Structure in Exhibits

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook reminded me of what my status update was a year ago. Being the sentimental and nostalgic guy that I am, I was reminded of a trip to St. Louis, Missouri, that I took with my family at the same time last year. I decided to go back and look at the pictures to relive the good times and to see how much my hair line had changed in twelve months.

As with most of my family vacation photo files, I have more pictures of signs and exhibits than I do of my children. I get to see my children every day. I may not ever have a chance to see a great use of a complementary color palette at a museum in Missouri ever again. It also keeps your kids’ egos in check by letting them know that it is not all about them.

While browsing through the images I came across a few images that I haven’t shared before of a really cool exhibit featuring the architecture of the Gateway Arch. The exhibit is not at the arch itself but at the St. Louis Science Center.

Here are some images and thoughts.

The design of this structures exhibit was clean and architectural in nature. I love how the materials echo raw materials of a construction site. Even the justified text could represent building blocks. Of course it could have been designed by someone who likes squares, but I think it was purposeful.

These panels continue the consistent message presented on the orientation sign. The concept is expanded with the blueprint-type symbols and open-ended question approach. Of course this is enough to bore my children to death (though death by type is underrated). This was the option that really inspired them…

These pillow building blocks allow children to practice what it takes to build an arch. You will notice that Anna (in the middle) is restraining her younger brother William (the destroyer) so we could get the picture of the complete arch.

This is not related to the structure exhibit, but I just had to share it. I’m not sure what incident led up to the creation of this sign but it was warranted, trust me. Do you have any ideas?

Seeing Red (and Some Green)

A few days ago Paul and I were talking. After several minutes of Paul taunting me about the Phillies’ acquisition of ace pitcher Cliff Lee (underbidding the Yankees), the conversation turned to IBD. I have mentioned before that as baseball fans we tend to get a bit competitive about numbers and statistics. Paul felt compelled to mention that two of his posts (Knowing Your Audience is Ill and Get to Know a Color! Yellow Makes Babies Cry) held the single-day record for hits or visits to the website. He felt compelled to give me an honorable mention by saying that one of my posts (Momemts in Error) held the record for the number of comments made by readers. Paul went on to write a post about how those two posts of his were circulated through social media to audiences beyond interpreters and interpretive designers, and went viral (by our standards) online.

Because I’m competitive, I have decided to write this post on the colors of Christmas and why I feel “ill” when I see anything related to Philadelphia professional sports. It is my hope that I can tap into the same audiences that made Paul’s posts go viral, and that the fine folks at Colour Lovers will feel compelled to share my post with their huge following. Also, I hope that the fine folks (TBD) of Philavania will be filled with dismay at my post and therefore compelled to visit our site to badger me and defend their teams’ honor, while inadvertently giving my post a hit. This will pass the record baton to me and beat Paul at his own game [insert evil laugh].

Here’s the problem: My post hits two days before Christmas on a state and federal holiday for most, as well during a time when many have more important things to do, I hope, than reading or commenting on this blog. This is really no different from any other Thursday; I just have an excuse this time around.

Let’s start with the colors of Christmas, red and green. Most can’t help but recognize this complementary color pairing as being related to the holiday. In fact, when I see designers using green and red, it reminds me of Christmas (even when Paul used them on this promotional piece for the upcoming NAI International Conference in Panama). I also have a difficult separating David Lee Roth from the same piece, but that has more to do with Panama than Christmas. These two colors together do remind me of The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas album that just happens to have a moving rendition of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Gonzo the Great and Rizzo the Rat.

If you are interested in looking at colors and Christmas in a new light, check out the website Christmas By Colour, which offers Christmas cards similar to Pantone color swatches with names like Quality Street, Sprouts, Yellow snow, Mulled wine, End of the Sellotape, Park Lane & Mayfair, Bank Balance, Granny’s Whiskers, After Eights, Bucks Fizz, Pigs in Blankets, and Walking in the Air.

When making design decisions, holiday color meanings should be taken into consideration. Just in case you were wondering, there are specific reasons why red and green are connected to the holiday. For a full description of the meanings behind red and green at Christmas, you can read these eHow articles on the subject. Some of the origins may surprise you.

If I wanted to steal Paul’s thunder for his upcoming post Get to Know a Color! Red and/or Green, I might write something like Wikipedia has on the colors:

The word red comes from the Old English rēad. Further back, the word can be traced to the Proto-Germanic rauthazand the Proto-Indo European root reudh-. In Sanskrit, the word rudhira means red or blood. In the English language, the word red is associated with the color of blood, certain flowers (e.g. roses), and ripe fruits (e.g. apples, cherries). Fire is also strongly connected, as is the sun and the sky at sunset. Healthy light-skinned people are sometimes said to have a “ruddy” complexion (as opposed to appearing pale). After the rise of socialism in the mid-19th century, red was used to describe revolutionary movements.

The word green is closely related to the Old English verb growan, “to grow”. It is used to describe plants or the ocean. Sometimes it can also describe someone who is inexperienced, jealous, or sick. In the United States of America, green is a slang term for money, among other things. Several colloquialisms have derived from these meanings, such as “green around the gills”, a phrase used to describe a person who looks ill.

Of course that really doesn’t help you that much, and Paul does a much better job of making the subjects of color interesting (and by much better I mean somewhat better), so I will leave it up to him. Okay now Colour Lovers is never going to pick up and share this post.

