Research & Concept
A large portion of our early work was dedicated to discovery, education, and research, broadening our understanding of environmental design by reading, experiencing, and asking questions. We consulted books, visited several local museums and informational centers, and then reached out to some of the designers who worked on these exhibits to ask questions and gain insight from their experiences. Everyone we contacted gave us new things to consider, and we were all very grateful for the giving spirits in the Seattle EGD community!
We worked with a somewhat vague idea in mind for a few weeks (something superheroes), and then as we did more research on the subject material, a direction became clear: How had superheroes interacted with American society as our culture shifted over time? There were strong correlations to be drawn between events in our real world and the adventures of comic book heroes, speaking volumes about our own culture through this persistent but ever-evolving art form.
Development & Interactives
As we started to shift from research into preliminary designs, we found out that MoPOP, a much-loved Seattle institution, would be hosting the world premiere of an exhibit that chronicled the history of Marvel, one of the two largest and most influential comic publishers. We were able to meet with MoPOP's exhibit curator and discuss some potential similarities and differences between the two exhibits, and felt encouraged to proceed with our direction; despite the likelihood of some moments of crossover, there would be enough to make them two distinct exhibits on a similar subject.
Even more research followed, plus an abundance of copywriting, image curation, floorplans, elevations, panel layouts, designs for building physical and digital interactive elements, and many, many philosophical discussions (honestly, we could do a panel at next year's Comic-Con). My primary areas of focus were the copywriting, image curation, and the interactive physical elements, including a faux rock wall that could be "phased" through, an Olympic standard barbell that could be lifted with a finger, and two screen-based quizzes to determine what a guest's superpower was, and if they would use it for good or evil.
The culmination of the project was originally a one-week, 1300 sq ft exhibit at Seattle Central College, which was held over for another week. A month later the exhibit was re-configured to fit in a second space, this time with a forced-flow traffic pattern, as a featured exhibition during our graduation portfolio show. Guests were able to gain a deeper understanding of America's complex backstory with superheroes, discovering new sides to their childhood favorites and what they meant to our society throughout different eras.
While I learned a considerable amount about environmental and experiential design, particularly about interactive exhibits, the thing that I found most rewarding was the chance to have a long-term collaboration with two fellow designers whom I consider to be extremely talented, dedicated, and hard-working. There were occasional hurdles in our path, but working together we were able to overcome these obstacles to produce an exhibit that met our original goal of being educational, yet cloaked (or should I say caped?) in a lot of fun.