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March 25, 2011

Content Creation is Not for Kids – Creating the Infinity of Nations Family Guide


What I mean by ‘not for kids’ is that when I began thinking about what we were calling a Children’s Guide to the Infinity of Nations exhibition in New York, I didn’t fundamentally change my approach to creating content. The tools we use and the goals are universal in that we want to engage the visitor and provide a hook so they can find a way in. Of course in directing this towards kids, we focus on simpler concepts than what we might do for an older audience.

Splash edit
The exhibition, Infinity of Nations opened in our New York museum last year and it’s a more or less a permanent exhibition – it will be in place for at least a decade. We launched the ION app, the first app for this museum and the Smithsonian’s first English/Spanish bilingual app at the same time. You can download it for free at the iTunes store and we are distributing free players to deliver the content at our New York museum. Here is the direct link to the app store:


The Hand, The Eye and The Compass, A Family Guide was designed for families with children 8-12 years of age. We targeted that age group because we felt that the aptitude for visitors younger than age 8 is extremely variable and that teens could use the adult guide. The content for this guide is original and was produced for this project.

Hand       Eye      Compass

Each of the highlighted objects in the family guide can be seen from one of three points of view, an artist (represented by a hand icon), a reporter (represented by an eye icon) or a traveler (represented by the compass icon). This allows kids to decide what they want to do and where they want to go. Choices give users the very clear message that there is always more than one way to look at objects and that’s an important message for all our visitors but especially for our younger audience.

We felt that part of the fun will be for kids to find the object that we will be talking about in each of the cases. Here the user can click on “WHERE IS IT?” If they want a hint:

  IMG_0046             IMG_0047

And the hint gives kids an idea of where to look in the case. Clicking on the “OK I FOUND IT” button plays the stop.



The design of the app is sophisticated but many of the on screen activities were created without expensive or complex interactive programming. The stop below works and feels like an interactive but it’s a simple slide show.



This is also a way to encourage family interaction - instead of isolating users, it gives them an activity to do together.


Sound is more important than visuals in creating content. To my mind that is one of the golden rules. My feeling is that sound really carries the content. The sound design of this guide was developed as another character to engage kids and help set the tone. Having Buffy Sainte-Marie as our narrator greatly benefited our project as well. This stop below shows how we use sound to enter the world of this object, a Conibo jar from the Amazon.



We created a couple of stops that we call “Kids Talk Back”. We got together a group of kids in the gallery and asked them about specific objects so we could get recordings of kids responding to the objects on view. This gives the kids permission to have their own ideas and opinions about the artwork and it was a really fun to record.


The Hand, The Eye and The Compass, A Family Guide was just added to the exisiting iPhone app this week and I hope that I’ve piqued your curiosity about this project and you’ll consider downloading the app at the iTunes store or better yet visit us in lower Manhattan and check out the guide in the gallery.


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Hello, I am a skateboarder from Santa Rosa Peru, wich is a 30 minute drive from machu picchu, and the first image on this post I have seen something similar on a brazilian skateboard deck from this store. I think the people from the north, south and central America where somehow related, cause this cave painting from the deck I saw, were discovered in Serra da Capivara Brasil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serra_da_Capivara_National_Park

You make an interesting connection. However, the icons that we use for the family guide are actually based on objects from the NMAI collection included in the Infinity of Nations exhibition. The hand and the compass are from objects in the woodlands section of the show and the eye is from a Northwest coast mask. If you get the chance to look at the family guide you'll be able to see these objects.

Content Creation is Not for Kids. Yes Exactly. As you define. The videos are awesome and cool.

Nice post. Thanks. very exciting article and good guidelines. Keep posting.

Nice collection of vids. As a designer I often look around for inspiration, picking up on what nature has to display that helps me be creative. My logo comes from a visit to Queensland where I saw a green tree frog. I love the combination of nature and design. Again, nice work.

Creative Director

Good videos, i really like them!
Dan Mitroi

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