January 29, 2010  |  Design, Events & Programs
Anything but a Guidebook

An unusual approach is one of the key strategies that signal an ideological shift.

When approached by Francesca Rosenberg to design the Meet Me publication for MoMA’s Access Programs, we were given three criteria:

1. Must use hot-pink color. (I’m not kidding. If you know Francesca Rosenberg, MoMA’s Director of Access and Community Programs, you would know that this is a legitimate request.)

2. Don’t make it look like a guidebook (even though, in its essence, it is a guidebook).

3. Make the content accessible to three diverse audiences: museum professionals, care organizations, and individual families.

The unusual color request was just one sign of how MoMA’s Access Program educators were contributing to an ideological shift in the way both institutions and individuals think about Alzheimer’s disease. This was not going to be just another black-and-gray manual. The intention was to create a book that was uplifting in both function and form, focusing on the fact that life can still be meaningful and joyful for these families, a book that embodies the mission and focus of the Meet Me at MoMA program. This was going to be a book about inspiring meaningful interactive experiences, making connections between people and art, and making art accessible. It would be anything but a guidebook.

The project has personal meaning for the design team as well, because each one of us has either a family member or acquaintance who has been affected by the disease.


The publication is illustrated with works from MoMA’s collection. Most prominently featured are works by two artists who explore the nature of human perception—both visually and cognitively. In Map of an Englishman (2004), featured on the cover, Grayson Perry grapples with the complexity of human consciousness by attempting to map the complicated landscape of his own mind. The works of Gerhard Richter, which introduce each section, visually demonstrate that what is elusive can achieve great evocative power.


In the Experience section, readers get a sense of walking through the galleries as if they would during a Meet Me at MoMA tour. This section is accompanied by a historical timeline of the MoMA Access Program running across the bottom of the pages.

The book assembles a wide array of opinions, facts, and recommendations—including a “simulated real-time” chronology of the Meet Me at MoMA tour; a historical timeline of MoMA Access Programs; interviews and testimonials from numerous individuals; clinical study data evaluation; and a practical how-to for care organizations and museum professionals. In addition, this book is supplemented by a companion lesson book Art Modules, an art card set, and a DVD.

As designers, we were challenged with presenting this great variety of information in one cohesive publication, while still addressing the particular needs of each of the audiences.

The fluid working process between the educators, authors, and designers contributed enormously to the success of this project. The designers were welcomed participants not only in matters of a purely graphic nature but truly in the creation of the meaning and purpose of the book. In this refreshingly open framework, the designers helped in the naming of the book and in developing the sequence of the content, allowing the designers the freedom to enrich the project on myriad levels.