Explorable – Layout Development


Before launching into more designs, I took some time to study the content of our exhibition in more detail. I broke down the core elements of Colin’s work, and the content from our interviews into five main sections:

  • Inspiration and Childhood
  • Transitions; from art college to design firms, from design firms to painting
  • Belfast paintings and reflection paintings
  • Portraits
  • Silent Testimony

In my previous research about curating galleries, I learnt the importance of creating goals or themes in a gallery. In lieu of this, I thought up a couple of themes or approaches to take:

  • A timeline approach 
    • This approach brings the participant on a chronological journey through his life and work beginning with early days and inspiration.
  • A feature approach
    • This approach would feature popular pieces at the center, and have opportunities for the user to explore other areas off to the sides.

These clear guidelines gave me two strong directions for developing the ideas.

Timeline Approach

In my previous tests I found that a forward facing design worked well for the participant experience. With this in mind I began designing some new environments.

I immediately found that the linear layout felt better; the path down the center allows the participant to see elements of each step of the way, without giving too much information away or crowding the experience. 

Silent Testimony

The gallery space for Silent Testimony was something that I was in two minds about. It’s a powerful exhibition about people who have lost close family or friends in the troubles. In real life, the exhibition had a beautiful stillness about it; the gallery room fell quiet as you entered and viewers were very respectful of the space. Knowing this, I was hesitant to merely slot a few images from Silent Testimony in the linear open space – I feel that it needs space, physically and emotionally, for the viewer to take in the work.

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I decided to add a small side room onto the space, to see if the gallery would feel appropriate there. I first created walls around the space but it didn’t fit into the open environment. Removing walls, adding stand alone paintings and front panels (which would be title panels) worked much better. Whatever way it’s incorporated, I feel that the Silent testimony element needs to feel slightly isolated from the other work.

Feature Approach

This set of layout tests places Colin’s most popular pieces as a featured gallery in the center of the exhibition. The spaces to the sides would then host supporting content. This content would be grouped in three prongs:

  1. Colin’s inspiration from the past (Left Gallery)
  2. How this influenced Colin’s most popular work (Center Gallery)
  3. Present Exhibition of Silent Testimony (Right Room)

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This approach tests out a smaller layout which shortens the length of the experience for the participant. In the design of the space, I am wary that virtual reality can be overwhelming to be immersed in for a long time. The close proximity from gallery to gallery would give the participant the opportunity to see most of the exhibition is a short space of time.

The danger of this approach is that there’s not enough to see. It could be boring, as every aspect of the exhibition is viewable from the first moment the participant enters it. My previous research shows that anticipation is a core principle in good came and spacial design, and I feel that this approach there is not enough of it. For that reason, we are going to continue the development of the timeline approach.


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