NHD has very specific rules on exhibit dimensions and word limits that you need to know before creating your exhibit. Because you've already read NHD's exhibit rules, you know this. According to the NHD website, most students make a 3-panel exhibit, which is a style we make here at the museum to advertise the museum or exhibits at conferences and fairs. The exhibit rules page also shows a whole bunch of exhibits in a room together. Some of them look pretty standard and some look a bit different.
You have all of your text written and have organized your thoughts into sections. Now what? You have some decisions to make.
How big should I make the photos?
That depends on how many you've got. If you've got 22 photos for 3 panels, you can't make them all 11 x 17. They just won't fit. Besides, 22 photos is probably too many, anyway. Keep it simple. Choose which is the most important photo or graphic for each section and make that one slightly larger than the others. For example, if you are making an exhibit on Albert Einstein, you probably won't make his baby photo the biggest one on the panel. It would probably be one of him working out an equation or writing on a chalkboard.
Since you will probably be making your prints on a computer printer or a photocopier, you probably won't be able to go much bigger than 8.5 x 14, or maybe 11 x 17 if you use a copier. For the size of the NHD panels, I'd stick to a couple of 8 x 10s, more 5 x 7 with a few more 4 x 5s thrown in. Don't just make them all 5 x 7. Boring. You might make one 11 x 17 photo, but boy, that would have to be an important photo to have it use up so much of your space--but on the other hand, it certainly would catch the audience's eye. Might be worth it if you've got a great photo.
What about color?
Whew! What about color? There are all sort of artistic guidelines about using color and which colors on the color wheel compliment other colors and I don't know what all. If you're interested in that, I'd do a google search on "color wheel" and you will be amazed at what you find on color theory. But you know, that's more complex than what we need. Think about your topic and think about what colors it makes you think about. You're doing an exhibit on industrial waste. Does it make you think about lavender or mustard yellow and garbage-can green? Look at some examples . An exhibit on forest preservation doesn't bring hot pink to mind, but rather earthtones, like greens and yellows.
So now you have a color in your head. Find a box of 64 crayons and start coloring. Color a swatch and color another one that's the same color but darker or lighter. Look at what I mean. You might choose to paint your panels the lighter color and use the darker color for a matboard border around some of the photos and maybe the text, if you are using a color printer. Or branch out and find two contrasting colors that you like together, like peach and midnight blue. If you still aren't sure, show a couple of samples to friends and family members and ask for opinions.
Try not to use more than 2 colors, or 3 at the max if you absolutely have to have 3. And remember, there is absolutely nothing wrong with black and white--especially if you throw in a touch of "hot" color like red or hot pink or orange (depending on your topic). Try a narrow red border around your photo or a fluorescent color for an "urban" sort of feel.
What tools do I use to design my exhibit?
You can do this high tech or low tech. We suggest low-tech, since high-tech involves doing scale drawings on a computer, but if you already know how to do that, cool. Go for it.
To do it low-tech, ask your art teacher (or a math teacher) very nicely if he or she has a few sheets of graph paper you may have (like this: "Mr./Ms. Art and/or Math Teacher, do you have a few sheets of graph paper that I may please have to design the world's best NHD exhibit that will bring fame and praise to our school?"). If they don't, you can pick it up at an office supply store or an art store. Even if you can only get one sheet of graph paper, you can photocopy it to make lots of them (in case you make a mistake or two--or three or four)
Make a scale drawing of your panels. You should be able to figure out how many squares wide and high to make your drawing to keep it the same proportions as each panel. If you can't, ask a teacher or parent to help you. Maybe it will work to use one square=one inch--that would be easy and we like easy. Almost as much as we like cheap!
Or if you are really talented, you don't have to use graph paper, you can just freehand a sketch of your panel on some plain paper.
Well, designing an exhibit is kind of like writing a paper or a book. You divide your information up into sections, so people can follow your story or your topic. When you place these sections on the panels you keep them together so the ideas don't all run together and make a mess. Keep the most important information and illustrations at the top of the center panel and make them the largest. Let's take a look at those Rose Garden Club panels again. Let's pretend these are the center panel of a three-panel exhibit.
Look at the panel on the left --you can click on them to see enlargements. There are two text pages on that panel (the white rectangles with the lines on them--the lines are supposed to look like words). Which picture do the words go with? Which image are they describing? It's pretty hard to tell.
Now, look at the one on the right. See how there is a text page (which is the main, or most important text) up at the top left? That's where your eye first falls once you read the title. That's what you WANT people to read, so you put it where they can see it and find it.
Notice that there is a small piece of text below the photo of the rose. You know that that caption goes with that rose and that it's not describing the group of people, who have their own page of text. Each caption is touching, or overlapping, or very near to the image it's describing. See how there are three groups on that page? 1: the main text at the top and the large image of the lady in the rose garden, 2: the photo of the pink rose and its text and 3: the photo of the group of people and their text.
Now check this out. One thing that people like to do is make everything line up exactly and nice and neat, like the one of the left. Boring. But look at the one on the right. Isn't it much more interesting to put things in different places, or even on the slant (and it's actually easier since you don't have to work so hard to get them all lined up exactly or even straight in a couple of places!)
So once you've drawn it all out on graph paper and you have your panels cut to size, lay the panels down and lay the items down on the panel to see if you like the groups where they are and to make sure everything is the right size. But don't stick it down yet! You might decide that it really looks awful that way and then you can change your mind.
So you've got everything exactly the way you want it. Don't say "Cool. Now I'll take it all off and start attaching them." How will you know where to put it all back? Take off one or two things at a time, stick those down and move on from there in stages.
or jump to another section by choosing one of these pages:
1. How to Relate the Topic to the Design of the Exhibit, in which we discuss the overall feel of your exhibit and how to match up the visual stuff with your topic.
2. Interesting Exhibit Design, in which we discuss all sorts of fun stuff like choosing an appropriate color, where to put stuff on your panels, photo sizes, and other things that make your exhibit go from ho-hum to KAZOWIE! There's so much info here that it takes up 2 huge pages of info.
3. Fonts and Type Faces, in which we discuss all the cool fonts in the world and how they go hand and hand with a good visual presentation and where to find them.
4. How Do I Do That? (a virtual hands-on demonstration), in which we show you with photos how to attach a photo to fomecore, how to cut fomecore with a knife and how to other stuff.
5. Sources, in which we show you that there are lots of places to find ideas and stuff to use in your exhibit. Some of it for free!
Back to our exhibit help main page