Creation of products (and souvenirs) for the museum shop
When I was about eight, I took a school trip to the Art Institute and bought some Art Deco paper dolls before we left.
I was fascinated because I had never seen anything like it before. They looked special and sophisticated. I didn’t even cut them out, but just looked at them. They reminded me of my trip to the museum, and more, they taught me that apart from the purely aesthetic appeal of owning a beautiful object, people like to take home a piece from the museum, something that can bring them back to the experience of seeing a particular work of art or simply finding themselves in the unique world of a museum like the Art Institute.
Of course, now as the Director of Product Design I know how much it takes to decide which products to develop for the museum stores. First of all, I have to think about what our customers not only expect but can request to see in our shop, taking into account the most famous works in our collection.Nighthawks, A Sunday at La Grande Jatte, American windows, and Van Gogh The bedroom, among many others. I must also consider the most outstanding pieces of the special exhibitions. The exhibition Bisa Butler: Portraits featured so many beautiful and eye-catching artwork that even when the museum was closed due to the pandemic, his work sold well online. Then there is the very practical aspect of deciding which images will fit which elements in terms of size, orientation and subject. Something good for a poster might not work on a scarf or umbrella and vice versa.
The unveiling of the Hartwell Memorial Window was particularly exciting in terms of the development of new merchandise. Tiffany Studios are renowned for their stained glass windows, which feature gorgeous colors and stunning designs. And window designer Agnes Northrup has had such a long and rich career as a senior stained glass landscape designer.
Since it’s so tall (it’s 23 feet tall) and consists of 48 different panels, the full picture doesn’t work well on many items. Fortunately, there are so many beautiful details of the Northrup inspired design to work with. For a tote bag and an umbrella, I focused on a detail of leaves. The colors not only form a beautiful overall pattern, but are perfect for most seasons, especially winter when everything is so dark and gray.
working with suppliers
Once I have decided on the illustration, I come up with the concept and work on the product and packaging design with my supplier. I work with different types of vendors when developing merchandise, from small businesses that make custom products to those that specialize in creating personalized merchandise for the museum community and understand the importance of precision when reproducing. works of art.
Once I’m happy with the design, I request a physical sample to be approved. I use digital images and guide prints from the imaging department to make sure the product color matches the artwork. At this point I either approve the sample for production or give specific instructions for color adjustments and request a new sample. The length of the process depends on the item and if it can do a color correction quickly or if I need to see multiple laps before I can approve.
Once approved, I will place an order, anticipating the big sellers. Tiffany products are doing very well.
We are always on the lookout for new products and design features. The most popular products are the ones you can expect: magnets, postcards, mugs, t-shirts and umbrellas, and any product that features our museum or the lions. We try to push the boundaries where we can, and our loyal customers and those who frequent museums appreciate the more unusual items. Hartwell window is the perfect subject to use for glass items such as ornament and glass panel that we have developed. We hope to expand the assortment in the near future.
I love to see people use our products. Not only do I know that they passed our quality control and are true to the work of art, but I often imagine these objects on a shelf or desk in someone’s house – how whenever the person sees it, he reconnects with the museum, in the same way I did when I was a child. It inspires me when I see our tote bags and umbrellas in the hands of people walking the streets, sharing the beauty of our collection with the world.
—Jennifer Evanoff, Director of Product Design, Retail
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