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Designing for Exhibitions

Designing for exhibitions
Designing for exhibitions

Written by
Rachel Jillions
Published date
11 April 2014


A PhD Colloquium exploring the roles of design in exhibitions and exhibition making.

This one-day colloquium seeks to create a platform for the discussion of current PhD research in the area of exhibition design, and to initiate dialogues on questions including: What is exhibition design? Who are the designers, producers, makers and authors of an exhibition? What part does design play in museum and exhibition making? What is the role of the designer? How are these positions evolving with changing interpretation and display strategies? What is the relationship between design and content, between design and object? What is the connection between the designer and the curator, the institution, the visitor? The colloquium is held in association with the “Chaos at the Museum” conference, organised by Central Saint Martins and The University of California Davis.

25 April 2014
9:15 – 17.30
Room F104
Central Saint Martins
Granary Building
1 Granary Square
London, N1C 4AA

Please note that the colloquium is now fully booked. If you would like to be placed on the waiting list, please email Jona Piehl at
Follow our conversation on Twitter @DesigningForEx #exhibitCSM


9:15 Registration

9:45 Welcome

10:00 – 12:00 APPROACHING

From Tutankhamun to the First Emperor: A Narratological Analysis of Exhibition Design at the British Museum
David Francis (University College London)

Think – Feel – Do: Designing for Visitor Experiences
Toni Roberts (RMIT Melbourne)

When the Designer Designs their Own Exhibition: Thoughts about the Scenography of the Retrospective Exhibition of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, “Momentané”, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 26 April – 1 September 2013
Brigitte Auziol (Université de Nîmes/Université d’Avignon et des Pays du Vaucluse)

The Exhibition as Experience
Donna Loveday (Kingston University/Design Museum, London)

12:00 – 13:30 Break

13:30 – 15:30 STAGING

Between Bodies: Designing for Material Proximity in Medical Exhibitions
Ane Pilegaard Sørensen (Medical Museion, Copenhagen)

Shop the Museum: Designing Exhibitions about Consumer Culture
Mario Schulze (University of Zurich)

Exhibiting the Norwegian Roma: Discussing the Visitor as Scenographic Material
Annelise Bothner-By (Oslo National Academy of the Arts)

Polish Exhibition Design: Reframing the Past and Designing the Future on the 30th Anniversary of the Polish People’s Republic
Kasia Jezowska (London)

15:30 – 16:00 Break

16:00 – 17:30 PERFORMING

Between Exhibiting Design and Designing Exhibitions: Notes from the Field of Graphic Design
Maddalena Dalla Mura (Free University of Bolzano)

The Exhibition as Speculative Design: Gillian Russell in conversation with Onkar Kular
Gillian Russell & Onkar Kular (Royal College of Art, London)

Organised by Jona Piehl (CSM)
Assistance: Claire M. Holdsworth (CSM)
Design: Francisco Laranjo (LCC)


David Francis
David Francis is interested in narrative, museum interpretation and visitor behaviour. He has worked in the visitor studies field since 2005, beginning as a research assistant at Chester Zoo, where he experimented with different ways of capturing how visitors engaged with the zoo’s exhibits and their inhabitants. Since 2007, he has worked at the British Museum as an interpretation officer and audience advocate on multiple exhibitions including Shah ‘Abbas Remaking Iran, the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam and Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. In 2011 he began a PhD at University College London, which explores the relationship between the British Museum’s exhibition narratives and the narratives that visitors bring with them as part of a museum visit. He holds a Masters in English Literature from Leeds University, where he focused on analysing the narrative structure of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Toni Roberts
Toni is a practitioner and researcher in the design of interpretive exhibits and environments for zoos, museums and public spaces. Toni’s PhD thesis, ‘Interpretation Design: building knowledge from practice’ (2013) examines interpretation design as an emerging practice undertaken in collaborative interdisciplinary teams. Drawing on practitioner knowledge gathered through interviews and qualitative case studies, this research investigates various impacts on the designer’s role, how design contributes to visitor experiences and the defining characteristics of interpretation design. The research supports practice by providing theoretical and practical frameworks for planning and critique and contributing to the development of a shared vocabulary for articulation of designer knowledge. A basic model of the foundations of interpretation design encompasses design approaches, techniques and types. A typology of design outcomes illustrates the designer’s use of cognitive, affective and physical modes of visitor engagement. Toni’s current and recent collaborative projects include: Royal Australian Mint Gallery Enhancement and content framework, Werribee Open Range Zoo Entry interpretation design, Whittlesea Bushfire Memorial, Te Wao Nui interpretation design for Auckland Zoo and the World Heritage Exhibition Centre for Mount Tomah Botanic Garden.

