The Information Architecture Institute
A conference on designing
complex information spaces of all kinds.
New York City, October 4 and 5, 2007

Archive for National Park Service

Audio and some slides

We have audio from every talk, and slides from many of them, free for download. Enjoy!

Day 1

Peter Merholz’ Introduction. Slides (PDF), MP3

Linda Stone. No slides, MP3. Questions and answers MP3.

David Guiney, Designing Across Multiple Media for the National Park Service. Slides to come, MP3
David Guiney, Addressing the Challenges of Designing for the National Park Service. Slides to come, MP3.

Dave Cronin, Art for the public: supporting a visitor-directed museum experience. Slides, MP3.

Jake Barton, Interaction Design in a Physical Space. Slides (PDF), MP3. Jake also showed a few movies during his talk: Building Timelapse movie. Jetblue booth movie. Timescapes sample chapter movie.

Ian White, The Design of Data. Slides (PDF), MP3.

Ali Sant, TRACE: Mapping the Emerging Urban Landscape. Slides to come, Part 1 MP3, Part 2 MP3.

Day 2

Stamen Design, Project Work. Slides with no movies (7.37 MB PPT), Slides with movies (164.78MB ZIP), MP3.
Fernanda Viegas, Democratizing Visualization. Slides (PPT), MP3.
Stamen and Fernanda Question and Answer. MP3.

Dan Hill, The New Media. Slides (PDF), MP3.

Next-Generation Libraries panel:

  • Deborah Jacobs, No slides, MP3
  • Ed Vielmetti, No slides, MP3
  • Paul Gould, Slides (PPT), MP3
  • Question and Answer. MP3

Robert Kalin, O Advantageous Interfaces! Slides (on Rob’s site), MP3.

Bruce Sterling, Closing Keynote. No slides. MP3.

Comments (8)

National parks and design

David Guiney, from the National Park service was up next, in two distinct parts.

In part one, I wasn’t sure in David’s talk how well aimed it was at the audience - my takeaways were glancing blows: how the signage and weatherproof displays at historic and natural sites work to frame what’s seen. WIthout them they’re just landscapes - famrs, fields, mountains. But those little displays carry the heavy burden of context, information and an ad-hoc, single-shot-of-whiskey, taxonomy. People don’t spend much time at those displays, but it colors and frames everything they see afterwards whether they’re aware of it or not.

More than anything else, part one of his talk made me curious about their processes - they clearly thought deeply about their design work, but they have the extra challenge of designing in support of nature, rather than than giving the design work the spotlight. I hoped to hear more in part 2 after the break, and I was right.

Part 2 was framed around 5 themes:

  1. Facts vs. Feelings
  2. NPS with in-house design, or outsourced
  3. No park is an island
  4. Virtual vs. real
  5. Acceleration of quality

David threaded through these topics without a single bulleted point list - most of part1 and part2 were scenes from parks, examples of signage, maps, or interpreative displays, and in part 2, shots of the designers working together to make all those things happen. Instead of giving a case study, David weaved his own tales and experiences as a park ranger in various parks to hint, jab and touch on the themes of those 5 bullet points (which, in an act of smart design, were the same 5 bullets found on the questionaire he handed out).

In looking at the various examples of design work, the examples of NPS maps, the neatly folded gems they hand you when you enter national parks, brough piles of positive memories: I love those booklets and the cartography of those maps. Yet I’d never really thought of them as designed things: they were so functional and essential in my mind that they faded into the experience, as all good design is supposed to do.

Just like the paths and trails themselves, these small bits of design material divide the park in ways that most visitors never even think about, which is amazing (helping people connect with nature) and scary (how do they know they’ve provided the right choices?) at the same time.

-Scott Berkun


What David Guiney from the National Park Service plans on speaking about


Amidst a sea of stars, a personal highlight for me with IDEA is having the National Park Service contribute. David Guiney sent along the outline of what he plans to discuss. I thought I’d share it to tantalize you!

