Post contributed by Kelsey O’Callaghan
Last month a group of Fjordians hit the San Francisco streets for some out of the office inspiration at the Exploratorium. Nestled on the San Francisco Bay near the Golden Gate Bridge, the Exploratorium is no ordinary museum, rather an interactive journey that integrates science, art and human perception. It’s an ideal place for people who want to embrace their inner child, and the expansive building houses interactive exhibits in a warehouse-like setting–envision a cross between a physicist’s arcade and artist’s laboratory. It doesn’t take more than a few steps past the entrance to spark curiosity and excitement.
We began our visit by stepping into the “World of Matter” with activities that demonstrate heat, motion and mathematics. We initially moved through the hands-on displays as a small cluster of “test subjects,” which proved to be both scientific and hilarious. We continued to tinker and play among the various themes including: “Life Sciences,” “Sound and Hearing,” “Thinking and Feeling,” and “Light and Optics.”
Each section offered a new realm of information, encouraging engagement through quick, demonstrable exercises. The segment focused on the human mind was particularly fascinating and worth a second visit. It’s an enlightening experience to test your own knowledge–an excellent embodiment of the authentic “designer’s workshop.” As our visit ended, the passage of time seemed the only item left unexplained by the 600+ exhibits.
As veterans of the creative process, it was intriguing to observe the interaction models used at the Exploratorium to communicate across interfaces, both verbal and non-verbal. In true designer form, we did have some critique to offer. Erika Rossi and Sonja Waksan pointed out a desire to ”walk up to an exhibit and immediately engage,” suggesting a more intuitive “out of the box” experience. Currently the displays rely on text instructions, which are often duplicated throughout exhibits in respective sections. This component of the overall service could be easily improved by integrating a more visual instruction canvas. Nevertheless, the overall experience and multi-disciplinary lessons learned made the visit well worthwhile.
The Exploratorium will be moving to the historic San Francisco waterfront this coming year. Given the success of the former, the new location surely warrants a visit for fellow inspiration seekers—we may be first in line to check it out.