Well, depth makes things interesting. You can't go too deep with a NHD panel (unless it's something that's removable). Remember you might have to cart it off to Des Moines or ship it to Washington DC!
There is an interesting and cheap way to give things more depth that we use in our big exhibits all the time Here's an example: See how Gene Autry and Champion stand out from the wall a little bit? They aren't just flat. The cutout photo of Tex Ritter is the same way. Here are instructions on how to make things stick out from the panel or wall.
A border around something will also add interest and and make things stand out more. Especially if it's a bright color (but keep the color within your color scheme!) 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. You already saw some from the cowboy exhibit (Gene Autry and Tex Ritter) but do you 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. To mix them is even more interesting--some square, some cutout.
Three-dimensional objects can add interest, too. For the rose-growing club panel on page #1, 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 better yet, stretch it around and staple it on the back. You could put pleats along the edges or gather it along the bottom edge, but don't go crazy--keep it simple--and don't get a really big and wild pattern. It will be too distracting from the text and the illustrations.
Look at this display unit--you can see larger images of each photo if you click on them. It was made to advertise the movie "Pearl Harbor" in a theater lobby, but it's got some great design that we could use for an exhibit. The person who designed this could kick butt in NHD competitions if they were still in school. Maybe those of you who end up being really good at this could have a future in designing those advertisements that sit in movie theater lobbies!
There are several reasons we like this piece and why it's visually interesting.
1. It has depth. Look at the airplane that sticks out from the background. It looks like it's a part of the background photo, but it just pops out in 3-D. It's just put on there with tabs that stick into slots on the cardboard background. How easy is that? It's also removable so YOUR exhibit will travel nicely! Even better! It can be stuck down with some tape on the back if it's loose. Look at the 3 photos of the plane being installed on the front of the panel. Those two big pieces on the wings fold back and give the wings more support, but they don't have tabs that stick through the cardboard. 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. Lots of ideas if you sit down and think.
2. It has layers. We like the hole with the clear sheet of plastic taped behind it. Do you see the printing on the plastic (you can get plastic sheets like this that go through photocopiers or there's also a kind that goes through inkjet printers). There's not a whole paragraph--that would hard to read--but just a quote is cool. If you do something like this, make sure your print is big enough and choose a block style font (not something fancy) to make it easier to read. Oh, and make sure there is enough contrast to see it. Your photo needs to be light and your text dark.
3. The photo behind the plastic text is cool (you can see it in the photos above). There is a gap of about 2-3 inches between the photo and the plastic sheet, which gives it even more depth. Look at this photo of the back of the display at the left. See how the tabs for the photo are just taped to the back of the display? (They originally went into slots on the folded sides of the panel, but we just taped them.)
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 kind of 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.
You could do this with an 81/2" x 11 sheet of paper and a photo if you can use Photoshop or some other photo-altering software. In the one at the right, I put the background of at about 40% opacity, but it could go even lower to fade it out more. Sorry about the quote--it was the first one I found on the space shuttle and I just ran with it. Your quote would be much more dignified, of course, as it should be for a serious exhibit.
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.
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
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum