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What is Interpretative Design?

What is Interpretation and Interpretive Design? Though Interpretation is all around us in our communities, this is a question we are often asked. Perhaps the confusion is created by the word itself, exactly what is Interpretation of a place, heritage or ecology?  More importantly, what are the benefits of an Interpretive approach?.

Interpretation is often associated with storytelling traditions. It is, however, more than storytelling. Interpretation is about fostering understanding – enabling people to move beyond the simple (and boring to some!) acquisition of information towards engagement.  Good interpretation creates the bridge which connects the subject of interpretation to the visitors’s own life.  The place, people, history, eco-system, animal or object being interpreted are better understood and respected. Interpretation uses evidence, facts, knowledge and understanding as the basis to explore the known and unknown, inspiring people’s imaginations, evoking emotions, sparking ideas and prompting reflection that help inform people’s beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviours.

Interpretation can create  meaningful relationships between the subject or place being interpreted and the visitor. Such relationships can be associated with loyalty and active support – characteristics that are valuable to both managers and marketers. Research reveals that the more authentic and real a site or experience, and the more engaging and stimulating the themes explored and approaches used, the greater the attachment that can be forged. This loyalty and support can translate directly into visits, membership and advocacy – behaviours that enable government departments, community organizations and corporations to achieve their aims.

Because interpretation can be targeted at particular audiences, it plays an influential role in audience development strategies, by fostering new audiences or further developing existing ones. It is for such powerful purposes that interpretation is increasingly used to deliver benefits to society, particularly in the cultural, heritage and environmental sectors.

Creating visitor experiences

Interpretation helps to create visitor experiences. It helps organisations plan how a site is presented and understood. It helps organisations manage visitors to sites and deliver visitor experiences through various interpretive approaches and media.

What form does Interpretation take?

Static and interactive installations, trail development, signage, public artwork, support publications, verbal storytelling and tours, dramatizations and re-enactment, exhibitions, mobile phone apps and soundscapes are all forms of interpretation.

Here at Interpretive by Design, we specialize in design, static and interactive installations, trails, signage and print, with our extended team encompassing research, copywriting, planning and community engagement.