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  • Writer's picturePhillip Ratliff

Betting on the wrong exhibit design firm can cost you

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

You’ve secured the funding, assembled a team of in-house staff, and now you’re ready to build an exhibit. Don’t make your next step a misstep. Engage an exhibit design company that places the reception of your messaging front and center. Avoid companies that start with design and crowbar in your messaging.

Here are three signs that your exhibit design company will focus the exhibit buildout on the visitor’s encounter with the objects and ideas you value:

  • The company starts with messaging Stated here, it sounds easy, but it’s the most painstaking part of the process. You’ll need to survey stakeholders, engage scholars, distribute images and photos of objects for input, and create a content outline that translates into a bubble floor plan. Look for an exhibit design company that integrates messaging into a comprehensive design process. Attempting to retrofit copy and images into visual design wastes time and money.

  • They work up from content Invariably, the exhibit visual design will be more dynamic, less predictable when the exhibit design team has ample knowledge of your content. Plugging content into predetermined designs after the fact yields a static visuals. Building up graphic and three-dimensional design from themes and sourced images, in contrast, results in a more integrated look and feel.

  • They know how to test and refine There are ample opportunities to test every aspect of your exhibit as you go. One strategy is to distribute objects and images to find out what questions visitors will likely want answered. Another is to A/B test text for clarity. As graphic design shapes up, focus groups can ensure images, text, and look and feel are intuitive and visitor-friendly.

Phil Ratliff is President of Backstory Educational Media. Backstory helps clients from across the Southeast mount exhibits and create educational content. Reach Phil at

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