Time Flies!: Design

Project: Design a display for The Human Body Connection (HBC) that will incorporate 1) a gene-building interactive, 2) a large wax sculpture of the common housefly 3) a module for storing live fruit flies and a movable camera with magnification to view them.

Challenges: The challenge here was simple to state but hard to accomplish: how to cram all this stuff into a predefined (and limited) area and not depart significantly from the design “feel” of the other displays in the space.

Solutions: For the first iteration of this project, I was to fit this exhibit along a straight section of wall. The initial result was, frankly, awful.

I was saved by circumstances when the space into which the display was to fit was moved to the corner of the HBC, resulting in this much-improved design.

Since the display had three major components (mentioned above), it seemed natural to put one on the right side, one in the corner, and one on the left side. I decided to put the fly sculpture in the corner because 1) it was the one major part of the display that was not interactive and therefore required no close approach and 2) the depth of the (already existing) cabinet into which the sculpture must fit made corner placement even more desirable. Since the eye is drawn first to the large fly sculpture, I decided to place the marquee for the display over it. The entire general arrangement of the display fell naturally from the corner placement.

I’m not really crazy about the colors and textures used in the display. They were a compromise between something I thought looked inviting and the exhibit’s manager’s desire to not stray far from the look and feel of other displays nearby.

Some details:

Since the left side of the display is limited by the presence of a column – and I needed every cubic inch of the room this limitation afforded – there was no need to do anything clever with that side. I just brought it up as far against the column as possible and let that be that.

The other side of the display, however, needed some way to find its own natural stopping point. I always hesitate to simply bring a counter space to an abrupt end. This action creates a jarring stopping point that tends to separate the display from the room that it is in. Further – and more practically – it creates 90 degree corners, a thing to be avoided as much as possible considering all the tots scampering about with their heads a mere three feet above the floor. So for this side, I decided to do a large round over to the wall. This creates a great deal of extra work in the carpentry phase (see that section) but is worth it in the long run.

Finally, the design created a large amount of blank space below counter level. This problem was partially alleviated by the cabinet doors needed to access the gadgetry that makes the display work. Still, the doors themselves would have presented a fair amount of blank space that would have made the display clunky, as one of my design friends is wont to say. I needed just a little something to break up the door fronts. I simply broke up the surface of the doors into rectangles with eighth inch wide, eighth inch deep channels. If you’ll notice, the large doors have nine rectangles, the middle doors four rectangles, and the small door is composed of only one rectangle. 1:4:9. Since the exhibit is about genetics, I thought I would use this little design feature to nod at a particular movie about the genetic manipulation of one species by a higher species. Any guesses?