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Surviving Through Adaptation


at the National Aquarium in Baltimore

Part of working at the aquarium was updating existing signage while maintaining the overall integrity of the larger exhibit. I was tasked with updating the Shocking panel of the displays in the Surviving Through Adaptation exhibit.


Each section of this particular exhibit was interactive and uses light boxes. The Shocking display light box contains a diagram of the eel with a series of lights within that are connected to sensors within the electric eel habitat. These sensors measure and mirror the eel’s electrical output in the diagram as well as a colored bar at the bottom of the screen indicated how high or low the charge is. These two elements are immovable and also needed to be updated to reflect the aquarium's brand colors.


Observation + Sketching

Below the electric eel light box is a colored bar that charts whether the eel’s output is low or high. To draw a stronger connection and communication with guests while also fully utilizing both components, my initial idea was to use the bar as a scale of some sort to chart something to compare to the electric eel. 

I started with household appliances, something that
a guest could easily identify and place: a light bulb,
a waffle iron, an oven, etc. However, after researching items of that nature, many of them proved to be of the same voltage, with wide and uneven gaps between the items. I then considered diagramming the organs responsible for generating the eel’s electricity.

Electric eels have three organs that produce its electricity, two that have a high output and one that has a low output, which connected strongly with the bar at the bottom. But, after discussing with my team, we decided that focusing on the eel's anatomy distracted from the electric properties themselves. 

Considering the surrounding panels mentioned other animals, I then considered using the bottom bar as a graph to chart and compare the electric eel's charge against other animals with electricity. They provided a relatively more evenly distributed selection to plot across the bottom bar as compared to the household appliance idea.


Presenting + Revision


After presenting to my colleagues, we decided that
the option that measured other electric animals was
the best option.

After trying a few different types of graphs and also decided to use small icons to help the guests better visualize the comparison. Due to the scale of the panel, I chose to use simple illustrations similar to those used in the construction wall.


Relying on the darkness of the background, I chose to highlight recognizable features to minimize clutter given the small space allowed for the illustrations. I modeled the facial features after those used in the larger eel illustration.


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