Jennifer Davidson — UX Writer / Designer based in San Francisco, CA

exhibit: charles rennie mackintosh / industry: exhibitions

user experience design

PROJECT: Create a traveling exhibition for an influential designer, and generate exhibit content, in addition to designing the space.

REQUIREMENTS: Exhibition must be portable, with freestanding walls and ceilings. Design must use a maximum of 400 square feet total, no higher than 15 feet and no longer than 40 feet. Must fit into a grid of four 10-foot by 10-foot boxes with sides touching, and it must comply with ADA requirements.

CHALLENGES: #1 How to make the design and layout match with the aesthetic of the subject, while still fitting the space and circulation requirements. I reduced the size of the Rose Boudoir, so that it was merely a suggestion of the original design itself, and edited out some of the furniture and lighting elements in order to conserve space.

#2 How to move the maximum number of people through the display without feeling rushed. I created the kiosks so that they had a second, overhead screen. Someone standing behind the active participant could still clearly view the information, allowing them to experience the exhibit without having to wait for their turn to “steer”. Or they could move to a different kiosk while they waited for the original one to become available. Having kiosks each containing different content, instead of a single complete set on each kiosk, keeps the attendees moving through the space, not allowing them to get “stuck” in front of a single kiosk and hold up the queue.

APPROACH: Capture the spirit of CRMack’s designs, in a stripped-down version. In each instance, I looked at the work and tried to reduce it to a basic element. For example, with the Glasgow School of Art, the main entrance arch is such a famously well-recognized part of the whole structure, that it can represent the entire building with just this one piece. Smaller items such as silverware can be represented whole but contained within a small area, such as a perspex case. Gessos can be hung on any flat surface to fill and utilize the available space effectively.

Use of CRMack’s typography allows signage to maintain the look and style of his designs, keeping the viewer inside the designer’s point of view, while imparting information and wayfinding.

RESULTS: This is one of my most effective designs, which is visible in the scale model. You can really get “inside” the space using the model, to understand the spatial relationships, the circulation and flow, and the scale of the display. The minimal use of colors also adds to a historic look and feel, while maintaining the transitional, modernist views of the designer. Charles Rennie Mackintosh spanned multiple design movements and his work was a direct response to what he observed, both in the man-made world, and in nature. This results in a timeless quality that is simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic. This project received an enthusiastic response from the client.

Forjames freed Roleexhibit designer

Perspective sketch of partial Rose Boudoir recreation exhibit by the designer in pen and marker on paper.

Perspective sketch of exhibit entrance by the designer in pen and marker on paper.

Exhibit floor plan showing location of kiosk content, created with AutoCAD and Photoshop.

The exhibit entrance was based on the Glasgow School of Art Front Gate as designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1898. Graphic created with Photoshop.

Photo of the Glasgow School of Art entrance by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Photo by unknown.

Kiosks were designed in both standard and ADA formats to be accessible to everyone. Kiosks will introduce the viewer to different periods of C.R. Mackintosh’s life and work, and his influence on the design world. A replay screen near the top of the kiosk allows viewers in the crowd behind to watch while a user navigates the options. Not-to-scale graphic showing standard format kiosk was created with pen on paper and Photoshop.

The ADA kiosk differs from the standard in that it offers a touchscreen, speakers and audio-output jack at the correct height for those who are wheelchair-users. Not-to-scale graphic showing ADA format kiosk was created with pen on paper and Photoshop.

Scale model of the exhibit design showing the outer extents defined by pylons and banners. Also visible, kiosks with varying content, plus the partial Rose Boudoir in the center back. Photograph and model by the designer, photo retouching in Photoshop.

Scale model overhead view into the partial Rose Boudoir. The side walls feature gessos, paintings and watercolors by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, along with chairs, lamp fixtures, silverware, a table and a banner. The exteriors of the walls are emblazoned with graphic iconography and fonts designed by C.R. Mackintosh. Photograph and model by the designer, photo retouching in Photoshop.

Exterior panel of the exhibit design, illustrating how Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work influenced the design world and increased in valued since his death. The panel also shows custom lettering and graphics by CRM. Panel graphic created with Photoshop.