Frequently Asked Questions:

What do you do?

We plan and design exhibits. We help institutions and companies articulate their needs, develop goals and design an approach that results in a finished exhibit or media presentation. We do Master Planning; conduct focus groups; do research on any topic; interface with your staff or selected consultants; provide design concepts and solutions; aid in fund-raising; produce construction drawings; write and edit labels; provide graphic design; produce media programs; oversee production and installation.

How long does it take?

Our shortest exhibit took 2 months. Our longest, 6 years. It depends on the size of the exhibit; the amount of work required; the budget; your goals. On average, it is best to have 6-9 months for planning; 6-8 months for design; and 6 months for fabrication and installation for a permanent exhibit of 5 - 15,000 square feet.

What does it cost?

Our fee is based on a percentage of the construction cost of the exhibit as a whole. It ranges from 20-40% of this total cost and depends on whether we are doing all the research and writing or whether your staff is involved; and if we are acting as the General Contractor or not. We can also work on a time and materials basis. One way to get a rough idea of the total construction cost is to determine the available square footage.
  • A 'low-tech' exhibit (few artifacts; no media or computer interactives; primarily graphics; minimal custom cabinetry, no created environments) multiply square footage by $275.
  • A mixed level exhibit (some artifacts in cases; some media including computer interactives and audio; some sculpted figures; custom cabinetry) multiply by $400.
  • A 'high-tech' exhibit (extensive use of media, including custom computer interactives, original media productions; a large number of artifacts or graphics in cases; sculpted figures; custom environments throughout) multiply by $600. There are many ways to cut costs, including the use of local contractors for non exhibit-specific tasks; securing of donated materials and services; using new and less expensive media. We are happy to discuss the options. Media projects are based on the total running time; the medium; the number of shooting days required; rights, research and reproduction fees; computer animation (if any); the intended use. We can provide an itemized quote based on your needs.

How involved do I need to be?

You decide. You can be actively involved in all content and design decisions on a regular basis; or together we can structure regular meetings to make sure your concerns are addressed; or we can schedule more formal design presentations where you review our work. We'll structure our relationship based on the realistic level of involvement you desire.

You can't be experts on everything, can you?

Of course not. But what we are experts in is communication. We become familiar with any topic quickly and, because we are experienced museum professionals, we have a network of consultants with whom we work. We can also work well with consultants that you request. Or we can help to identify any needed experts beyond your own staff if needed.

How do I know that I'll get an exhibit or media piece
that I like?

We provide many mileposts along the way to make sure we are on track. You'll see 'bubble diagrams' and sketches; rough floorplans; models; story boards and outlines; narrative descriptions of the anticipated visitor experience. We'll have meetings and presentations for each step in the process. You'll see samples of colors and finishes; label typefaces and sizes. You will not be taken by surprise at the end.

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What's the difference between a planning and design firm like yourselves, and a firm that does both design and fabrication?

The best exhibits are done by firms that separate these functions from each other. And cost is comparable. Builders do not have the expertise to research and develop concepts or to develop designs whose goal is communication. Builders are experts at taking designs and determining the most cost-effective ways of executing them. You wouldn't want the contractor to design your museum. That's why there are architects.

Is one approach (planning and design vs. design and fabrication) cheaper or better than another?

There are many similarities and some very significant differences between the architectural firm and the exhibit design group. Architects have the responsibility to design structures that function architecturally. They consider traffic flow, utility and aesthetics. Exhibit designers communicate ideas in space. We tell our client's stories. We work to assure that the exhibits integrate within a building. Fit and finish are important concerns of ours. But we place our emphasis on the exhibit content and use of space for the visitor that they 'get' the message we jointly develop with our client. Architects are not trained in this area. And, unlike architects, we are aware of specific museum concerns: preservation, conservation, visitor studies, evaluation, etc.

Should I have all the money needed for the project as a whole in place before I begin any work?

You should have a fund-raising goal, an idea as to the total cost of the project and a plan for how to get there. We need to know the approximate budget available, so we may design accordingly. But you do not need to have everything in hand to begin planning. We can help structure the project into manageable phases. The conceptual design plan we prepare is a road-map that also helps in fund-raising.

How do you work on long distance projects?

Faxes are great; e-mail is even better. And new technologies allow us to post drawings, documents, and streaming video on our web site. We contract for a specific number of meetings, based on our experience of what is needed. We work efficiently and have not found distance to be an issue.

Do you also provide a turn-key solution?

Yes. Here are the different ways projects can be structured:
  • Separate contract for the designer and the builder
  • A joint venture of the designer and builder
  • As a 'turnkey' where we hire the exhibit builder
  • As a 'turnkey' where the exhibit builder hires us
  • Separate design contract that includes the production of a bid document package and the supervising of the selection of a builder based on their response to a Request for Proposals (RFP).

If you have a question that you don't see answered here, feel free to contact us directly at info@tmexhibits.com. We are happy to begin a dialogue about your project, needs or dreams.

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