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The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus is one of Denver’s most established and beloved cultural institutions. Consistently listed as one of America’s best museums for kids, The Children’s Museum of Denver recently underwent a massive expansion, more than doubling in size, adding state-of-the-art exhibits and increasing its capacity to host more visitors. The museum made a concerted effort to design new exhibits that were both sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy and engaging enough for children to have fun and learn at the same time. This posed a unique challenge from a signage and wayfinding point of view; how to tie the two wings of the museum together and strike the appropriate balance between old and beloved and new and exciting. The design team was tasked with matching the sophistication of the exhibits in the wayfinding program, while maintaining clear, concise messaging in both English and Spanish. The Children’s Museum also operates as a 501(c)(3) non-profit and had a limited budget with which to implement the wayfinding plan, as well as a significantly constrained project timeline before the grand opening event.
The design team worked closely with the Children’s Museum staff to develop an elegant , yet playful system of signage and wayfinding to integrate the new expansion with the remaining wings of the original museum. Through extensive research and concept development, the design team came up with the idea of using the lines of an Etch-A-Sketch, the ubiquitous childhood toy, as a wayfinding motif that allows users to follow arrows and lines from one exhibit to another. In an effort to include the honest, natural materials that The Children’s Museum used in designing their new exhibits, the design team incorporated wood, mirrored finishes and natural metals to add a timeless, authentic quality to the design, adding pops of color here and there from the museum’s new brand. One of the most eye-catching pieces designed for the new museum expansion is a dimensional origami bird perched on the exterior façade of the building. This bird, based on the museum’s logo is an embodiment of the idea of learning and imagination coming to life, something the museum strives to provide for its guests every day. The project team also designed custom wall graphics to recognize donors, changeable content signage for the new workshop spaces, decorative banners for the parking lot and custom regulatory signage that can be found throughout the site.
The project scope included one 5'7" x 5'0" multi-color, metal, origami bird installed on the building's exterior above the north-facing entrance, 12 restroom graphics with male and female robots, 1 stenciled donor recognition wall supergraphic, 10 wayfinding wall graphics to help visitors get around the Museum, a branded parking lot/street banner program, branded regulatory parking signage, exterior building signage and window vinyl, 3 flat-cut-out aluminum blade signs, 1 mirrored blade sign, 8 hanging wood wayfinding signs, 1 wall-mounted map directory, 35 rules and regulations signs, 1 wall-mounted museum rates sign, 9 changeable content signs for rotating program spaces and 11 stenciled wall graphics. The design team designed and developed the signage and wayfinding program and oversaw the fabrication, implementation and installation of the plan. Part of the services provided were donated to the museum as an in-kind donation.
With rave reviews from the Children’s Museum staff, the project team’s designs pull everything in the museum together, providing cohesion for the existing spaces and new additions, as well as the interior and exterior. The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus has seen a nearly five-fold increase in the number of annual visitors and the in-house exhibit design team and project signage and wayfinding team have collaborated on other children’s museum projects around the world as a result of the accolades this museum received, eventually leading to the first-ever children’s museum being opened in Taipei, Taiwan.