Thursday, December 9, 2010

Click! It's in the Details

At the Children's Museum of Indianapolis I was struck numerous times at how thoughtful so many parts of the museum were.  There wasn't necessarily a single graphic identity and there were not a great many staff out on the floor, but effective signage and design really provided a sense that this was a museum that cared about its visitors.  Above, both the simple step and the tunnels underneath (with some objects installed down there) mean that small visitors really get to appreciate the model train layout.  Some other examples:
Next to a very big locomotive,  a label with the kinds of questions that visitors really have, not the questions that we as museum people might have.
An area for stroller parking near the carousel.  Many of these family-friendly amenities are probably a part of any big children's museum but I was reminded today of my experience at a very well-visited museum where the staff member, with a shrug, suggested to my sister-in-law that she just leave the stroller on a busy city street.
I liked that interactive stations had these stools that could be easily moved around by almost any age visitor.  Easy for parents to take a break and for kids to work together.
In the elevator a sign that is both about visitor services and about safety.  I appreciated knowing what sort of staff id to look for--and the elevator was a useful place to convey that information.  And below, two public examples of a museum that relies on, and appreciates its volunteers.

As you can see, design that's all over the block in terms of typography, color, and more, but that seemed very much in line with the museum--it's a place with so much to think about and explore that a more highly managed approach to design and signage might seem out of place.  And a final image:  in the special winter/holiday exhibit,  everyone having a great time with all kinds of kitchen, family, cooking and more roleplay.


Gobae said...

I'm very pleased to see the "Is it real?" question answered. As a demonstrator/re-enactor (blacksmithing) at various history museums I hear this question regularly.

It seems that in this day and age of life-like special effects and lack of real-world interaction the general public has a hard time determining what's real and what's not.

Anonymous said...

I work in this museum, and thanks for your kind words!

RE: is it real--I once heard a child looking at our stuffed polar bear ask their parent, "Is it real?" The parent responded, "It used to be real, but now it's dead." :) Interesting how the word "real" can convey a whole variety of assumptions about an object...

Linda Norris said...

Thanks for both your comments. I think whether real or not is meaningful to visitors will continue to be one of those things we, as a field, debate for a long time. I find myself sitting on both sides of the debate all the time!