During our second year at Seattle Central Creative Academy, we had a Special Topics class where we were give then freedom to choose our own topic, set our own deliverables, and use this class to learn something new or dive deeper into an area of specialty. Over the course of three quarters, my group and I created the Superhero Academy, an interactive pop-up exhibit that dives into the history of comic books through striking visuals, interactive elements, and other moments of delight.
To start with, we needed to learn more about experiential design. We visited several interactive exhibits and met with designers working within this space to gain insight into the process and hurdles to look out for. From there we were ready to start conceptualizing our exhibit. Superhero Academy places the viewer in the footsteps of superheroes and acts as a history lesson for prospective superhero students attending the academy. To establish the look and feel, we developed moodboards, type, and a floorplan for the space we would be using. From there, we user-tested for line lengths, researched best practices for accessibility, and tested the construction of walls, podiums, and interactive elements. We then began sourcing materials, with our small budget in mind, and created elevations and sketches all while researching and writing the content that would populate the exhibit.
Once the content was mostly finalized, we began the huge undertaking of building this exhibit. Between creating illustrations, laying out all of the content, laser-cutting acrylic and felt, developing the interactive quizzes, and mounting and cutting all of the boards, we divvied up the tasks and began preparing for the opening.
The exhibit featured a quiz where were participants were assigned one of three super powers. Once the participant was assigned a power, they were directed to a specified section of the exhibit where they could “test their abilities.” For the power of X-Ray vision, we created red reveal glasses that could be held up to a comic book cover to see the before and after versions of the Comics Code Authority. For the power of intangibility, we created a faux stone wall, made from heat-gunned Styrofoam and spray paint, that participants could pass through. The “stones” were mounted on a magnet sealing screen curtain so that, as they walked through, the wall would seal itself back up. Other interactive elements include laser-cut felt that participants could be arranged to create their own superhero, a Batman vs. Superman voting tube, a prize wheel where participants could get their own superhero backstory, as well as life sized superhero cutouts to pose with that utilized the illustrations I created.
Since we were primarily targeting the Seattle Central student body, we created posters to be plastered around campus, as well as advertised on SCCA's social media. I may, or may not, have also dressed up as Spider-man, and with the help of Kitty Pryde, engaged in some guerilla marketing to drum up excitement. The results from this 10-day exhibit were attendance from the comic books class, a front-page article in the school paper, and positive feedback from attendees. The exhibit was later repurposed in a new space for the 2018 portfolio show.