NHD has very specific rules on exhibit dimensions and word limit. Once your text is written and organized you are ready to begin with your exhibit design.
How big should I make the photographs?
What tools do I use to design my exhibit?
How do I decide where everything goes?
Panel 1 - There are two text pages on this panel. Can you tell which pictures go with the text? From this layout it is very hard to tell.
Panel 2 - Notice there is a text page at the top left? This is where the eye first falls once you have read the title, place important information here.Each caption is touching, overlapping or very near the photo it is describing. You can see the three distinct groups on this panel.
Panel 3 - This panel is designed with everything lined up.
Panel 4 - It is more interesting to arrange things in different places and on angles.
Once you have drawn your design to scale cut your panels to size and arrange the tiems on the panel. Don't attach them until you have the exhibit entirely laid out and are certain you like the arrangement!
What else can I do to make the design interesting?
3D depth to an image or text:
Borders will also add interest and and make things stand out. Here's an example from our Mississippi River exhibit: notice how the blue border around the white text makes it stand out more than if it were just white on light aqua (the color scheme was based on colors of water, like aqua and blue and teal). Here's one from our Revolutionary War exhibit: all of the text has a red border to make it stand out and to make sure the visitors notice it (the color scheme was red, white and blue). But borders don't have to be the same shape as the photo or text. Try a colored matboard triangle with a rectangle photo on top of it. Or paint a circle on the panel and put a photo cutout on top of it. It's okay if it overlaps the edges.
Cutout photos can make things more interesting, too.Remember the gold panel about the rose growers we looked at on the last page? Look at this to see the gold panel with white squares and one with the drawings cutout. Just cut them out with a pair of scissors. Notice what a difference it makes.
Three-dimensional objects can add interest, too. For the rose-growing club panel I used a cutout of a drawing of a rose, but better yet would be to buy a few silk flower rose buds and glue them right to your panel. Have an exhibit that is car related or on roads or something like that? Glue matchbox cars to the panel. Use your imagination. Don't overwhelm the panel with your cars or rosebuds--keep it simple, but a few of them would be clever and interesting and different.
You can also cover your panels with fabric. This would add texture and interest. You can glue it to board or stretch it around and staple it on the back. You could put pleats along the edges or gather it along the bottom edge, but keep it simple and don't get a really big and wild pattern. It will be too distracting from the text and the illustrations.
Layers and Cutouts
1. It has depth. The airplane sticks out from the background. It looks to be part of the background photo, but it pops out in 3-D. The plane is attached with tabs that stick into slots on the cardboard and can be removed. The two big pieces on the wings fold back and give the wings more support. There is one tab on the top and one on the bottom of the airplane. Look at how the tab is just an extension of the wing and folds over on the edge of the photo. You could do this with a photo (either cutout or square) or do it with text.
2. It has layers. We like the hole with the clear sheet of plastic taped behind it, the plastic has printing. There's not a whole paragraph--that would be hard to read--use just a quotel. Make sure your print is big and choose a block style font to make it easier to read. There needs to be enough contrast to see it, your photo needs to be light and your text dark.
3. The photo behind the plastic text is visually interesting also. There is a gap of about 2-3 inches between the photo and the plastic sheet, which gives it even more depth. The tabs for the photo are just taped to the back of the display.
You couldn't replicate a big photo like the one behind the plastic sheet without a large format printer, but you could do it if your hole was small enough for an 8 x 10 print. Or put your 8 x 10 photo on a colored or black board that is bigger. And your hole doesn't have to be round. You can make it whatever size or shape you want.
Another thing we can learn from and borrow is that the background photo is faded out so it's not so crisp. That makes it easier to see the writing on top of it. It makes it less busy and the contrast is greater.
In the photo to the right the background image is at 40%opacity and the quote on top should be a bold text so it can be easily read.
Or you could do a background photo in black and white and make it more faded on a photocopier. You could type the text right on top of the photo in some photo software and print it out, or you could put the text on the clear plastic and hang it in front of the photo like the Peal Harbor display.
1. How to Relate the Topic to the Design of the Exhibit
2. Interesting Exhibit Design
3. Fonts and Type Faces
4. How Do I Do That?
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Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum