Two Secrets to Success with your Interpretive Design Contractors
At Erica Fielder Studio (EFS), we pride ourselves on our relationships with you, our client. We see your project through from start to finish—helping you identify engaging themes, assisting with research and image choice, crafting lucid, personal text, and working with the fabricator to make sure the process goes smoothly. Our nearly 30 years of experience in working with various institutions and government agencies gives us breadth of knowledge about the process and the foresight to anticipate problems before they happen. In short, we never leave you in the lurch. The results of a thoughtful collaboration like this are beautiful, attention-getting interpretive displays that touch your visitors’ intellects and their hearts.
However, our larger mission is to help make interpretive displays everywhere the best that they can be. Whoever you hire as your interpretive design contractor, we want your displays to inspire and educate your visitors, and we want you to be proud of them.
With that in mind, we’d like to let you in on a couple of secrets from our side of the aisle about getting the most out of your contracted work.
First Secret: Reputation Matters
Always, always check references. These days, many large design firms and inexperienced graphic designers are going after contracts they never would have bid on before the economic downturn. You might page through a glossy portfolio, full of bold designs and dazzling imagery, and think, “We can have this!”
But hold on a sec. Sometimes, projects that make for great portfolio pieces don’t work out so well in real life — that fancy design might not have communicated effectively, the content may have been inaccurate or poorly presented, or the installation may have been wildly expensive. A design firm’s former and current clients can tell you much more about what it will be like to work with that firm than any glossy portfolio. (A reputable exhibit design firm will likely have a client list on their website for you to browse.)
What should you look for? Good designers are good problem solvers. A design should be tailored to your audience, your interpretive goals, and the unique situation of your site. When you request work samples, ask the firm to specify what challenges they faced with each project and how their design work addressed those challenges. Request a point-of-contact for each project, and don’t neglect to call those numbers.
Second Secret: Fool-proof your RFP
The success or failure of your project may hang on the specificity of your Request for Proposal (RFP). It’s vital that you spell out, as clearly and completely as possible, what your project requires. If you use a bidding process, the RFP is the place to put these details. If you’ve already chosen a contractor, list your project’s specifications in a contract or a Statement of Work.
Do you expect your displays to have original artwork? Maps? Do you expect your contractor to supply text for the displays? Do they need to be vandal proof and last for more than ten years? Be as detailed as you can in your specifications. Otherwise, a contractor who hasn’t included the cost for these items in their estimate may win the bid.
To help you map out your project’s needs, we’ve created two checklists, downloadable from our website. Use our Budget Builder Checklist to confirm that your budget includes all the crucial aspects of your project. Then, as you’re working on your RFP, use our RFP Checklist to make sure you supply bidding contractors with all the pertinent information they need to provide you with an accurate estimate. Whether you work with us at EFS or you choose someone else, we’d like your interpretive displays to accomplish your goals and create an experience that’s both memorable and educational for your visitors.