Interactive Weather Exhibits

Rarely does exhibit design make headlines. The closest any exhibit designers have come to being household names are Ray and Charles Eames — and they were famous for designing a lot more than exhibits!

It may not occur to much of the public that exhibit designers even exist. Sometimes donors or other stakeholders who have not previously interacted with the museum industry may need some education as to what a design firm is and how a typical exhibit design project proceeds. Flutter & Wow was provided a case study in this need in the form of a design and fabrication project for a suite of interactive weather exhibits for children, funded by a well-known and deeply invested donor.

New exhibits at the Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania in State College, needed to adequately provide interactive opportunities to teach children about the fundamentals of the weather, while being fun and accessible. Flutter & Wow hit the ground running, following a time-tested design process. The design team was happy to have access to leading experts on the exhibition topic, through Accuweather, the sole company supporting the project financially.

We started by surveying existing educational material about weather, especially that which is directed at children in the age range of typical Discovery Space visitors. We identified the central big ideas and the areas where interactive exhibits have greatest potential to illustrate complicated science. And then we roughed out bubble maps, content outlines, and primary exhibit concepts.

When the team came to realize that the donor would be offering more than scientific resources, insisting on providing detailed design feedback and proposing a profuse branding system, we knew we needed to take a step back, reaffirm our process and goals, and manage our relationships delicately. We needed to find a path that respected every stakeholder’s investment but also delivered on the most important goal: interactive exhibits that engage kids of a wide age range on the topic of weather.

We succeeded, by delivering a suite of one-of-a-kind exhibits. From the spinning Weather Bubble that recreates the movements of the Earth’s atmosphere, to Future Forecaster, which lets anyone take on the role of a meteorologist, we incorporated high- and low-tech. We created a custom computer-based exhibit that allows visitors to remix the weather on a big, curved video screen. Spin blocks, sliders and magnets provide a variety of tactile experiences, adhering to our principle of multi-modal learning. We deployed four stations that display up-to-date information about the weather, direct from the donor. And the exhibits included a sufficient number of branding opportunities!

For another example of an interactive children’s museum Flutter & Wow has produced, click here.