Students in FIT’s School of Graduate Studies Exhibition and Experience Design program wrapped up a spring semester chock-full of industry work, creating a trade show for GE and presenting research at a major exhibition design conference.
Sixteen Exhibition and Experience Design students in Pedro Motta’s class spent their spring semester teaming up with Louisville, Kentucky-based designers Deckel & Moneypenny to create a sustainable pop-up shop for GE Appliances. The students took inspiration from the GE Appliances CoCreate center in Stamford, Connecticut, and, after a semester of research, sketching, material selections, design, and prototyping, presented their briefs to the Deckel & Moneypenny team over two days in late April.
The project “inspired us to conceptually explore and deep dive into the unimaginable to reinvent the traditional way we view trade shows,” said Exhibition and Experience Design student Grace Woelkers.
At semester’s end, three more Exhibition and Experience Design students were invited to present research at the annual academic conference of the Society for Experiential Graphic Design, the SEGD Academic Summit, and to publish their work in Communication + Place, the industry group’s research journal.
The students—Naz Ertugrul, Ciera Iveson, and Bhawika Mishra—were among a group of practitioners, academics, and students selected by the SEGD Academic Task Force jury to present master’s thesis research at the virtual conference June 29 and 30. Exhibition and Experience Design Chair Christina Lyons also moderated a conference panel at the summit titled “Narrative Spaces + Interpretive Connectors.”
Ciera Iveson’s thesis, “Seldom Is Heard,” used an exhibit on the history of the cowgirl as an example of making history museums more effective for visitors. A Reno, Nevada, native who comes from a long line of rural Western families, Iveson was very aware of popular misconceptions about the West as well as the role that history museums can play in correcting those biases.
“I wanted to develop a storytelling system that reveals the inner workings and perspectives of historical figures in a way that visitors could see themselves and their stories reflected,” Iveson said.
Using social psychology and education research about how people develop their worldview, Iveson developed a framework for an adaptive storytelling system for a historical exhibit. “Adaptive storytelling” means the exhibit changes in real time based on a visitors’ decisions—for example, in-museum audio that plays based on a visitor’s physical location, or an exhibit that incorporates a choose-your-own-adventure story path that the visitor can control.
Iveson’s framework allows each visitor to an exhibit to achieve emotional connection with a character along with a contextual understanding of their history, time, and place—a combination that Iveson calls “historical empathy.”
Iveson’s research demonstrates that adaptive storytelling can foster critical thinking in visitors, making the new information more accessible to them. This type of storytelling “can incorporate a visitor’s perspective and introduce them to new, and can enable history museums to be a place of active engagement and conversation,” she said.
For Naz Ertugrul’s thesis, the student designed a traveling exhibition, Flow, focusing on female motorsport racers and their future in the sport. The project takes its name from the focused mental state first identified by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In Ertugrul’s thesis, flow becomes a connecting medium for designed experiences from smartphone technology applications to motorsport racing.
“Flow, the exhibition, investigates the activities that are a part of motorsport racing that trigger flow state, as well as activities that impact the mind, the body, and the soul for a wholesome immersive experience,” Ertugrul said.
The exhibition identifies seven intensities, or levels, of experiencing flow and translates them into seven unique multi-sensorial activities for audiences to experience. The exhibit takes aesthetic inspiration from racing iconography and engages the visitor’s mobile device to guide them through the journey.
From a steering wheel to a magnifying mirror glass, “the mobile device and its customized applications become an essential guide in activating the designed setting and enhancing the levels of audience immersion,” Ertugrul said.
Bhawika Mishra’s thesis, “Connected,” explores the influence of social media on society, individuals’ daily lives and day-to-day decisions.
Using a combination of a physical space and digital technology, “Connected” allows visitors to understand social connections and find new ways of connecting in the physical world.
“Social media practices and tools serve as an extension of man’s innate desire to connect in the hybrid space where humans’ online and offline practices intertwine,” Mishra said.
The exhibit homes in on one aspect of social media—the hashtag—and explores it through the lenses of popular culture, human emotions and different demographic groups’ experiences. “Connected” tells the story of the hashtag’s birth on Twitter and its exponential growth to other social platforms, the social and political movements it has helped start, its use in brand and marketing campaigns, and its effects on conversation styles.
The physical structure housing the exhibition consists of large typographically stylized letters spelling the word “connected” that extend into a series of arches, creating a structure that, like social media itself, can reveal and hide the visitor at turns. The exhibition experience uses the subject as a medium to allow them to reflect on the ways they use hashtags and their impact on virtual as well as physical space.
“The framework is guided by how users engage in social media,” Mishra said. “This framework, further applied to exhibition design, can lead to the creation of spaces that allow people to become conscious of their actions online as well as offline.”