Posted October 9, 2018
Concept Cars, Fender Guitars and Ohio Champion of Sports
Guest post by Ly Foor, Manager of Visitor Studies, Ohio History Connection
What do these three things have in common?
- Honda Motors designing concept cars to showcase their newest technology.
- Fender Guitars using 3d printing to develop new guitar designs.
- Ohio History Connection creating paper mockups to build the Ohio Champion of Sports exhibit.
Answer: They are all prototypes that are used early in the design process to help guide and, hopefully, improve the “product” before it goes public. Prototyping is used to gauge audience reaction – public interest in new car technology, better solutions for musicians, or how to engage visitors. While the “products” are different, audience understanding and reaction is critical to assure that the audience takes away something meaningful from their experience.
We use prototyping before finalizing an exhibition, like Ohio– Champion of Sports, and opening it to the public. By building exhibit prototypes out of inexpensive materials– like paper or cardboard – we can solicit feedback from potential visitors and make adjustments to the layout, scope and design of the exhibit to reflect their comments.
The process begins with exhibit designers and developers identifying specific questions or concerns about the proposed exhibits. For example, as we are planning for our Ohio–Champion of Sports exhibit we wanted to understand more fully how visitors might react to specific components of the exhibit by seeing visitors actually engaging with these exhibit components.
Ohio History Center visitors were chosen at random to run through these prototype exhibits last spring. Over the course of several days, they were asked about the attractiveness, usability and practicality of several exhibit components. What was great about this process is that once we learned what was effective and what needed to be changed, the specific activity could be changed quickly and retested. As a result of this iterative process, several problem areas were identified and resolved.
Prototyping is a critical component of a successful exhibit. It helps designers and developers understand their audiences’ interests, knowledge and preferences in a given exhibit. For our curators, exhibit designers and others involved in exhibit design, it helps them optimize each phase of the exhibit process from the design to building stages. Most importantly, prototyping contributes to an enjoyable, well organized and informative experience.