Brigitte Auziol
Brigitte Auziol is a design teacher at the Université de Nîmes and a 3rd year PhD Candidate in ‘Information and Communication Sciences’ at the Université d’Avignon et des Pays du Vaucluse, Culture & Patrimony doctoral school, UMR 8562: team Culture & Communication, Norbert Elias Centre, under the direction of professor Marie-Sylvie Poli. Her research entitled ‘La médiation du design par l’exposition’ (The mediation of design through exhibition: forms and intentions) focuses on the exhibition as a place that showcases design and can help to analyse its manifestation. Prior to undertaking this research, she graduated from the Ecole nationale Supérieure des Arts décoratifs, Paris (1996) and holds a Master Auteur, rédacteur multimédia from the Université Montpellier 3, Ecole des Mines d’Alès (2003). Brigitte is interested in the reality of exhibitions as a practitioner and teacher of design. The recent appearance of design in public spaces has established alternative cultural status for design in society. The exhibition is a place that glorifies design and can help to analyse this phenomenon. Her research has two goals in identifying, classifying, and analysing types of exhibition design: to better understand the nature of what is exposed as design and to explore its meanings.

Donna Loveday
Donna Loveday is Head of Curatorial at the Design Museum, London. She curates design and fashion exhibitions and oversees the museum’s MA Curating Contemporary Design, run in partnership with Kingston University. She also has responsibility for the Design Museum Collection and Archive. Donna was previously Head of Exhibitions at the Design Museum, and managed the temporary exhibitions programme and curatorial team. In 2002, she established a successful international touring programme at the Museum. During her twelve years at the Design Museum, Donna has curated a number of high profile exhibitions including ‘Verner Panton: Light and Colour’ (1999); ‘Modern Britain 1929-1939’ (1999); ‘When Philip Met Isabella – Philip Treacy’s hats for Isabella Blow’ (2002), ‘Saul Bass’ (2004); ‘Somewhere Totally Else: The European Design Show’ (2006); ‘Matthew Williamson: 10 years in fashion’ (2006); ‘Hussein Chalayan – From fashion and back’ (2009); ‘Christian Louboutin’ (2012) and ‘Hello, My Name is Paul Smith’ (2013), and is in the process of curating an exhibition on ‘Women, Fashion and Power’ due to open in October 2014. Before joining the Design Museum, Donna was Exhibitions Manager at the British Film Institute and Exhibition Organiser at Barbican Art Gallery where she curated fine art and photography exhibitions including ‘Eric Gill: Sculpture’ (1992) and ‘Impressionism in Britain’ (1995). Donna has a research interest in contemporary curating practice and is currently studying for a PhD by Practice at Kingston University, ‘The Exhibition as Experience: Research and Practice in Contemporary Design Curating’. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Ane Pilegaard Sørensen
Ane Pilegaard Sørensen graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design in 2010, where she specialized in Exhibition Design. Since 2011 Ane has been employed at Medical Museion in Copenhagen, partly involved in practical exhibition making and partly doing research on exhibition design and medical science communication. In November 2013 she started her PhD project entitled ‘Body, Museum, Medicine – spatial-material strategies in exhibition design’ at Medical Museion. This PhD project is practice based and is conducted at Medical Museion (Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen) in collaboration with The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Design. Prior to her affiliation with Medical Museion she worked in the field of art exhibitions at The National Gallery of Denmark and Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art. Ane’s research deals with spatial and material qualities in exhibition media. This research explores how to utilize these qualities in exhibition design and how exhibitions might address a richer complex of sensory modalities, rather than just the focused eye. She is especially concerned with the interconnection between visual and tactile sensory modes, and how they supplement each other in the perception of exhibition displays.