Session 1:
Communicating the Stories of our National Parks
Complex Information and Diverse Media Solutions

The National Park System

  • Natural areas — e.g.,Yosemite NP, Everglades NP
  • Historical and cultural areas — Gettysburg NMP, Cabrillo NM
  • Trail parks and systems — Lewis and Clark Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Recreation areas — Lake Mead NRA, Gateway NRA
  • Special sites — The White House, Statue of Liberty
  • The NPS Message Project

The Palette of NPS Media and Programs

  • Personal services
  • Events
  • Signs
  • Wayside exhibits
  • Museum exhibits
  • Historic furnishings exhibits
  • Publications
  • Brochures and handbooks
  • Park-produced publications
  • Bookstore sales
  • Web sites
  • New media
  • Audiovisual programs
  • Theater programs — new Selma to Montgomery film excerpt

Session 2
Communicating the Stories of our National Parks
The Challenges for Media Professionals

» NPS Innovations in Park Media— Harpers Ferry Center
The Center was established in 1970 to bring media specialists together in one place to share talents and resources. What have we learned from this experiment?

» Centralization (HFC, regions) vs. local control (parks)
In the mid-1990s the NPS shifted power from central offices to parks, making it more challenging to effect develop and enforce national standards in media. Who should set the media standards?

»Government model vs. business model
NPS media professionals are asked to work more like contractors in the private sector, but remain under the constraints of a bureaucracy. How can media planners, designers, and producers thrive in this sometimes contradictory environment?

» Insular model vs. partnership model
NPS sites have always been islands of government real estate within a secure boundary. Now we are more and more dependent on partners and volunteers to greet visitors and develop media. Are park rangers and NPS designers on the way out?

» Information (facts) vs. interpretation (minds & hearts)
Facts have lost favor in the NPS, with more energy going toward relevance and making emotional connections. What is the proper balance between information and inspiration?

» The virtual vs. the real
There have been reports that visitation to parks is declining, perhaps because many people, especially the young, are preoccupied with computers and digital media. Should the NPS be offering lots more digital and virtual experiences, or should we be focusing on providing opportunities to see and appreciate the real things that make up our natural and historical heritage?

Comments (3)

The National Park Service is back on!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote that the NPS had to back out of IDEA. However, I found out last week, and confirmed today, that David Guiney, who has worked at the Interpretive Design Center since the mid-70s, will be able to join us! Considering the scope of their efforts and contribution, they’re getting two programming slots. The first slot will address the breadth of media that the Park Service designs, ranging from brochures and maps to signage and waysides (those contextual signs by the side of a trail), to exhibits in visitors centers.

The second slot will directly address the challenges, questions, and concerns that the NPS faces, such as:

  • What should be centralized, and what should be local?
  • How do we judge and measure audience response?
  • How do we translate the “Ranger Experience” to media?
  • What’s the appropriate balance between information and interpretation?

I’m thrilled to have them back. Their contribution will be immense!


Meet Betsy Ehrlich, from the National Park Service!

Two and a half years ago, I marveled at the high quality and consistency of the National Park Service brochures collected on a southwestern road trip. Poking around the Web, I found they had extensive materials on the designs of their brochures, wayside exhibits, exhibits and museums, and audiovisual media, all tied together with a strong graphic identity.

So, when planning IDEA, I knew I wanted a representative from the NPS to share with us how they are able to maintain such quality and consistency, given the complexity of their charter (380 parks, each of which is run independently, spanning from Guam to Maine, with a range of interpretive needs).

Emailing the NPS, I eventually made contact with Betsy Ehrlich, whom I had the fortune of meeting on Friday. Here she is:

Betsy and I hung out for two hours. She showed me around the Interpretive Design Center, and we talked about the structure of her presentation at IDEA. Among the things that excited me was finding out that her group also manages the training for park rangers — this means they’re not just responsible for media, but also influence the experience visitors have with, if you will, the Park’s customer service representatives. Talk about holistic experience design!

Some behind-the-scenes photos:

Drawer of Brochures

Wall of Graphic Standards


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