Art Show - Crowding Panels

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Crowding Panels

You don't want your show to be crowded. I don't even like to write this section. But sometimes, for reasons beyond your control, you are forced into severe overcrowding - e.g., the ceiling on your original room falls in the day before the show, and you have to switch to a smaller room. In such cases, bays often cope with crowding better than zig-zags.

aisle size clearance viewing distances viewers/panel increased panels row width
minimum maximum average
normal bays 6 6 8 14 11 1 - 2 n/a 14
normal ZigZag 6 7 14 14 14 1 - 2 n/a 9
Phone Booths 6 6 4 14 7.3 1/3 33-47% 14
Maze 2 4.5 8 10 9 1 20-47% 10
Wider Maze 4 5.7 8 12 10 1 - 2 3-20% 12
Tire Treads 3 4.25 7.3 8.2 7.6 2/3 24-48% 6

Normal bays feel more spacious than normal zig-zags - both on floor plans and in person - because the walls are further apart. But they actually have narrower constrictions in the aisles and smaller viewing distances, as shown in the table above (by "normal" I mean 4 foot panels with 6 foot aisles, that being the most common panel width and the smallest good aisle size). The table also shows statistics for four methods of crowding panels.

The figure below shows two ways to crowd extra panels into a room using bays. A normal layout is shown for comparison.

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  • You can leave the aisles the same size, but squeeze more panels in, making each bay 4 feet wide as well as 4 feet deep. I call this approach phone booths, because the little 4 foot cubicles make you feel like you're in one. It looks bad and feels claustrophobic. Each group of 3 panels can be seen by only one person at a time. It's impossible to see most of the art from more than 2 feet away - people attempting to do so run into the art on the other walls of the cube. The only thing it's good at is allowing traffic to flow freely down the aisle. This is good if your art show's primary purpose is as a corridor. It might be almost acceptable in a Print Shop, but even there, the other style of crowded bays is better. It will gain you anywhere from 33% to 46% more panels over standard bays, depending on row length.
  • Another way to crowd bays is to narrow the aisles and offset the bays. In the figure above there is only two feet between the aisles. People browsing are forced to meander around the protruding panels, which is why I call this layout the maze. The maze has the disadvantage that its aisles constrict to only 4½ feet in spots, vs. the 6 feet for normal bays or phone booths. But it does allow a viewer in front of each panel at the same time (that's three times as many viewers as phone booths) and has better sight distances than phone booths. With a two foot aisle (I wince as I write that) it will gain you from 20% to 47% more panels, depending on row length. It doesn't gain you as much as phone booths for short rows; which fits more panels will depend on exact room dimensions. It's more flexible than phone booths - if you only need 10% more panels than normal bays would fit, you can go to a four foot aisle, only lose four inches of clearance over phone booths, and get much better sight distances and people / panel..

Both mazes and phone booths work better with wider panels. With six foot wide panels, phone booths are tolerable, and a maze can have a zero aisle width and still maintain a six foot clearance. With three foot panels, phone booths don't work at all, and mazes can only drop to about a four foot aisle.

In small rooms the exact dimensions are critical. Phone booths fit extra panels by keeping the width of each row constant (14 feet with six foot aisle) and cramming more panels in each row. Mazes work by decreasing the width of each row from 14 to 10 feet. In any given room, one is likely to be more efficient, but you can't predict which without exact dimensions.

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To crowd 43% extra panels into a room with zig-zags, you need to drop to a three foot aisle. I call this layout tire treads. The clearance isn't much worse than the maze, but viewing distance is less and fewer people can look at once (though it does better on both than phone booths). It feels quite claustrophobic. On the plus side, zig-zags are more likely to fit well in a small room because you can fit one tire tread row every six feet, vs. 14 for normal bays or phone booths - on average you'll have three feet wasted room width instead of seven. And as with mazes, you can vary the degree of crowding. A five foot aisle might gain you an extra row. It feels a bit more cramped, and the sight lines aren't as good (still as good as any bays, though), but the narrowest clearance is still over six feet. ZigZag crowding does not depend as much on panel size.