Mario Schulze
Mario Schulze is a full-time PhD-Student at the University of Zurich, conducting research into the history of museum exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland (1960-2000). Mario is funded by the German National Academic Foundation and teaches the history of museums at the University of Zurich and the Humboldt University Berlin. His research focuses on the intertying fields of knowledge, museums and consume. He is interested in the recent history of material culture and architecture and blogs about exhibitions on Mario holds a Magister Artium (the German equivalent to a Masters degree) in Cultural Studies, Philosophy and Sociology from the University of Leipzig in 2010. He has worked for various institutions that exhibit ‘history’ such as the Holocaust Center of Northern California (San Francisco), the Roman Museum of Basel Augusta Raurica and the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum in Leipzig (Branch of the House of the History of Germany) as well as the German Historical Institute in London. In 2012 he had a residency at the Museumsakademie Joanneum in Graz.

Annelise Bothner-By
Annelise Bothner-By is a research fellow within ‘exhibition design’ at the Faculty of Design, Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Her research fellowship is organized and funded by The Norwegian Artistic Research Fellowship Programme. This is an equivalent to an academic PhD, with the specific feature that its outcome should be artistic work accompanied by a critical reflection. Bothner-By’s research project is concerned with the visitors’ spatial presence and social interaction within the exhibition space, and how the visitor is part of this situation. She explores the transitions between the visitor as social actor and a narrative element. She conducts this practice-based research through site-specific designs in collaboration with Oslo City Museum, the Cultural History Museum and The Natural History Museum in Oslo. She is an educated interior architect MNIL, with 10 years practice as an exhibition designer, and holds as additional bachelors degree in ‘Pedagogy, History and Cultural Ethnology’.

Kasia Jezowska
Kasia Jezowska curates, writes and lectures about design and exhibitions. She graduated from the joint MA in Curating Contemporary Design at Kingston University/Design Museum and completed an MA in History of Art at the University of Łódź, Poland, with a dissertation about recent Polish design displays. Her current research, initiated at the Royal College of Art, examines Polish design exhibition history after the Second World War. She also works as an Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins and the University of Arts, Poznań.

Maddalena Dalla Mura
Maddalena Dalla Mura carries out research in the fields of graphic design, design history and museum studies. She holds an MA in Preservation of the Cultural Heritage and received her PhD in Design Sciences from the Università Iuav di Venezia in 2010, with a thesis on design and museums. She served as assistant curator for the exhibition Graphic Design Worlds, curated by Giorgio Camuffo and held at the Triennale Design Museum in 2011. In 2012/2013 she collaborated as a researcher at the Faculty of Design and Art at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, investigating the relationship between graphic design, the exhibition context and curating. Recent publications include:  Graphic Design Worlds/Words (co-editor with Giorgio Camuffo; Electa, 2011); chapter “A Historiography of Italian Design” (with Carlo Vinti) in Made in Italy: Rethinking a Century of Italian Design (Bloomsbury, 2013); “Graphic Design, History, Italy” a special issue of the magazine Progetto Grafico (co-editor with Carlo Vinti, Aiap, 2013); Graphic Design, Exhibiting, Curating (proceedings of the conference of the same title, organised in 2012; co-editor with Giorgio Camuffo; bu,press, 2013).

Gillian Russell
Gillian Russell is a designer and curator whose projects centre on the interplay between design and its critical contexts. She is co-founder of the design think tank, and since 2006 has been Senior Tutor in the MA Curating Contemporary Design Programme at Kingston University, London (run in partnership with the Design Museum, London). She is completing a PhD in Design Products at the Royal College of Art, London. Her research addresses the relationship between emerging design practice and museums, and is being undertaken as part of an AHRC funded collaborative doctoral award with the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Onkar Kular
Onkar Kular is a British designer and artist based in London. His work is disseminated internationally through exhibitions, workshops, lectures, film festivals and publications. He combines his own practice with research and teaching at the Royal College of Art in London, where he runs a teaching unit in the Design Products Department. Recent exhibitions include Risk Centre with Inigo Minns, an installation at the Architecture Museum in Stockholm. I Cling to Virtue with Noam Toran & Keith R. Jones, an installation at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2010. Other projects include The MacGuffin Library (with Noam Toran & Keith R. Jones), 2008 and Elvis Was Here, 2008.