Creating a New Exhibit: Multiple Vendors or One Comprehensive Design Services Firm?

These days, museums and visitor destinations rarely have in-house designers and fabricators. To create a new immersive exhibit or even casework, museum professionals usually must turn to outside contractors. The choice: Work with multiple vendors or a comprehensive design services firm.

If the museum professional chooses to work with multiple vendors, she may find herself juggling several different firms, each with different personalities to manage and budgets to oversee. Will an architect be needed to work out MEP issues? What about filmmakers to create media? Are the current audiovisual systems sufficient, or will they require an upgrade? For that matter, can the chosen design firm produce detailed construction and/or fabrication drawings for the fabricators and installers to work from? And will everyone “play well” together?

By contrast, working with a comprehensive design services firm considerably streamlines this process for the museum professional and creates cost efficiencies in terms of work flow and budgeting.

Most of the time, the museum professional deals with only one person, a project manager overseeing the project team at the comprehensive design services firm. A one-person contact reduces project demands on the museum professional’s time and allows for quicker answers to questions, as well as quicker resolutions to issues that arise.

With a comprehensive design services firm involved, the project will have only one budget, broken down by service and typically overseen by the project manager. This one-budget arrangement makes it much easier for the museum professional to track the financial aspects of a project.

Creative benefits can also arise from working with a comprehensive design services firm. For example, at Solid Light’s Louisville headquarters, project managers, architects, researchers, writers, designers, media experts, and fabricators are all under one roof. The result? Greater collaboration and free flow of ideas, as well as cost efficiencies in materials selections, since fabricators are involved in meetings throughout the design process.

For reduced demands on time, easier budget oversight, and greater creativity, a comprehensive design services firm can greatly improve the exhibit design experience for the museum professional.