to Old San Antonio or "La Villita." Maybe it was because I visited on a weekday but it was kind of like a ghost town. There were a few artsy shops but mostly just stores selling the same touristy junk that every other store sells. It seemed deserted and there wasn't really anything to do so I went back to the Riverwalk and had lunch outside at a Mexican cafe and watched the ducks and pigeons fight for tortilla chips.

Had the weather been nicer, I really could have amused myself in San Antonio all day but the rain cut my visit short. I'm glad I got to see the Alamo and the Riverwalk because they are as crucial to the San Antonio experience as eating Tex-Mex and Barbeque.

I'm not sure where my next trip will be so check back in next week to find out!

Friday, April 9, 2010

On the Road AGAIN! North Carolina & Virginia

North Carolina & Virginia

I'm back on the road again with the wind in my hair and the gum on my shoe!

The first stop is Raleigh, North Carolina. This trip to North Carolina was almost exactly like the last one in that I got to see nothing but the job site and my hotel room. The only difference is that this time I went to Raleigh-Durham instead of Charlotte. 

My original flight was canceled so I had to take a much later flight which got me to my hotel in Raleigh around 10:30 pm. All I know about Raleigh is that it's the State Capital and I guess that's all that I will ever know because I was at work by 9am the next day and I left straight from there to drive to Virginia.

I learned a lot on my inter-state journey. For example: did you know that Donny Osmond has his own radio show?! I also discovered that drivers in that part of the country really enjoy tailgating. A good way to amuse yourself while driving alone for 4 hours is to watch someone who was tailgating you for several miles get pulled over 15 minutes later by a State Trooper for speeding.

Once again, my experience in Virginia was much like my experience in North Carolina. A lot of work and not much time to do anything else. If I had the time I would have liked to go see The Norfolk Naval Station, Nauticus, or The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

Although, I do find it very hard to be indoors when the weather is so nice. Virginia has tons of outdoor activities that would have been nice to explore like Busch Gardens or Virginia Beach Ocean Breeze Water Park but since I only had about an hour of free time, I zipped over to beautiful Virginia Beach to enjoy the fantastic weather and watch the fighter jets and helicopters fly overhead.

Virginia is a wonderful place to vacation. It has tons of historical sites, museums, zoos, aquariums, and great beaches. Not to mention the people are unbelievably nice. But beware of getting lured in by their southern charm like I did...which brings me to my travel tip for this week!

Make sure that when you go to pick up your rental car and they tell you that they ran out of economy cars so they're going to give you a "FREE" upgrade that their definition of "FREE" is the same as yours. 

Also, when you tell them that you want to purchase the insurance, make sure it's just the BASIC insurance and you don't get charged for the deluxe package including roadside assistance and a helicopter ride if your car breaks down!

By following these simple tips you will avoid getting charged $490.71 for a 2-day car rental.

Hopefully, I'll have better luck next week when I'm back on the road in San Antonio...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Design for all

Here are some examples of things I like to see when I go to a museum. 

This is an intimate little space designed just for toddlers. I took this picture at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut. I love it when I see exhibits that have something for all ages and abilities. The aquarium had lots of these little viewing areas at "kid height" throughout every exhibit so that children don't have to be picked up by a parent every time they want to see an animal.

This is another photo taken at the Mystic Aquarium. It's an exhibit that shows how Flounder protect themselves from predators by blending into their environment. It's hard to tell from this photo because they are camouflaged so well, but there is a Flounder on the black gravel and a Flounder on the white gravel. What I like about this simple display is that it clearly conveys the message without the need for lengthy text panels or diagrams. A child who can't read yet or someone who doesn't speak the language will understand without having someone explain it to them. The exhibit teaches the lesson without the need for interpretive graphics.

AND just for fun, here are some images of things I think every good aquarium should have...

Sea Lions



Beluga Whales!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Museums of the Future

Happy New Year! It is 2010. Welcome to the future! If you asked me twenty years ago what I thought the world would be like in 2010 I probably would have imagined we'd be living in outer space and driving around in flying cars like the Jetsons. 

Now that we're actually living in the "future" I would expect that new museums would be producing new and inventive exhibits but a recent visit to the newly opened Children's Museum of the Treasure Coast in Stuart, Florida did not meet my expectations. I had really been looking forward to visiting this museum because it was a long time in the making. I'd read a lot of articles about its construction over the past few years but lack of funding put the opening on hold. 

So after much anticipation and excitement, I prepared myself to take my niece and nephew the day after Christmas. I did a lot of deep breathing exercises and stretches to get myself both mentally and physically prepared for the massive crowds but when we walked in, the place was completely empty. There was only one other family there. It was a huge space but only half of it was being used. The rest was blocked off. Was it unfinished? Was this some sort of event space or theater in the making? I'm not sure. My expectation from this new museum was to find some fresh and new exhibits but what we got was a rip-off of every other children's museum exhibit in the country. Perhaps if the museum had something the others don't they might have more visitors. "Our Town Wellness Center" had the exact same exhibit that I worked on at a children's museum ten years ago! It was like I traveled back in time. Hmmm...Now that would be a cool exhibit! 

"Toddler Beach" was cute. It was your typical cushiony vinyl toddler play area and the beach theme was fitting for the community but I think toddlers would be more interested in playing and exploring the REAL beach right outside the doors of the museum.

The worst offense was the "Our Town Market" which scored a big fat ZERO for creativity, inventiveness, and originality. It was very clear that the exhibits were based on sponsor money and this one was sponsored by Publix Super Market. I know this because the sponsor signs were bigger than any of the signs with educational content. I'm not even sure what the educational value of a mini-market exhibit is anyway. My 5-year-old niece got into a fight with a toddler who stole her fake plastic groceries out of her cart. On our way home I asked her if she learned anything new from her trip to the museum. She replied, "Yeah, it's not nice to steal someone else's groceries!" Maybe that's the message behind these grocery store exhibits?? 

Here's an original idea! How about we get a sponsor to fund a new task force called the Exhibit Police. Any museum that builds another child-sized market will get a fine. I think if I were to find out exactly how many Children's Museums in this country have these markets and issue them a fine, I would have enough money to build a new museum with some inspired fresh new and innovative exhibits! 

Actually, there was one exhibit in the museum that I liked a lot. It's also the gallery that my niece and nephew spent the most time in. It was called the Florida Cracker House sponsored by RE/MAX of course. This was a truly unique exhibit because it was exclusive to the region. Children learn about traditional cracker houses and the significance their architecture played in early Floridian life. It also teaches about different types of houses all over the world and how the region and climate affect architecture. This exhibit reignited the waning hope the other exhibits left me with for the future of museums.

We might not be driving around in flying cars but the world is constantly changing so why are we still making the same exhibits that we were making more than a decade ago?! 

With a new year comes new resolutions. For 2010 let us resolve to stop copying what other museums are doing and come up with some really inspired and radical ideas...
Stop stealing groceries from other people's carts!