HALL OF EVOLUTION
A FRESH NEW LOOK FOR SOME OLD SPECIMENS
Founded in 1857, Michigan State University's campus museum is one of the oldest museums in the Midwest—and some of the exhibits are due for an update. The museum's Hall of Evolution features outdated displays (shown below) with too much small-print text information to be accessible—and though the museum has a lot of fossil specimens, the bulk of visual information is comprised of artists' renditions of what ancient organisms might have looked like. The floor plan and timeline of the exhibit are also confusing and ambiguous, with twelve ill-defined time periods crammed into a small space.
A colleague and I proposed a complete overhaul and update of the exhibit.
We first tackled the concept of the exhibit and geared all of our designs toward an overarching idea of "Evolution: Past, Present, and Future." As a designer with a bachelor's degree in biology, it was important to me that our designs would create optimal functionality in terms of educating visitors. We also wanted to strike a balance between technological and physical implements to provide a varied and enriching experience that would not overload a visitor with screens. In our final concepts, the user would be guided in linear fashion through a series of tactile fossil displays and interactive tools to help them learn not only about evolution as a scientific theory, but also the concepts behind it and how it continues today.
We created a system of branding guidelines and a new color-coded approach, simplifying the exhibit's geological time periods into three main eras. Each section of the new exhibit would feature tactile displays and interactive tools to move visitors through time from the beginning of life to the present day. One such tool (the launch screen of which is pictured below) would teach the visitor about the possible causes for the mass extinction that occurred during the Cretaceous period.
Once the visitor makes their way through the time of the mammals and the emergence of humanity's closest ancestors, they will arrive at the "present" of the exhibit and be able to explore concepts of genetics and biology with games and interactive experiences. A video sample of one of these games is shown below, in which a visitor can play with building Punnett squares to reveal how heredity functions in physical traits.
The last leg of the exhibit, the "future," features a virtual reality experience for visitors to explore the possibilities of evolution and interact with creatures from all geological eras to see how human influence would affect their ability to survive.
This exhibit overhaul, to me, reflected what I think is one of the most important uses of design—its ability to educate.