Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum (AAHOM) is a 501c3 hands-on children’s science center located by the University of Michigan’s campus
Kristina Rudolph | Graphics and Exhibit Design
Charlie | Exhibit Director
Emily/Becca | Seasonal Summer Interns
Derek | Facilities/Tech
Duration | January 2015 – April 2018
Software | Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop
Why / How / What
- WHY: Older exhibits looked tired and lacked a unified design or spacial flow within each room. Reading content was long and avoided because of the high cognitive load for children and distracted parents
- HOW: Qualitative ethnographic Ux research revealed a lack of engagement or reading of exhibit content and many heuristics were unclear on how to use some of the exhibits
- WHAT: Exhibit outcomes (below)
- New and returning donors stepped forward with larger-than-ever donation amounts after seeing the transformation
- Visitor engagement time increased in areas that were formerly abandoned in the museum
- The museum and exhibit director’s awareness realized the potential ROI on creating new design and material clarity
- A design system with themed backgrounds and logos were created with the exhibit director to create a cohesive identity
- Less text with larger fonts improved accessibility for young readers and distracted parents, while microcopy reduced cognitive load
The exhibit tech role required servicing, cleaning, and potentially updating the museum’s 250+ exhibits. After test piloting part of new brand identity proved successful the museum director gave clearance to work with the exhibit director to develop a complete brand identity of UI labels for a cohesive UX brand identity
The success of the project grew to necessitate working with the marketing director to develop marketing materials to raise donor opportunities and awareness.
Proven design success extended further to the development of various internal signs, labels, and banners created for other areas of the museum. For these projects visit http://uxkris.com/portfolio-aahom-gd/.
Original Layout & Flow
- Text-heavy label reading was ignored or the entire exhibit was abandoned
- Labels lacked consistency or a brand design system within shared spaces
- Every sign had different shapes, fonts, and hard-to-read hierarchy
- Spaces and exhibits were dirty, worn, and tired, needing facelifts
- The “Try This” and “What’s Happening” headlines appeared on many of the exhibits as a reoccurring element which was kept
Images below show text-heavy labels lacking design consistency or a cohesive brand identity
- Tasked with taking care of the exhibits via the direction of the exhibit director I cleaned, painted, and updated each exhibit’s look.
- I proposed a series of exhibit UI labels to unify the eclectic looking exhibits and began to create a design system.
With the exhibit director’s approval, after trying some prototypes and watching visitors interact with the heuristic of temporary taped-on labels I sent the designs out for print production. The positive visitor response and cleaner look intrigued the museum’s director.
I was given the green-light, from the museum director, to update all exhibits and graphics on the first and second museum floors after he saw the incorporation of the new graphics and cleaner exhibits.
Working with the exhibit director, we created a cohesive set of different scientific-themed backgrounds as a basis for the new design system.
The new graphic exhibit labels were created to be colorful with easy-to-read text and easy-to-navigate visuals to guide them.
Personas / Interview / Observation
Non-verbal observational heuristics were collected nearby so that engagement with the exhibit experience was not hindered or altered. Personas and interviews were not part of this work.
- Icons, resembling apps, were used to guide users through their discovery process with familiar-looking elements
- A color-coded numbering system with matching color bars let users of all ages follow suggested steps
- Each color bar had a step of the “Try This” process, carried over from the original museum labels
- The bottom area had further reading to understand what was happening as the user played
- Each label had a background representing a scientific-based theme (waves, digital, reflection/refraction, magnetism, and motion)
- The content was simplified, shortened, and reorganized for easy readability
- When space allotted, hand or “in-use” drawings provided clues on how one could engage with the exhibit
Below are some examples of the 50+ exhibits that were refaced throughout two floors of the museum.
Stationary “UI” layouts show potential ways to discover or interact with the tactile hands-on exhibits. Labels include drawings and cutaways showing mechanical details when applicable or in-use drawings with hands.