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Considering a Lobby Exhibit?
Here Are Some Things to Think About

September 12, 2019 • Sara Eagin

Corporate exhibits come in many shapes and sizes. Over the years, they have included everything from oil portraits of leaders to corporate art collections to decorations in conference rooms and hallways. Recent trends include historical displays in lobbies and courtyards.

One of the best times to develop a corporate lobby exhibit is during a move or renovation, when you are already changing up the space. Authentic content and storytelling provide value far greater than standard artwork or corporate headshots. If you are moving, about to start a renovation, or just looking for ideas on how to decorate, here are some things to consider when adding an exhibit in your corporate lobby.

New Space? Plan Ahead

If you’re developing a new space, planning ahead gives you a lot more flexibility than adding exhibits once you’ve moved in. Creating exhibit areas while you’re building out or renovating your lobby will save money and hassle.

Think through the content before you just start adding exhibit cases or graphic panels. Determine what messaging and content you want to highlight, and then plan out the necessary spaces and hardware accordingly. Are you adding technology? Place electrical outlets in strategic locations and make sure touchscreens are mounted at an appropriate height and not blocking a main walkway. Got artifacts? Build cases that are flexible enough to accommodate objects of various sizes. In the future, you may want to display a big trophy—or a small certificate. Is there a large, iconic item you just have to include? Use that as a centerpiece for content or navigation and plan the space and traffic around it.

Use flexible types of structures and hardware to allow for updates over time. You don’t know what additional items you may want to highlight in the future, so don’t box yourself in with a strict layout. You may regret it later.

HarperCollins was renovating its new headquarters when we planned out its lobby exhibits, allowing us to build in large, custom bookcases to showcase its authors’ works.

Content Beyond Decoration

While a new lobby exhibit does help decorate the space, the content can support larger initiatives when it’s done properly, helping to authenticate your brand and story. Visually, the displays can support or reinforce your brand identity. Objects add authenticity and color. Stories can demonstrate longevity in the face of turmoil or leadership turnover. In a new building, an exhibit can reinforce your culture in the midst of change.

USAA’s lobby exhibits feature the uniforms of members and employees to authenticate their stories.

Keep Them Coming Back

Any exhibit, regardless of the content, will become invisible if displayed long enough. Be sure the material presented balances internal and external audiences: Your visitors and prospects want to know what you do, and your employees want details beyond that. Meet both needs by blending high-level explanations and additional information. Add interactives where appropriate to allow people to linger and process the information. Passive exhibits only get so many glances before everyone just starts ignoring them.

Make a realistic plan to update the exhibits to keep them fresh and renew people’s interest. A realistic schedule will depend on your industry and messages. Don’t strive for weekly updates of physical displays. Annual or quarterly updates are more reasonable. Digital content can be updated monthly, weekly or even daily, as applicable.

Ferguson Enterprises has a news and accolades wall that is updated quarterly.

The Answer Isn’t Always Digital

New exhibits don’t have to involve slapping a screen on the wall. Authentic artifacts from your past can be far more compelling than pictures on a screen. Find ways to display actual items, not just text and images on a screen, to tell your stories in the most compelling way.

That said, digital offers an opportunity for interactivity and participation that isn’t available with artifacts—but only if done well. We look at screens all day, so you must offer something different and compelling on exhibit screens.

Real-time data visualization, survey results, news and event updates, and even games are fun and interesting—and they can’t be easily replicated in print displays.

At AEP, we mixed static graphics highlighting the company’s history with digital interactives offering real-time energy use data and games to keep visitors and employees checking back.

Your lobby is an ideal place to highlight your heritage, as long as you plan ahead. Before you run off and start installing exhibit cases and touchscreens in your lobby, start with the “what” and “why” of your message and develop displays that will work both now and in the future. These rules don’t just apply to lobby displays. Other places beyond your lobby offer great options for displaying heritage and culture and weaving your messages throughout your building.

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