Finalist 2023

Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids

National Gallery of Victoria / Daniel Emma

Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids an exhibition for children designed by the NGV and Daniel Emma.

Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids is an interactive exhibition designed specifically for children. A collaborative design between the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and design duo Daniel Emma, comprising Daniel To and Emma Aiston. The exhibition invites children to learn about the role of design in the world we live in, inspiring young imaginations and engaging problem-solving skills. The design encourages young visitors to look again at everyday objects and express their creativity through collaboratively formed designed challenged and hands on activities.

Design Brief:

Design duo Daniel Emma were invited by the National Gallery of Victoria to collaborate on the exhibition design of the children’s exhibition Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids. The brief was to create an interactive exhibition that engaged the galleries young visitors and provided experiential spaces to design and create.

From the following design objectives the NGV and Daniel Emma worked to a brief including:

  • Design an exhibition through the lens of design studio Daniel Emma.
  • Design a space that is versatile and engaging, with a sense of playfulness.
  • Formulate a variety of design challenges appealing to children and adults alike. Activities to evoke thought and creativity across age groups.
  • Respond to everyday inspiration in the design and the forming of activities.
  • Focus on materials, finishes, graphics, and colour palette.
  • Consideration of the greater gallery context, arrival experience, traffic flow, and the integration of activities within scenography.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

The NGV and Daniel Emma embarked on a collaborative process to develop and deliver the overall design and four activities of the kids exhibition Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids. From initial workshops and briefings to weekly project meetings held to develop the design and the interactivities. In refining and executing the design all details were considered.

In the design and fabrication of all element’s durability and suitability of use by children was a high priority. The space needed to be designed for children whilst also catering to and being accessible for all ages. Prototyping and testing of elements was undertaken to ensure elements were up to standard, functional, safe and worked for the design. Finally, the design team oversaw the build and install of this exhibition with focus on details, quality finishes, and precision.

Level of engagement with the exhibition and its activities has exceeded expectations, with the exhibition becoming one of the NGV’s most visited kids exhibitions.

Design Excellence

Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids is a celebration of creativity and design. The exhibition is user-centric, featuring multiple zones for visitors to explore and participate in unique design challenges and activities. The activities were designed in collaboration with Daniel Emma with focus on their design ethos of quality design, colourful aesthetic, and materiality, resulting in a dynamic and rich space.

This participatory exhibition is a world-first, which not only presents distinct design challenges and hands-on activities, but also showcases Daniel Emma objects and furniture demonstrating how Daniel Emma express their thoughts and ideas through their design practice. Daniel Emma’s celebrated furniture provided different options for seating and display throughout the exhibition, scaled for children and also for adults. The exhibition introduces children to the world and practice of design through Daniel Emma’s aesthetic and practice.

The space is designed with functionality and accessibility as a high priority. Furniture and table heights and accessibility around them are all considered elements of the design. The design strikes a balance that prioritises children yet is accessible for all. The gallery also provides a series of relaxed sessions. These sessions welcome visitors who would benefit from a quieter gallery experience with fewer people and reduced sensory stimuli.

In designing spaces for children, safety was considered early in the design process and was integrated into all elements across the space. High-quality finishes were utilised to create a durable and safe space for children to explore and engage without limitations. Key materials used include laminate, recycled compress plastic and Kvadrat fabrics. The resulting exhibition strikes a balance between sophisticated and intelligent design whilst being bright, accessible, and appealing to children.

Design Innovation

The exhibition Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids creates a unique world imagined through Daniel Emma’s creative practice. The impetus being to create a space for design challenges unlike anything else and distinctly based on Daniel Emma’s design ethos. Visitors are challenged to think differently, and problem solve world-first design tasks including:

Inspiration Train

  • When designing Daniel Emma are inspired by the different parts and shapes of something that already exists and asks visitors to use creative thinking to do the same. The central activity Inspiration Train in the centre of the gallery, features a sushi train conveyor belt transporting different plates of fake food for visitors to view, chose and design into a new object.

Build Them Up

  • From the design question ‘What if?’ when taking materials and objects into your hands, Daniel Emma designed colourful geometric forms for visitors to play, stack and build with. Like building a house with bricks, new objects can be made with these spheres, rectangular prisms, and cubes.

Stack a Snack

  • An interactive multimedia activity in which visitors can design a cake using unexpected materials.

Funny Face Maker

  • A hands-on activity designed especially for toddlers and younger children, faces can be created using a combination of a vast collection of acrylic shapes in varying colours.

Design Impact

The exhibition Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids is fast becoming NGV’s highest attended exhibition for kids on record. Since opening on June 2nd 2023 the exhibition has been visited by over 37,000 visitors and counting. The National Gallery of Victoria is committed to providing creative and learning experiences for children, teenagers, and families. Through participatory exhibitions, such as Up Down and All Around: Daniel Emma for Kids, the NGV connects children with art and culture from all over Victoria, Australia, and the world. Visitors are enabled to experience the diverse and creative ways artists and designers approach their work, giving children access to new worlds and ideas.

This exhibition allows children to exercise their creative thinking and use problem-solving skills through the specially formed activities. Created collaboratively with Daniel Emma, in these activities visitors are able to discover creative possibilities in the familiar and the everyday, by drawing new objects from plates of food, building structures using geometric forms, and imagining new images from existing shapes. Through the design and activities this exhibition serves as a catalyst for design process, educating children on design processes and thinking. From Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, “This playful exhibition will introduce young minds to the world of design through kid-friendly design-based activities, concepts and ideas. It is rare for a children’s exhibition to focus on developing early design literacy, which makes this world-premiere exhibition a truly unique – and impactful – offering in the Australian cultural landscape”.

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