Design students invent new looks and ideas for the museum store and cafe
“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.”
Alexander Graham Bell
This past spring, students from Instructor May Chung’s third-year design class at the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design (NSCAD) spent two months deeply engaged in a branding and product design exercise in collaboration with Parks Canada, the Alexander Graham Bell Foundation (AGBF) and the Alexander Graham Bell Museum Association (AGBMA).
AGBF Executive Director Leslie Wright has known Chung for a number of years and had been looking for a way for the two to work together. When the AGBMA received funding last year from ACOA to redevelop the museum store with more local and original offerings, and to bring the store online, Wright saw an opportunity ripe for both the site and students alike.
A group of eighteen students visited the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (AGBNHS) in February, receiving help from Parks Canada staff to conduct background research for the project.
“It was amazing to see the students immerse themselves in the story and legacy of Alexander and Mabel Bell - and to then take that extensive research and learning and apply it to the development of product and concept ideas for the Museum Store and Café,” says Wright. “They brought their individual talents, experiences and interests to each project — we gave them license to develop and run with a project that they were passionate about.”
On July 17, four of the design students - Charl Fourie, Kathleen Hoang, Xiaoyi “Patrice” Dong and Rui Hu, spent the day at the AGBNHS tending to an exhibit of all of the innovations created by their class.
Fourie used new software technology and old documents of Bell’s to create a script font of the inventor’s handwriting. A workin-progress, Fourie says he still needs to add numbers and symbols to the typography and find a way to naturally tie the letters together into a proper script.
Xiaoyi Dong took the opportunity to rethink the very building that housed the store and café. Having never worked with architecture or interior design before, Dong built a model of a new building she envisions standing across the roadway from the museum.
“If you want to let people see all the amazing products that my fellow classmates made, you first have to be attracted to go into the store.”
Hoang, who created a dual-sided deck of cards that doubled as a Bell-themed puzzle, was appreciative of the open nature of the project.
“There were no constraints. You had to think creatively and innovatively, so that’s basically what we did. Invent.”
As luck would have it, Parks Canada’s CEO Daniel Watson was in Cape Breton recently and toured the exhibit while visiting the AGBNHS on July 18. According to a spokesperson for his office, Mr. Watson was “impressed by the innovation that the students demonstrated in capturing the Bell story by taking century old inventions and ideas, and applying them to present day.”
Bell’s story and spirit appears to have indeed made an impact on the students.
“He was such an intelligent person, because he was not only thinking about the present, he also carried on what was left from his father and grandfather, like visible speech,” says Dong. “He cared about the future – he’s not only inventing kites, but thinking about what will come in the future. That’s how the Silver Dart [came along]. He’s still around. He never leaves.”
Third-year design student Rui Hu created this table and chairs set for the AGBNHS cafe as part of an innovation project in collaboration with the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design (NSCAD) and local Alexander Graham Bell organizations. When the chairs are pushed in, they form tetrahedral shapes frequently used in Bell's own designs. The back legs of the chairs are purposefully transparent to give the sense that the sitter is floating in the air. Hu's model and her classmates projects were on display recently at the AGBNHS.PHOTO by Andrew Brooks / The Victoria Standard.