Exhibition design briefs and the emperor’s clothes

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With quite a of lot of client briefs having plopped through our letter box over the last year, may I add our own straw poll analysis to the museum and exhibition design debate (DW 21 August).

Of the easy to work with, I would like to nominate both the Natural History Museum and English Heritage for their well-researched and succinct tomes, with enough stimulating market research (usually with the Susie Fisher Group’s name on it) to get the most out of a designer.

The questionable briefs have usually been of the Laurel and Hardy variety, either far too voluminous or the lightweight back-of-an envelope variety, all with the common theme of a request for a free pitch on no more than 20 pages of A3 and no mention of some of the basics – such as projected target audience or educational objectives.

The year’s most memorable stinker was from a client mid-way down the M4, whose nicely designed museum building had been already drawn up. The client was now looking to fill it with an unpaid pitch from 16 design companies, all competing for the mouth-watering prize of a 3000 feasibility study. This might be called a bit of bare-faced cheek.

It seems that, when looking for a good pair of briefs, it pays to shop at one of the well tried market leaders, be it Marks & Spencer or whoever.

Mark Magidson

Creative Director

Exhibition Plus

London NW11

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