Graphics are the glue that holds museums together but what makes a great graphic? The first step in developing a graphic is the right content.
Compelling images are the most important part of any graphic. The old expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”” is certainly true here. When looking for images, always remember the message you are trying to convey. For instance, if you were trying to show the hardship faced by early settlers make sure your images show people laboring to make change. Action shots are always more compelling than stills. Actions shots give a sense of movement and create drama.
People in the photos add a personal touch to the images, especially if they are caught in their day-to-day life. It is as if you transported the individuals into the current setting. If you have the right images, text may not be necessary but if it is, be sure to keep it short. Most visitors feel overwhelmed if there is a large amount of text.
I walked into a small museum recently and began to mull through the hundreds of artifacts displayed in various cases around the room. I was fascinated by a case holding an array of kitchen items. Some of the items were easy to identify but with others I had no idea as to their intended purpose. When I was little boy, I used to help my grandmother grind up turkey after the big Thanksgiving feast. We ate turkey sandwiches for weeks after the holidays! My grandmother lived on a small farm in Oklahoma and her kitchen was meager, at best, but I have some wonderful memories of that little place. The utensils in the case I mentioned earlier reminded me about those times and I realized that it is more often not the items that are so special but the way they have touched our lives. As exhibit designers – that is our challenge! To enable these parts and pieces of history to tell their stories and to educate and inspire those that come after us. So, go out and start creating interesting and meaningful graphics!