IDEA Awards 2018 shortlist

IDEA Awards 2018


Our exhibition for the Design Canberra Festival 2017 has been shortlisted in the Event category of the IDEA Awards 2018.

The exhibition opened in November 2017 and ran for three weeks. Well over eight thousand people attended, opening up new audiences for the festival in 2018. Meanwhile, the structures and showcases have found new life in Craft ACT’s ongoing exhibitions.

To check out the full 2018 shortlist, click here. Congratulations to all the shortlisted entries.

Megafauna Central opens

Megafauna Central


We’re thrilled that our latest project is done, dusted and ready for visitors. Megafauna Central has opened in Alice Springs. This new permanent exhibition showcases an amazing collection of unique megafauna fossils from Alcoota, including four jaw-dropping life-size replicas. Shown here is a life-sized Dromornis replica, a Dromornis skeleton and Dirprotodon. We’ll have more images up on this site in the next few weeks. If you’re lucky enough to be in or around Alice Springs, go and check it out for yourself. It’s well worth it.

Museums & Galleries National Awards 2018

The winners of the 2018 Museums & Galleries National Awards were announced this week. We are thrilled to announce that two of our projects won in the best permanent exhibition or gallery fitout category.


Click here to see and read more about our work on this project at Old Parliament House. Better yet, take your kids and experience it for yourself.

Art of Nation

This is an exciting virtual exhibition developed by the Australian War Memorial and Ortelia Interactive Spaces. Working with Maria Mosquera, we designed the visual identity, theme panel and way-finding graphics. We also provided guidance on the colour schemes and how to make it easy and appealing for visitors to navigate through a virtual gallery. Check it out for yourself by clicking here.

Congratulations to both the Museum of Australian Democracy and the Australian War Memorial on your awards. Thanks for having us on the team for these great projects.

Lonsdale Street Pocket Park

Lonsdale Street Pocket Park

The Lonsdale Street Pocket Park has landed. We helped out our friends from the ACT Young Planners with concepts, ideas and strategic guidance for this exciting initiative. From late May to mid-June 2018, one car space outside Hopscotch in Braddon is transformed into a miniature park, complete with seating and greenery. The design is simple and sleek, and there’s not a blade of Astroturf in sight.

This is a place to stop and linger in as you wander up or down the busy street. It takes a small slice of the road away from cars and hands it to pedestrians. Pocket parks reclaim urban space for the public as a community. These spaces have become increasingly popular worldwide. This one is the first for Canberra.

A grant from the City Renewal Authority made it possible and the ACT Young Planners made it happen. In a city centre increasingly dominated by car parks and construction, the Lonsdale Street Pocket Park is a breath of fresh air.

Paddock to Plate opens

Paddock to Plate has opened at Orange Regional Museum. We’ve been developing this design with the museum team and curator Sandra McEwan since September 2017, so we’re thrilled to see it up and running. This absorbing exhibition contains over 300 objects, telling the rich story of food and wine production in the region. There’s also some fun hands-on elements, including an interactive kitchen filled with mysterious kitchen utensils, and a dining table projection showing meals from the 1800s to the present day (warning: it will make you hungry). To read more about it (and watch a video), head to the Museums & Galleries of NSW website. We had a ball visiting Orange during the project, so take this excuse to go and see it all for yourselves.

The Sell: Retail and exhibition design

On now at the National Library of Australia is The Sell: Australian Advertising 1790s to 1990s. It’s a simple and entertaining exhibition which serves up enjoyable doses of nostalgia (Life. Be in it.), laced with moments in history (the 1967 referendum). There are poster ads for politics, products, performances and public health.

I love exhibitions, and it’s hard for me to visit one without analysing the design even as I am taking in the content. The Sell is nicely put together, and the design sits back and allows the content to speak for itself. That content brought to mind something I have been mulling over for a long time—the strong links between retail and exhibition design.

I have worked in both these fields, starting with retail design and then moving into designing exhibitions. I think they share four fundamental elements that designers work with to create successful spaces.

The narrative

Each exhibition is telling a story that has been developed by the curators. It is the job of the designer to interpret that story and translate it spatially. In exhibition design, the story is laid out fairly clearly for the designer through the supplied content.

Retail has its own story that requires interpretation—the brand narrative. This can be easy for the designer to interpret (such as when you are working on store design for a well-established brand), or you may be designing a first store for a fledgling company who are just starting to develop their story.

In either case, the job of the designer is to interpret and embody the narrative in a spatial design that lets the visitor/customer understand it, enter into it, and (hopefully) embrace it.

The products

In a retail setting, the products are on display for sale. Within an exhibition, the objects and content are the products, and they need to be displayed just as effectively. In either case, the display method, the height and angle of display, the order, the labelling and whether or not they can be handled all need to be considered in detail. There is no point at putting products or objects at people’s feet, or up above eye level. The lighting must be right to enhance them and make sure that the labels can be clearly and easily read. It’s the designer’s job to put these items on show in the best way possible.

Visitor flow

This is one of those topics that has been studied endlessly, particularly in the retail industry. It’s fascinating and important on many levels in both retail and exhibition design. Ideally, designing a good layout means understanding and meshing both the way that people tend to move through a space, and the way the client would like them to move through that space. On top of that, there are safety issues to consider, such as the location and availability of emergency exits. All this is simultaneously a science and (still) a complete mystery (if you want to look further into this, read this interesting Malcolm Gladwell piece from twenty years ago. Everything and nothing has changed).

The flow options will of course vary from project to project, but you will always need an entry, an exit and a plan as to the order in which people will progress through the space. It’s also worth noting that in these days of capitalism and funding cuts, an exhibition layout will generally need to funnel visitors out via the exhibition shop. There’s the synergy right there!

Advertising and graphics

Once the spatial elements are worked out, it is the work of graphic designers to help get numbers in the door, and encourage sales or donations. I was amused by how many banners and graphics there were in the NLA lobby selling The Sell. It was way-finding and advertising all in one, and it’s a crucial part of both the retail and exhibition experience.

What are the implications of these fundamental similarities? A number of retail brands (particularly those projecting a high-end narrative) already borrow heavily from the museum playbook (single objects in cases, dramatic lighting, sparse layouts etc.). Meanwhile, museums are becoming more aware of the value in examining and altering traditional exhibition orthodoxies. Exhibitions are becoming more immersive, utilising technology and conceptual design to express the content and highlight the objects. Lessons from retail design can be used to push this even further, particularly around frequency of display changeovers to create impetus to revisit, and taking the idea of dynamic and enticing shopfront displays as a means of drawing visitors in. The similarities are strong, and the possibilities are endless.