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After accumulating a vast collection of historical memorabilia, Minnesota Vikings (Minneapolis) leadership engaged the Dimensional Innovations (Overland Park, Kan.) team to design intergenerationally appealing and interactive exhibitions at the new Vikings Museum.
The Minnesota Vikings football team boasts a rich history dating back to their first season in 1961. After accumulating a vast collection of historical memorabilia, Vikings leadership defined a need for a space to showcase commemorative displays and capture incredible moments in Vikings history—and share them with new generations of fans. The Minnesota Vikings Museum, which opened in July 2018, is an anchor point of the larger Viking Lakes development, a practice facility as well as mixed-use development for the community, in line with the trend in team facilities to create a year-round attraction for fans in the greater community. The Vikings Lakes development in Eagan, Minn. just south of Minneapolis is planned to continue to grow with the addition of office space, multi-family housing, a conference center hotel, retail and restaurants.
This new retail and gallery spaces were envisioned to be the center point of all things Vikings—highlighting current players, great moments in team history and providing a gathering space for events. When brand leadership decided to put the museum project in motion, they naturally approached their collaborator on the 2016 Vikings Voyage project—experience design and build firm, Dimensional Innovations. Both the client and design side brought significant teams to the two-year-long project: From the Vikings there were sponsorship, marketing and branding professionals in addition to writers and archivists, and DI supplied experiential and exhibition designers, creative directors, interactive technologists—and an entire fabrication and install crew.
The project brief not only centered around creating an adaptable, multi-use space—it was also very important to create exhibits that would engage the widest range of fans possible. The DI team worked several months helping the Vikings team define the vision and what was possible from experience, budget and schedule. “The challenge was appealing to a broad audience and making sure a 10-year-old, who has yet to attend a game, had just as much fun as a 70-year-old diehard fan reliving their own Vikings’ memories,” says Scott Dawald, managing director of Dimensional Innovations Minneapolis. “They also wanted the space to be able to evolve over time, to allow new pieces to be incorporated in order to keep the experience fresh.”
As the design process progressed, it became clear the Vikings had a substantial number of special content pieces—both physical objects and media—which began to expand the footprint of the museum and, as that happened, the idea of having a large flex space became a lesser priority. Simultaneously, the role of storytelling in the project continued to increase; sharing stories unique to Vikings football stars and familiar to Minnesotans as local legend in a creative and engaging way was paramount. “We wanted to speak of the cold and toughness and fighting spirit that the Vikings represent,” recounts Jeremy Williams, executive creative director at Dimensional Innovations. “We worked closely with the client’s writing staff to build stories around these ideals and the artifacts that illustrate them.”
Dawald explains that in the early days of the NFL, teams didn’t catalog or keep uniforms or memorabilia, so the design team worked partially in parallel with archivists—sourcing artifacts was a challenge at times. Another challenge was finding a clever solution for the problem of flexible event space, which led the team to explore numerous ways the lobby could open to the museum space within the constraints of the space and budget, before landing on an enormous bifold aircraft door. During museum functions, it’s down and provides control to the admission space, but for an event, the door allows for transparency, flow and lines of sight. Flexibility is built into the displays as well; the frames are set on platforms that can be moved and changed as collections grow.
The exhibits themselves are designed to engage at various levels, from the casual viewer to the mega fan who takes a deep dive into content and from text headlines to audio, video and interactive media. A set of personas developed with the client group helped in creating a hierarchy in the design of this layered experience, which opens with “Frozen in Time Columns,” a series of stunning faceted glass fixtures that evoke cascades of ice and display retired team jerseys—a surprise Instagram favorite.
Next, visitors are drawn into an interactive, “Vikings in the NFL Hall of Fame,” a wall featuring players in the Hall of Fame that employs a singular activation point: a pressure-sensitive football in a cast of each players hand that visitors touch to activate a screen above that plays a short video of the player’s career highlight and stats. “It’s such a cool thing—instantly everyone wants to put their hand on it—and then they realize the screen comes to life!” Dawald says excitedly.
Another wall is truly covered in footballs: The “Historic Game Ball Wall” is a collection of footballs from notable games mounted with lights behind each, turned on by a selection on the touch panel in front of the display. In the interface, users can choose a football and bring up the story of that notable game and additional information about that moment in time. Users can also search by athlete to light a game ball from that athlete. Dawalt describes it as “an interesting development of the layered story idea.” The team wanted to give visitors a broader sense of the story connections through the ball to the game, the time and players.
This weaving of connections between the players, game and supporters through innovative uses of technology is played out in several interactives, from the relatively simple audio experience “Vikings Coaches” to a media touchscreen “Greatest Plays Interactive” and finally in the “50 Greatest Vikings,” an interactive book experience. Williams tells us the interactive book was a concept that from early in the project. “We wanted to create a theatrical digital display where you could turn the pages of a book as you wave your hand above it,” he says. The large, animated, rear-projection illuminated acrylic book has a decidedly lively appeal to it; visitors can walk up and scroll through the pages of Vikings history, the stories and bios of their 50 greatest players and more, using simple gestures.
In the center of the exhibit space is a large 360-degree theater that also functions as an interactive—between showings of a video developed by the inhouse DI team in partnership with the Vikings—in social media mode, visitors can input their thoughts and memories of games and it will display them on the curved projection-mapped wall using #VikingsMemories. The opportunity for engagement via social media moments resurfaces outside the theater with a photo-op called the “Gatorade Wall,” that captures an iconic moment of a victory celebration and allows visitors to be able to insert themselves into the action.
The project’s goal was to create an anchor for the development and tie the Vikings brand not only to history and the fan base, but also into a true community amenity—a goal which the DI and Vikings team met and exceeded. And, they achieved the further goals of flexibility in the space through the use of the bi-fold door and through the exhibit design itself. “By creating a truly modular display platform, we were able to streamline future artifact additions and rotation while minimizing cost to the client,” says Williams. “On the digital side, our custom CMS allows for quick updates to stories, images and video.”
The design team believes their greatest achievement of the project, however, was creating a space that engages football fans and casual visitors of all ages through a layered-experience that evolves year after year.
Project Name: Vikings Museum
Client: Minnesota Vikings
Location: Eagan, Minnesota
Open Date: July 2018
Project Area: 23,949 sq ft
Architect: SRA Architects
Experiential Graphic Design: Dimensional Innovations
Design Team: Jeremy Williams, Scott Dawald (creative direction); Samantha Davis, Larry Fulcher (wayfinding, exhibition and placemaking design); Monica Roesner, Chris Riebschlager (exhibition and interactive experience design)
Fabrication and Digital Integration: Dimensional Innovations
Photography: Alex Grigsby, Dimensional Innovations