Nick Bell Design


Great North Museum for Tyne & Wear Museums

The design of the Great North Museum, Newcastle. Graphic interpretation for a new visitor attraction that is smashing attendance records. We guided a client with no experience of a project of this scale and complexity through the process of interpretive content generation. Our design strategy doubled up as a detailed implementation plan that enabled the client team to develop appropriate content according to editorial constraints, on time and within strict access guidelines. The interpretation design draws together diverse subject matter spread across ten galleries into a unified visitor experience. A collaboration with Casson Mann.

16 months after project completion we revisited the Great North Museum to check on the impact of our design work (in conjunction with Casson Mann) and learn from its successes and failures. Total visitor numbers exceeded 1 million, easily surpassing the forecast 300,000 for the first year. Local schools and family visits are up, and 70% of visitors are either repeat visits or recommendations. The museum also entered the Visit Britain free museums top 20 for the first time, reflecting the 23% increase in its national and international visitors. First year operating accounts showed a surplus in the galleries' maintenance budget: symptomatic of the high design specification and finish, enabling the museum to control future spending in times of national budget cuts. And this is despite the extra wear and tear as a result of massively increased visitor numbers.

The British Museum, holding its AGM at the Great North Museum (the first time outside of London), highly commended our communication strategy. The strategy carefully controls the amount of text used in object interpretation. Instead it uses images, exhibition architecture and interaction to tell stories and engage visitors. Ongoing quality control is assured as Tyne & Wear Museums' in-house design team have adopted and are embracing our interpretation design strategy. National Museums Scotland also came to have a look and went away impressed. The Great North Museum's success has been recognised by the Arts Fund Prize, National Lottery Awards, Journal Culture Awards, British Interactive Media Awards, Guardian Family Friendly Awards, Design Week Awards and the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards.


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