Design is the "body language" of visual communication.
Good design in any medium promotes the smooth and effective
transfer or flow of ideas. It facilitates and enhances
the interpretive experience. Incorporating good design
principles allows the audience to easily navigate through
the document, web site, exhibit, or other medium. Poor
design is as bad as a mumbled oral presentation, destroying
chances to convey interpretive messages. This component
introduces some basic principles of design that should
be applied to all visual communication. It also addresses
the distinguishing needs/characteristics of interpretive
design for NPS media products.
At the end of this component, learners will be able
and articulate the characteristics of good interpretive
design for NPS media products;
basic principles of design to a given medium.
Design for NPS media products involves integrating basic
design principles with principles of NPS interpretation,
for the ultimate goal of providing a variety of interpretive
opportunities. Design is a tool for the interpreter
to use to develop relationships between the "things"
or information (tangibles) being presented and the ideas
or meanings (intangibles) they represent. Proper design
applied to the appropriate medium, therefore, offers
the opportunity to facilitate both intellectual and
emotional connections between park media audiences and
Design for NPS media also involves designing for the
visual image continuity and recognition of media products
that represent NPS standards. Just as the ranger uniform
should represent the image of quality personal service
throughout the Service, so should continuity of design
support visual image quality standards for all non-personal
services, from simple signs to elaborate publications,
exhibits, and electronic media.
It is not the intent of this component to develop media
design specialists. However, through exposure to basic
elements of media design, along with the analysis of
a wide variety of applied examples, this component sensitizes
the learner to recognize why some designs are visually,
functionally, and interpretively effective and why some
1. visual elements
2. audio elements
3. mobility/spatial elements
[Portions of this component are based on concepts presented
in The Non-Designers' Design Book by Robin Williams.
Learners will need to refer to it or a similar publication
to understand some of the concepts presented.]
Glossary Proximity: Place related things, such as headings
and related text, close together. Grouping elements
creates a visual unit and helps to organize the information
and reduce clutter.
Alignment: Aligning various visual
pieces of a document ties it together visually. Consider,
for instance, how alignment is used in a unigrid folder.
Repetition: Establishing and then
repeatedly using elements in a piece of media fosters
a comfort level in the viewer. When someone turns a
page in a publication or turns a corner in an exhibit,
they find familiar design elements, typefaces, colors,
and layout that allow immediate continuation of the
experience without the need to reorient.
Contrast: If you're going to make
something different, make it really different. Having
an obvious hierarchy of type sizes, for instance, allows
the audience to quickly scan topics and then, if interested,
move to the next level. Don't make the audience wonder;
make the hierarchy readily apparent.
[above 4 definitions taken from the Non-Designers'
Design Book, Robin Williams]
Balance: Striving for equal portions
of text, graphics, and white space. (Rule of Thirds)
White space: Not space left over;
it is a planned element, a place that allows your eye
to rest; helps to set text and graphics apart from each
other; helps in the organization of elements within
Harpers Ferry Center Planning and Design Database,
Help for the Small Museum. Arminta Neal. Pruett Publishing,
second edition, 1987.
Information Design: Tools and Techniques for Park-Produced
Publications. National Park Service. 1998. Proceedings
based on the workshop of the same name that was held
in December, 1995 at Cuyahoga Valley NRA. The Non-Designers'
Design Book is included as part of the package. Copies
of this book were distributed to every park and central
office in 1998. Additional copies may be ordered from
the Association for Partnerships on Public Lands (APPL).
Interpretive Centers: The History, Design and Development
of Nature and Visitor Centers, Michael Gross and Ron
Zimmerman, The Interpreter’s Handbook Series,
2002. This book contains more than 650 full-color photos
and graphics, and case studies featuring 125 interpretive
Interpretive Process Model, 2002. The Interpretive
Process Model furnishes a sequence of activities with
which an interpreter can develop opportunities for their
audiences to make emotional and intellectual connections
to the meanings of the resource as well as cohesively
develop an idea or ideas that are relevant to the resource
and the audience.
1. Study The Non-Designers' Design Book and the other
materials available in the packet from the Information
Design: Tools and Techniques for Park-Produced Publications
workshop. Do one or two of the exercises suggested in
the book such as: Select an advertisement in your local
newspaper or phone book and, with tracing paper and
pencil, trace the elements in the ad one at a time and
reorganize the design to create a more effective advertisement.
2. Look at a Harpers Ferry-produced Unigrid park folder
and determine where and how each design principle was
applied, and, perhaps, where the principles were intentionally
not applied for effect.
3. Collect a number of rack cards or other print media
from a local tourism center and analyze their effectiveness
in getting your attention. Determine if they are effective
and whether the designer effectively targeted the audience
and applied the principles of good design.
4. Analyze media in your park or at a local museum
to determine how well "form follows function."
On a scale of 1-5 rate the visitor/audience "work
load" -- how difficult is it and how much effort/time
must the visitor invest to "get the message."
5. Analyze a variety of media examples for content-based
design influences which facilitate/enhance the interpretive
message, i.e., an exhibit or brochure about a historic
structure that uses the architectural style elements
of the building as the unifying design theme. Do the
design themes and style elements set a message-enhancing
mood or tone?
6. Analyze the accessibility of various media for audiences
of different ages, cultural backgrounds, physical disabilities,
etc. How could the media be designed to communicate
more effectively to a broader audience?
7. Identify how the design of an existing park brochure
or exhibit organizes the information into a hierarchy
using typefaces, colors, graphic elements, etc.
8. Start a collection of effective publications or
photographs of other media (waysides, exhibits, etc.)
that you can use for future reference.
9. Visit a local or regional museum/exhibit and, using
an example of existing media there, use a sketch, tracing,
or photo of the medium as a starting point, rework the
design based on what you have learned in this component.
10. Adopt the park bulletin board. Rework the design
and rearrange of items using good design principles.
An internal (administrative, lunchroom, etc.) bulletin
board may be substituted if park does not have a visitor
bulletin board. Evaluate whether this has made a difference
in the effectiveness of the bulletin board. Search the
Internet and the World Wide Web and identify several
web sites/pages and evaluate why they attract you. Do
they use good design or just gimmicks?