Nothing But Treats: JRA Celebrates Halloween

October 31, 2013

From Rosie the Riveter to Rosie Cotton and from breakfast foods to 80s movie legends, the staff at JRA did not disappoint with their costumes this year! From our family to yours, JRA wishes all a Happy Halloween!

Who is that masked stick figure? It's Mark Amos!

"I'm a Mog: half man, half dog.  I'm my own best friend."  Thanks for the great costume, Colin Cronin!

Breakfast of Champions: Canadian Bacon and a Deviled Egg a la Brent and Kelly Ellis

For more photographic gems, check out our Facebook photo album.

Tags: JRA Team

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Conference World Tour 2013: Science & Technology with a Southwestern Flavor

October 30, 2013

Even a T. rex got in on the evening fun at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Even a T. rex got in on the evening fun at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

For the next stop on the 2013 Conference World Tour, Blogger-in-Chief Clara Rice visits the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) show in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Covering four days, and hosted by three museums (a first for ASTC), the conference offered over 100 educational sessions, open houses at the host museums, product demonstrations, a sold out exhibit hall, and vibrant evening fiestas.  Two dynamic keynote sessions covered everything from Creationism and Intelligent Design to the United Nations and the sustainability challenges facing our world.  Evoking the traditions and flair of the host location, a mariachi band rang in the exhibit hall ribbon cutting, and Southwestern flavors were infused in the tastes and libations of the receptions.

For a complete wrap-up of the 2013 ASTC Conference, check out our feature on, and be sure to tune in tomorrow for the scary, spooky and all together ooky (and no doubt hilarious) costumes from JRA's annual Halloween Potluck.  Thanks for reading!

Mariachi Nuevo Sonido

Tags: Outside the Studio

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The Friday Fives: Introducing Melissa Leahy

October 25, 2013

Melissa Leahy

Melissa Leahy

Welcome back for Part Two of our Friday Fives series.  Without further ado, we'd like to introduce our other superstar co-op, Melissa Leahy, a University of Cincinnati DAAP student pursuing her degree in Industrial Design.

1. Best stress buster...

For me, exercise has always been the best way to release any pent up stress or emotions that may be affecting me. Nothing beats stress like a bit of alone time with the music cranked up, a set of weights, and a stairmaster.

2. The best idea in the history of mankind was...

Hands down, the roller coaster (Good answer!)

3. The biggest challenge to being a designer is...

Telling the perfect story and understanding the stakeholders. I believe the core element to designing for people is understanding their perspectives, and everyone has a different perspective on everything, thus changing the way they interact with an object, or react to an experience. For example, something socially acceptable to Americans may be offensive to a person of Japanese decent.

4. Explaining experiential design to those not in the industry:

Trying to explain to people what experiential design is quite the task. I always say that it is essentially designing experiences. The person then looks at me in utter confusion, which, I suppose is a valid reaction. Not many people actually think about how the Hollywood Tower of Terror was designed while they're there. Theme parks need designers to conceptualize the overall guest experience, then we design specific elements to make this conceptualized experience effective.  Generally, I'll give a few specific examples involving themed areas of King's Island. After all is said and done, I'm pretty sure people are still confused, but that's okay. My job still rocks!

5. Dream Vacation:

I have really been wanting to backpack Europe ever since I was a kid. I have literally been saving up the funds for years now and I'm in the midst of planning the logistics of the trip. Upon graduation, I am packing up a hiking pack and going on an adventure! I know its going to be a fantastic learning experience and I cannot wait.


Interested in learning more about Melissa?  Check out her portfolio on Behance.  Next week, we'll cover the creepy, cooky, mysterious and spooky as JRA celebrates Halloween. 


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The Friday Fives: Co-Op Q&A with Timothy Hale

October 18, 2013

Timothy Hale

Timothy Hale

As mentioned in Wednesday's blog, over the next two Fridays, we're profiling our top notch co-ops (and thus, newly minted TEA NextGen members), Timothy Hale and Melissa Leahy. First up is Timothy, a graphic design student at University of Cincinnati's Design Architecture Art and Planning (DAAP) program.