I did notice that the last line of the Wikipedia information mentioned the word ill. The primary colors of the two major Philadelphia teams happen to be red for the Phillies and green for the Eagles (photo courtesy This is no coincidence. There are two other professional teams there as well, but no one takes the 76ers or the NBA very seriously, and I can’t remember what that other ice-based professional sport is called. I guess there is no better time to be a Philadelphia sports fan with a felon quarterback leading an otherwise excellent team and a baseball team working hard to be considered a team not buying a World Championship, while buying a World Championship. Now that will make you ill and provides new meaning to those catchy shirts. Okay, that’s not even close enough to make Philavania get fired up. I should have used more curse words.

Okay, so maybe this post was a bit competitive and mildly bitter.

All kidding aside, Paul and I both hope you have a great holiday season. Thank you for being a part of our lives and making our year a memorable one, as well as helping me assume all IBD records.

Notions About Preconceived Notions

There are many of you who came to IBD today expecting a post about the baseball playoffs beginning yesterday (and by many, I mean one). You know that Paul and I love baseball and this is the best and worst time of year for us. For the majority, the sport of baseball is considered antiquated and out of touch with its fan base. Some say it has too long of a season, is too slow, and is generally boring. This is also a perfect description of the relationship that Paul and I have with our IBD fan base (and by fan base I mean our combined five children). There is something special about the game, being at the ball park, eating copious amounts of cased meat, and simply watching a pure game.

This is not a post about baseball, I promise, but Paul and I have the goal of seeing all of the major league stadiums. I love seeing new ballparks and picking up on the subtleties of each park and the culture around the collection of fans. This seriously is not a post about baseball, but in the event you didn’t know Paul’s team, the Philadelphia Phillies, and my team, the 27-time and current reigning World Champion New York Yankees (who just happen to beat the Phillies in last year’s World Series) are on a crash course to possibly meet again World Series. (That was the most carefully calculated sentence written in IBD history as not to jinx either team.) For now I will not write about baseball.

Okay, I can’t help it. Visiting a new ballpark is not much different from visiting a new museum. You come into the setting with preconceived notions. I have never been to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia but I would expect to see lots of people working on their own unique team color palettes with cheese wiz on their red Phillies shirts or better yet wiz on their green Eagle’s gear.

Again not about baseball, the exterior of the museum from the parking lot to the entrance all add to or take away from your expectations. The prior knowledge you have or the research about your visit all add into your overall experience. But what if you don’t know what to expect or are unsure of the experience before you? What if you just stumbled on to something that sounded interesting but you had no clue what it actually was? Which just happens to be the equivalent of Paul and me going to a WNBA game. For now I will not write about the WNBA.

Yesterday the Adobe Museum of Digital Media (AMDM) opened to the public. I have been receiving updates for several weeks about the opening of this new museum. I was intrigued from the beginning for the simple fact that I didn’t know what to expect. The descriptions have been well written to be ambiguous. So well that I have saved several passages of text to use when communicating with my boss.

The landing page ( says that “The Adobe Museum of Digital Media (AMDM) is a unique virtual space designed to showcase and preserve groundbreaking digital work and to present expert commentary on how digital media influences culture and society.” Needless to say the descriptions left me confused and in need of a dictionary. So what is going to be in the collection of an online museum of digital media? Is it worthy of getting my email address? (BTW, Paul, if you have joined, let me know how that works for you.) Should I come back once the novelty has worn off? Where can you even see a WNBA game?

I’ve been waiting for the opening just to experience this possibly online interpretive experience. The best part is that I didn’t have to dress up for the grand opening. The tuxedo t-shirt I was wearing at home was perfectly appropriate.

After spending some quality time getting to know the museum I was impressed and confused, and now I understand why interpretive sites are valuable in and of themselves. There are some pros to an online museum. “The AMDM is a space unlike any created before. Because it is entirely digital, it is an ideal gallery for displaying and viewing digital media, as well as revealing the innovation and artistry within the work. It is open to the public 365 days a year and is accessible from anywhere in the world.” This is true but be prepared to test your bandwidth and not do anything else on your computer while visiting the museum. Make sure your Flash and Java updates are complete too. The use of images and digital art are impressive.

I am most impressed with the effort to create an online structure that will display the media. An extraordinary amount of time and thought went into the structure.  “The building itself was designed by Italian architect Filippo Innocenti, a master of fluid urban designs for large, public installations. Innocenti collaborated closely with award-winning designer Piero Frescobaldi, who served as the ‘building contractor’ for construction of the virtual space.” The format, layout, site map, and menu are well designed and easier to get around than many actual museums that I have been too. We can learn from Adobe here.

As with most modern art, I found myself confused. But one benefit of this online museum is that it provides opportunities for you to interact with artists and gain an understanding of their perspectives. As stated by Adobe, the current exhibit Valley, which offers the latest work by the renowned American artist Tony Oursler was developed to explore our “relationship to the Internet, underscored by Oursler’s often raucous, disarming humor.” The exhibit is interesting and may not be viewed on some government computers.

I love life online but sometime you just need to go to the ballpark—uh, I mean museum. There is something special about seeing the thing itself and hot dogs never taste as good at home. My wife also frowns on my throwing of peanut shells on the carpet, though my three year old son thinks it is perfectly okay. The online museum creates a new way of looking at things but in the big picture the experience has some shortcomings.

Interpretation is an element of the exhibit but I don’t see an opportunity to build that emotional connection to the resource. Could the format be used to preview the thing itself at your site? Sure. Could it be used for post-visit activities? You betcha. Is it as good as watching a game in high definition television from the comfort of your on sofa with instant replay? Sure. But is the experience the same as being there? Not really.

Go Yankees!