The Design Museum is a world renowned museum dedicated to product, graphic, fashion and architectural design. For their upcoming exhibition about Mars they wanted to try something different: make the exhibition itself an experience. I was part of a team at Fabrique tasked to design the visitor experience along with the visuals and spatial design.
For their upcoming Mars exhibition, The Design Museum wanted to attract a wide audience including families with children. The challenge: how do you make an exhibition about Mars an experience instead of a collection of objects suited for such a wide audience?
We approached this project as if we were directing a movie. We wanted to design and control what, when and where somebody should see, feel and hear. This ensures that everything becomes one cohesive experience from start to finish. In order to pull this off we worked together with various specialists including the museum’s own curators, 3D artists, lighting experts, scientists, builders and video producers.
We started by creating storyboards and scripts of what the visitor experience would be. We made sure to explore and define the mood and colors that every part should have so they feel distinct yet part of an overarching journey. Every part of the exhibition is told from a human perspective.
We created a maquette to explore and design the spatial experience. This allowed us to map out where everything should be and experiment with different flows and elements. We made sure the maquette was easy to transport and modify.
A part of the exhibition is not about objects but about Mars as a concept and how we humans perceive it. We ask questions such as: should we even go to Mars? This encourages visitors to think and ask questions for themselves.
At the center of the experience is a room which makes you feel like you're on Mars. This is something we wanted to do from the get go. Through maquettes with beamers we prototyped and iterated. This also allowed us to easily test and refine the movie that would be played.
We briefly experimented with an interactive component: an app that enables extra fun activities. A big part of this was an augmented reality experience. Visitors could “launch” rockets from a wall with the app. To test the feasibility, I quickly made a prototype in Unity.
We delivered the visitor experience of the exhibition along with the visuals and spatial design that was ready to be built. The result is a unique exhibition that is great for visitors of all ages and interests. We went to the opening day to see the end result for ourselves.
The Moving To Mars exhibition ran from October 2019 to February 2020. It got a lot of visitors and both the press and visitors gave Moving To Mars glowing reviews.
For me it was a great but challenging project. I constantly had to find novel solutions to visualize the visitor's experience and share them with the numerous stakeholders involved.
I learned to focus on what really adds to the experience and what doesn't, especially when having to meet a certain budget.