The person who has influenced my career the most is … 
My high school art teacher. She introduced me to design and I have loved it ever since.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I really wanted to be either a paleontologist or a zoologist. I can't even describe how many books I read on dinosaurs/animals when I was growing up.

What was your very first pet?
My first pet was actually a snake called Julius Squeezer. My parents are biology teachers and they would take it into class during the school year.

If you could have any super powers, what would they be?
One of my favorites is superstrength, because I think it would be awesome to be The Hulk.

The part of my career I enjoy the most is …

The people. I've found that most designers are outgoing and really fun to work with.

Check out Timothy's designs here, and don't miss next Friday's interview with Melissa!


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TEA's SATE Conference: A "Winning Formula" for Themed Entertainment

October 15, 2013

Greetings, readers!  Clara Rice, Blogger-In-Chief, here.  I recently had the great pleasure of attending the Themed Entertainment Association's Storytelling Architecture Technology Experience (SATE) Conference at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  The conference, sponsored by CHRISTIE(R), brought two days of thought-provoking discussion and new insights for each of the four disciplines.  All were tied together in the service of story - how attractions and museums can leverage stories to create compelling experiences with emotional resonance.  You can read a complete wrap-up of the two-day event in InPark Magazine and view additional photos on our Facebook page.

The choice of SCAD for the SATE conference was no accident, and the academic setting only further stimulated dialog and informational exchange.  Adding to the flavor of the proceedings were the large number of TEA NextGen members in the audience, comprised of students and recent graduates from universities across the country.  Practically bursting with enthusiasm, these Gen Ys brought with them a passion for the industry and a fearlessness in having their (tough) questions answered.  To learn more about the NextGen component of this year's SATE, as well as the future plans for the TEA's NextGen Committee, check out our article for the TEA blog.

Here at JRA, we share the TEA's mission of fostering the next generation of industry dreamers and doers, and we're lucky to have co-op relationships with SCAD and the University of Cincinnati's Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) program.  To that end, over the next two Fridays, we'll be offering another series of "Friday Fives", interviewing our current co-ops to learn what motivates and inspires them, while throwing in some fun facts in the process.  Next Wednesday, we'll continue our Conference World Tour in Albuquerque, covering the Assocation of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) Conference.  Thanks for reading!

SATE Co-Chairs Aram Ebben and Stefan Lawrence kick off the conference.

Don Marinelli covers the "'Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmatic of the 21st Century" in his keynote address.

Liz Gazzano and Roger Gould discuss how Cars the film became Cars Land at Disney California Adventure.

Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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Old "Stuff", New Strategies: Taking Museums into the 21st Century

October 02, 2013

This week, Designer Colin Cronin takes over the blog to talk about why museums sometimes get a bad rap, and what designers can do to turn the tide.


Every once in a while, when I tell people that I design museums, I will meet someone who says they don't "like" museums. They just can't get into it. It's a boring collection of random "stuff" in glass cases. Artifacts presented without context or story behind them, and with nothing to spark the imagination and excitement of a new generation of museum guests.

If anything, this just shows that this hypothetical person has had a rather limited experience with museums and similar attractions. And yes, some of the oldest historical institutions around the world concentrate much of their space to the display of artifacts. These facilities sometimes own centuries worth of collections, and do their best to display this huge amount of "stuff" for guests and visitors to explore, examine, and take whatever they are able to from the experience. This is similar to a library - in general, people only get out of a library what you put into it. You don't expect to go to a public library and be read to. You go to a library to explore on your own, and often discover unexpected surprises.

I'm not necessarily saying that this is what museums should be, or necessarily are. However, I can see the need - and importance - of these "archives". The Smithsonian, the British Museum, and similar institutions are important repositories of history, both man-made and natural.

