I try to photograph interpretive media wherever we travel to serve as an idea file. In recent years I’ve seen some really creative uses of banners at varied sites, but especially at zoos and aquariums.
Banners are usually long strips of fabric or weatherproof vinyl with a verbal or visual message. As interpretive media they offer some unique qualities that may make them a better choice than a sign or exhibit or maybe to use in conjunction with signs and exhibits. Here are five reasons to consider using banners as a media choice at your location:
- Attention Grabber – A well-designed banner can brighten up an entryway or building exterior as an ad or teaser. Photos of highlights on the property often serve to entice someone to enter even better than words or descriptions. They create a festive look to a trail or large building interior that gets your attention.
- Wayfinding and Thematic Connectors – A distinctive banner can be used to mark a path or road and connect physically separated features into a thematic trail. Sub-themes can be designated with the banners by changing colors, or by using a different graphic or word while maintaining the general look to tie everything together.
- Sense of Place or Time Marker – A banner can be used to identify an event or person with a specific place or date. Intangible stories can be identified with the setting where they occurred, inviting curious guests to learn more. A banner that tells me I am standing where President Washington once stood or a peace treaty was signed can be a powerful attraction. While a sign might do the same thing, a banner’s movement may be more eye-catching.
- Branding – The organizational logo on banners throughout a property can reinforce the brand and make your boundaries clear, especially if your site merges with that of some other organization.
- Messages – Use of a thematic message on banners may make it more memorable through repetition. It might have to be a word or phrase that more telegraphically delivers the message than you would use on an exhibit.
- Use of Space – Often banners can be placed higher than regular signs or exhibits, using space that cannot be used for more detailed messages or graphics. The effect can be beautiful if the banners are professionally designed and produced.
- Cost – Banners have likely been around since there’s been cloth. Some of the new methods of transfer of digital images to fabrics make it easier and less expensive to generate banners than ever before.
Because fabrics may be more fragile or may fade in direct sun, you may need to consider the longevity you require before deciding on materials. Fabric banners may work better for short duration, while vinyl might be needed for longer terms (over the course of a summer season, for example). Funding for replacement or changes when needed will have to part of the decision-making process when determining whether banners are the right medium for your site.
– Tim Merriman