Wild: Amazing Animals in a Changing World, a permanent exhibit at the Melbourne Museum, presents the fragile state of Australian biodiversity, environment, and climate through the display of more than 700 animals from a natural history collection.
Critical to the exhibition’s message of vulnerability, the MV Studios design team created a visual language and information system that utilizes a clear typographical hierarchy and clean design elements. The team devised three fundamental pieces of object labeling information (the animal’s common name, its scientific name, and its conservation status) and used them throughout all communications.
Colors, lines, and brackets highlight the status of each specimen, allowing movement from one status to another and implying that an animal’s status may change between secure and endangered. The use of lines and brackets indicates this shift, with the “extinct” status repositioning the brackets around the word to emphasize an end.
Folding elements, inspired by paper origami and geometrical forms, are used to communicate content on printed panels, multimedia touch screens, and a large-scale projection design. This playful, fluid element reveals information within a multimedia format, in three key areas.
In the large multimedia projection, folded forms are an extension of the interior’s built forms, reshaping and refolding to present moving footage, stills, and exhibition messages.
Three interactive touchscreen “navigators” mimic a live camera feed, allowing visitors to navigate the exhibition and select objects to find out more. These content-rich devices combine footage, photographs, text, maps, and relevant visual elements. The folding design form is used to reveal the interactive interface, allowing visitors to move between layers of information.
Finally, a folding animation acts as an “interactive” object label within the touchscreens, as part of five interpretive, backlit plinths. The plinths highlight particular specimens within geographic regions, to reveal information and a photograph of an animal in its environment. This provides access to all of the 700 creatures on display without any printed labels or object numbers.
A stylized world map with color-coded geographic regions is another critical element throughout plinths and multimedia screens. This element adopts a similar procedure when representing Australia and Victoria in the Victorian spaces. Within the touchscreen interactive navigators, particular regions are cropped to inform visitors about the distribution of species and their geographical locations worldwide.
The design team employed sustainable thinking in their design approach to the exhibition. Existing exhibit components were recycled and reused. Low-impact materials, such as LED light boards, e0 MDF, and reclaimed timber were utilized. The exhibition’s build budget (including graphic design but excluding multimedia) was $400,000.
“Often displayed in inaccessible or overly complex settings, zoological exhibitions rarely connect with the visitor. This exhibit was distinguished by the clarity and visual accessibility of the specimens, supplemented by well-placed typography and a well-ordered system of cases.”
“The raw, exposed display of the specimen is a bold and effective statement about the vulnerability of nature.”
Kathy Fox (producer); Kate Phillips (senior curator); Dot Georgoulas (graphic designer); Richard Glover, Ingrid Rhule, Peter Wilson (exhibition designers)
Jenni Meaney, Stephen Dixon (multimedia); MV Studio, Synthesis (fabrication); ARUP (structural engineers); Whittelsea Glass (glassier); Lumen (interactive touch-table design); Consolidated Graphics (screenprinting); Megafun (interactive touchscreens and navigators)