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The Children’s Museum of Cleveland by Richardson Design

Smile, The Children’s Museum of Cleveland Opens Monday

Richardson Design provided the interior and graphic design services to help transform the Stager-Beckwith mansion into a new home for CMC’s hands-on children’s exhibits.

CLEVELAND, Ohio, November 1, 2017—The Children’s Museum of Cleveland (CMC) will open the doors to its new home this coming Monday, November 6, in the restored Stager- Beckwith mansion—a four-story historic site on what was Millionaire’s Row in Cleveland. In this space, CMC quadrupled the size of its former University Circle location. To reinvent its brand and transform the mansion into a hands-on, play-and-learn environment, CMC engaged in a team of architects and designers, including Richardson Design, an interior and graphic design consultancy.

“The museum’s focus is creative play, and the environment supports this mission by inviting children to engage in a sense of discovery,” says Tracy van der Kuil, Senior Designer, Richardson Design, describing the unique purpose of the museum: It’s all about play.

Richardson Design’s charge was to create a fresh, engaging brand for CMC and a visual identity system to capture the excitement, intrigue and curiosity of the institution while positioning it for future growth. That included providing branding and interior design services. Richardson collaborated with CMC Director of Exhibits Karen Katz, architect John Swidrak of AoDK Inc., architect Sharon Sanders of SKS Designs, and design-build contractor The Krill Co., Inc. to transform the 1866 French Second Empire-style building into a museum of interactive displays for children.

“Because it is such a large space and there are a multitude of exhibits that are spread out in different areas within the mansion, it was important to make the design simple to navigate for parents and children,” van der Kuil says. “Color was a playful way to identify exhibits—it was used as a wayfinding tool for updating and energizing a space on a limited budget. It’s a fun way to activate displays and make a visual impact.”

Color differentiates spaces—while consistent use of materials throughout the exhibits and common areas connects the mansion’s many rooms and creates a fluid, seamless feel.

Richardson selected a range of building and construction materials including plywood and metals, which are used throughout the building. The materials reflect an industrial, maker appeal and capture the essence of Cleveland as a raw, edgy urban center of builders, creators and innovators.

Richardson Design also built a complete brand system for CMC that is timeless and versatile—a logo, color palette, typography palette, photography direction and wayfinding system. The brand system gives CMC a visual foundation upon which it can grow and expand as the museum evolves. “What is unique about this project is, we were not only branding a space, but also branding an organization,” points out Alex Hickey, Senior Graphic Designer, Richardson Design. A color system identifies exhibits, and an icon system provides the youngest guests with visual cues so they can identify exhibits, too.

As for the exhibits, families can explore Adventure City, which includes a multi-level treehouse and rooftop garden, a climber, market and construction site. Wonder Lab is a world of water and air—an industrial science space equipped with a range of water-play activities and an innovative scarf shooter. The Arts & Parts art studio feels like a Tudor castle and retains the mansion’s historic flavor, while adding whimsy and playfulness with color and materials like a color-block patterned floor and graphic wall tiles. In Making Miniatures, a series of rooms finished in a painterly fashion are stages for a fascinating collection of handmade dollhouses gifted to the museum by Cathy Lincoln. The exhibit makes you feel as if you are moving through an actual dollhouse.

Collaboration during the CMC project was integral for creative problem-solving to address infrastructural repairs, wayfinding, use of materials and interior design techniques (playing with scale, juxtaposing materials, color treatment). In approaching the adaptive reuse of the mansion, before any “new” could be added to the spaces within the historic structure, the team had to address the existing state of the building: water damage, peeling paint and neglect after being empty for years. The final product is a special place—marked with a playful smile logo— that will bring joy to visitors.

“It’s a place for everyone in the community, and it’s really a landmark in a central location of the city,” Hickey says of the truly unique project. A Phase 2 of the project promises more exciting exhibits for visitors to experience. (Stay tuned.) van der Kuil adds, “We are very proud and excited to be a part of giving this museum back to Cleveland—to the children. This unique, collaborative project was meticulously thought-out and the outcome is a result of all parties involved working together toward the same goal. It turned out better than any of us could have imagined.”


Richardson Design is a full-service interior and graphic design consultancy that creates strategic, meaningful brand experiences for clients in the hospitality and entertainment industries. We create the places where you want to be. For more information or media inquiries, contact Amanda Stasko, Manager of Client Relations, at 216.696.6780 x205 or [email protected]


The Children’s Museum of Cleveland (CMC) is "the" Northeast Ohio destination and resource for all young children, parents and caregivers to engage in fun, innovative, interactive play that accelerates the child’s creativity, development and education. The Museum welcomes more than 100,000 visitors annually and has one of the most diverse visitor bases of museums in the region, with approximately a quarter coming from beyond Cuyahoga County.


Project Team:

CMC — Karen Katz, Director of Exhibits; Maria Campanelli, Executive Director

Richardson Design, Interior & Graphic Design —

Interiors: Scott Richardson, Founder + Chief Creative Officer; Tracy van der Kuil, Senior Designer; Heather Ruwe, Designer; Corinne Stuppy, Designer

Graphics: Alex Hickey, Senior Graphic Designer; Mary Wunderle, Graphic Designer

AoDK, Inc., Architect — David Krebs, John Swidrak

SKS Designs, Architect — Sharon Sanders

Krill Co. Inc., Design-build Contractor — Doug Fischback

Ark Builders, Inc., Exhibit Fabricators — Alex Kanareff, Kevin Kanareff



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