Every once in a while you get to help create and design something that you can watch people using, interacting with and thinking about. Something with the potential to make the world just a little bit better. Something that lights up the eyes of a kid while making the parent sound like an expert marine biologist hero. Something like the Penn Cove Marine Exhibits.
Have to say this is one of my all time favorite projects. It doesn’t hurt that I grew up playing on and fishing from the Coupeville Wharf. But this turned into something much bigger than we figured on.
It took over two years to complete the project as more and more input was brought in by the project’s coordinator, the intrepid Barbara Bennett, past Program Coordinator for the WSU Island County Beach Watchers, now Sound Water Stewards of Island County. By the end we had a whole committee of marine experts, historians, tribal liaisons, writers and community activists. And thanks to this committee and all Barbara’s diplomacy and kind cajoling the project gained focus and a whole lot of depth. Which shows in the amount of detail and the accuracy of the display’s messages.
The trick was to design a way for people to take away as much or little information as they wanted while drawing both kids and their parents into spending time interacting with the elements.
In the end we came up with the concept to tell the story of Penn Cove and its nearby waters through the imaginary words of the creatures that live there, including the tumultuous story of the Orcas captured in the cove during the 70’s. We then backed up these quotes with facts about the creatures and the cove’s unique marine environment.
It’s a lot of information, even once it was edited down. So it was important to organize it for the various types of readers that would be passing through the wharf’s breezeway. There needed to be eye-catching graphics and headlines, that would get the main point home even for those only glancing over as they walked through. There needed to be interactive elements to convert walkers into wonderers–and it needed to give kids enough to do that their parents could afford to read a little text while the kids explored.
“What’s around the other side of this giant tube, what’s that bird saying, what’s under this flap, what’s in this drawer, what’s this button do? What the heck is that skeleton hanging up there?”
And then, once people where hooked, there needed to be enough detailed information to help them learn about the cove and what they can do in their daily lives to protect these waters and waters all around Puget Sound and beyond.
Judging by how many people we see stopping to look and then interact, and then staying to read and watch, I could not be more satisfied with how it’s all working.
In large part this is due to Kris Wiltze’s great illustrations and Dan Pedersen’s writing, which unify the elements of the Exhibit and engage both adults and kids.
I’ll admit I didn’t know what this project was going to grow into when it first came in– the scaffolding and wall anchor weight calculations and paint specs, video screens and the full size paper mockup in our studio, cabinet design and a giant custom wooden tube’s design and yes getting to back my truck to the end of the wharf (Highlight!). It was a heck of a ride.
One of the most attractive elements of the exhibit was also the most challenging. To overcome the disadvantages of a structural post five feet in front of our display wall we all decided to hide it within an eight foot tall, two-foot diameter tube wrapped entirely with a seamless eelgrass mural.
There was no readymade solution for a tube that size, believe me I looked. We floated a lot of ideas and a few test builds before finally landing on something between wooden boat construction and fine cabinetry to do the job. I even ended up building a prototype of the framework to convince myself it could work.
In the end it was worth the effort as the tube defines the exhibit’s space and works like a people magnet pulling them close to see all of the illustration. Nothing like a big beautiful object to capture peoples attention and pull them in.
If your exhibit needs a tube like this, just let us know, we learned a lot and would be happy to design one for you… Maybe we’re the readymade solution for these now!
We owe a HUGE thank you to everyone involved. And special thanks to Barbara Bennett, for bringing us in on the project and being so supportive of our creative efforts.
Thanks also to ADA Signage & Specialties for all the great printing, cutting and installing; Daniel Horsell for the fine work on the tube build; and all those who helped with advice and consulting on this piece.
Hope to see you all out on the wharf.
- Concept design
- Graphic design
- Graphic production
- Production coordination
- Print and vendor coordination
- Mockups and prototypes
- Wall signage design
- Display case design
- Removable display tube design, 2’ diameter, 8’ tall
- Installation, and installation coordination
- Kiosk signs
- Wall signage
- Wall mount reveal
- Vinyl wall art
- Outline cut animal signs (up to 22’ long)
- Vinyl wall art
- Floor to ceiling vinyl art tube display
- Video Screen and control button
- Glass-top display case with 3 reveals and drawer
- Locking corkboard display case
- Brochure rack
- Tube creature key and kids scavenger hunt brochure