The making of the navigation for Marina Tsvetaeva house museum

Overview• Process
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Going on a tour to see the house. Discarding ideas featuring handwritten text, poems, quotes, book pages, etc. Everything in the museum is about Tsvetaeva, but it doesn’t mean the navigation has to be as well. There is also the house. The house in which Tsvetaeva was not the only one to live, the house that also has a small history of its own. For example, we can present it like this.

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A couple of months go by.


Going on the second tour. The museum sets the tasks:
—Guide the guests from the entrance to the ticket office, then to the exhibition. Guests can go through exhibition halls in any order but can’t pass the ticket office.
—There will be no navigation in the apartment, which means a floor plan will have to be created for booklets and introduction by the entrance.
—A way to name or number the exhibition halls has to be invented.
—Doors to service areas need to be marked as such without putting a No Entrance sign on every corner.

Recording a tour of the museum on a voice recorder, adding notes to blueprints, photographing important locations to analyze later at the studio and use in the presentation, filming videos of the primary routes to understand what exactly the guests will see. Overall, gathering enough material to make sure we don’t need to come to the museum too often.

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Drafting the navigation logic in broad strokes: the building has a complex layout, there is no predefined tour route and guests need to understand where the apartment, ticket offices and exits are located from any point in the house. Hall arrangement is also complex: some rooms form enfilades, other are dead ends. Everything is intertwined and it’s not the type of a house that would look good with arrows on every corner.

From a board perspective, there really isn’t that much we need to tell:
—Tsvetaeva’s apartment is somewhere upstairs
—the ticket office and cloak room are downstairs
—the exhibition halls are in the middle.

The sooner we let the guests know this, the less signs we will need to hang around the house.

Let’s put this information right at the front counter: the apartment is upstairs, tickets are downstairs. That’s our solution.

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Next, we need to work on numbering the exhibition halls. There are five of them on the first floor and one on the second floor next to Tsvetaeva’s apartment. Surely, we shouldn’t just number them. We get an idea to connect them to the layout of the house. The halls are located in former apartments, apartments had numbers, which is what we should use for navigation. It’s not a problem that there are more halls than there were apartments, it’s enough to simply lead guests through a door, then they will be able to find their way on their own or with the help of the exhibit layout.

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Using the house history idea to create numbers and text on the walls. Creating rough sketches of other details.

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The cherry on top of this cake is the idea that will immerse guests into the period atmosphere even before the exhibition starts (not implemented yet). Putting together the first presentation for the client.

While there is still time, thinking some more. Why not make apartment numbers in the style of pre-revolutionary typography? Visiting Kollektsionerus to assemble another version of apartment number design.

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Presenting. The client hesitates and chooses the first design.


All right, the ideas are approved, now it’s time to determine the typesetting style, the location for each sign, choose materials and production methods.

Creating a draft plan of sign locations depending on view vectors of various visitor flows.

Taking a couple of signs in their current layout, some paper, a marker and visiting the museum again. Right on location making decisions on what should be written where. Going over all the routes with the client several times and getting accurate contents for each sign.

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Simultaneously developing the layouts.

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Regardless of decisions made, continuing to try the mock-ups in the museum, working on the text, showing the designs to the art director.

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The typesetting looks boring. The art director doesn’t understand the idea with the titles.


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The layout has acquired some interesting features, the end is getting closer.

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Testing again and clearing up the text.

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Not bad, but looks like it needs to be toned down a bit now.

At the end, putting together three different approaches to typesetting and showing to the art director.

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The art director decides to go with the second one.

Typesetting and sending to the production for calculations, keeping in mind that we’ll have to retypeset at least a couple of the signs.

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Starting to work on the medium with the floor plan. Sending the sketch of the plan to the illustrator along with photos and a description of how everything is set up.

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The illustrator comes back with a work of art. Trying it on and testing the scale.

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Typesetting the introduction which also progresses from “boring” to “OK.”

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Adding captions.

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Choosing materials and sending to production.


Marking locations for each sign and on day X coming to the museum to help workers make the right decisions.

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