10 March 2011 // Thoughts

16 Stages of Project Development – Preliminary Concept

Stage 7 – Preliminary Concept Design

In our last post, JRA began the legwork of designing your project.  We developed your criteria for success, began plotting locations for major attractions and analyzing adjacencies, and witnessed the first glimmerings of your storyline.  In Stage 7, we move on to Preliminary Concept Design, where the visual language of your story begins to take shape.

In the Preliminary Concept Design stage, the goal is to further develop the project’s overall exhibit story line and establish a project aesthetic (or design language).  All of these components must work together to meet the various parameters outlined in the Criteria for Success document.  In contrast to the development of the project’s Criteria for Success document, however, the development of the project’s story and design language is more subjective and emotionally driven.  It is this convergence of objective criteria and subjective emotions that will create meaningful and lasting museum, visitor center or park experiences.

The development of the project exhibit story line and initial aesthetic falls into several stages:

  • Content development
  • Draft story
  • Design language research
  • Suggest design language via reference images, etc.
  • Re-evaluation in light of Criteria for Success
  • Revise and expand story/design language, as required

Birdseye Sketch

These steps will be repeated and revisited several times before a final story and design language emerge that satisfy the criteria for success.  More than writers and designers are involved in the development of the project’s story and design language: it is a collaborative effort.  We began by listening to you and your advisors, but then we start to talk.  First, we talk amongst ourselves as the project team is assembled.  With so many disciplines on our team — writers, storytellers, planners, exhibit designers, producers and those with architectural backgrounds — we thrive on an open exchange of ideas.  We also know that no single discipline has a lock on good ideas or the truth, so we talk a lot.  We argue a lot, too, among ourselves, for we arrive at the best solution by challenging every idea and assumption along the way.

Eventually, we arrive at a suggested revised story line and design language.  Then, it is time for the first review.  Through in-person reviews, teleconferences, videoconferences, e-mail, and communication through an area of our website dedicated to the project, we receive your input.  We begin to refine our ideas and then listen again to you to make sure we heard you correctly the first time.  Slowly, through revisions and rewrites, we agree on a final story, design style and thematic direction.  Our objective is to devise a story and design language that will provide all audiences with a memorable, enjoyable and repeatable experience.  No guest should have to labor to be able to comprehend what the exhibits or attractions are trying to convey.

The preliminary concept design creates a general level of direction sufficient to understand the project themes and styles developed through the various discussions.  Operational parameters, project costs, and schedules also begin to take shape.  Final deliverables for this stage in addition to the story line include:

  • Theme boards showing style, theme, tone, look and design
  • Space program chart, including associated support areas
  • Revised circulation and space allocation plans
  • Revised exhibit or attraction master plan
  • Preliminary plans, including general space requirements for major exhibits, environments, attractions and media
  • Sketches and/or color illustrations of major exhibits, environments, attractions and media

All of these items are packaged together to either help you provide a compelling argument for funding (if you have not yet received it) or to serve as the basis for Stage 8, Final Concept Design.  Join us next time as the designs, budget and schedule become increasingly more refined, and the images of your project begin coming to life.