Of course, modern museums realize that this is not the best way to teach, excite, and spark the imagination of their guests. And they have extended this challenge to designers and staff. In many cases, newer museums have become very focused on their messages, allowing designers and museum planners to think especially "outside-the-box" when creating new and innovative experiences for guests. It's no longer the "norm" to just present a case of artifacts with dates and locations. It's important for modern museums to allow the guest to explore and experience artifacts and facts in new ways -- whether it be through theatrical experiences, interactives, or programmed demonstrations. New museums recognize this.  Ironically, the esoteric hallway of artifact cases is becoming an artifact of the past itself.

And this isn't lost on older institutions either. While very few are able (or possibly willing) to completely remodel their collections, there are several wonderful examples from recent years of older institutions embracing the new view of museums. One exhibit that I personally very much enjoyed was "The Brain" at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Throughout much of the AMNH are the classic artifact cases and dioramas that my hypothetical friend is complaining about. However, this new exhibit is a great example of modern exhibit design - using unique interactives, theatrical displays and personal stories and experiences to create a rich environment for the guest to learn about the human brain.

Using an ingenious mix of lighting, fiber optics, and lasers, the entry of The Brain exhibit is an abstract representation of a neural network. This unique experience really stands out among the galleries of AMNH.
Image from Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Another great example is the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. Art museums often have an especially difficult time creating unique experiences for their guests. What can you do beyond just displaying the pieces in a well-lit gallery space? Art Sparks is an exhibit designed to introduce new visitors to the world of the visual art and an attempt to give them the vocabulary and understanding to look at artworks in a new way. Through several hands-on interactives, guests (both children and adults) deconstruct some of the more popular pieces at the Speed, looking at concepts such as composition, positive v. negative space and colors. Guests are welcome to explore this on their own, but throughout the day the Speed also offers tours of the exhibit by museum staff. The Speed Museum is currently undergoing an expansion/remodel, which looks to create an even better experience for their guests.

At the Speed Museum children can explore a gallery that looks nothing like you would expect in an art museum.
Image from The Speed Museum

So these are great examples of what museums are doing now, but what does the future hold? Designers and museum planners are always looking for the new, exciting ideas for unique experiences. One direction museums often consider going is in virtual exhibits. These can be online experiences, separate but additive to the brick and mortar museum. The British Museum Experience is a pioneer in this, having an online archive nearly as great as their collection offline. Another way to leverage new technology is by literally creating virtual exhibits. Exhibits that don't exist physically, but only though a computer program. In recent years, there have been examples of using augmented reality to take traditional museum exhibits in a new and unprecedented direction. For example, The Future Is Wild uses augmented reality to populate physical sets and dioramas with virtual organisms which interact with the guest. The natural progression of this may lead entirely virtual exhibits, such as the Virtual Dinosaur Tour created by Canon. While this was really just a proof of concept, there is a possibility of museums in the future that are completely empty .... shells for guests to walk through while gazing at virtual artifacts through a viewfinder.

Using custom viewfinders, guests can experience exhibits in ways that are impossible with traditional artifact displays.
Image from Canon.

Its possible that this "Virtual Museum" concept may be taking things too far. However, museums and designers are examining the new possibilities with augmented reality technology, and with the proliferation of smart phones, tablet computers, and now even Google Glass, exhibits can be designed that interact directly with guests personal devices. The Walt Disney Company is currently exploring this idea. While not a museum exhibit or experience, "The Little Mermaid: Second Screen Live" is an experiment that might change the way designers leverage personal devices in museums. Second Screen Live is a special engagement at movie theaters around the country. Patrons are asked to download a special iPad app, and actually bring their iPad to the theater. The app will react to the movie, and present viewers with trivia, games, sing-alongs, and more - creating an experience that is uniquely interactive, in a way films have not yet been.

Image from The Walt Disney Company

Arriving in theaters September 20th, there's no telling if this will be a success. But if it is, it will be one of the first experiences that not only encourages guests to use their handheld devices, but also creates a unique experience by leveraging the technology. Museums and designers would be foolish not to take note of this, and see the infinite possibilities the current technological revolution might provide.


Thanks, Colin!  Next week, we'll offer a wrap-up of the Themed Entertainment Association's 9th Annual SATE Conference.

Tags: Blog N Learn

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