Custom display case designed for the National Gallery of Art...

In 2012, long-time client and friend Stephan Van Dam (VanDam, Inc.), approached me with a challenging project:
To assist in the design of a transparent plexiglass display case, in the form of a miniature National Gallery East Wing. This display would be designed to showcase VanDam’s new StreetSmart visitor maps of Washington D.C. Once completed, this display would be housed inside the East Wing.

For 15 years I’ve rendered hundreds of buildings and landmarks for Van Dam’s visitor maps and travel guides of cities world wide. Now we were setting out to design a custom retail display to house some of that product.

To begin, we studied the fabulous architecture of the East Wing, designed by I.M. Pei. We had to determine the best way to ‘miniaturize’ the structure to fit a retail setting, that would house a sizable amount of product, while retaining as much of the complex architectural detail of the actual structure as possible.

Next, using SketchUp (a 3D software), I created an exterior shell of the East Wing. I also created 3D scale models of groups of the actual product. This would allow Van Dam and I to play with fitting the product most efficiently into the footprint of the structure. The groups of product would also provide Van Dam a simple way to track precisely how much product the display would hold. The user-friendly nature of SketchUp allowed both of us to easily orbit around the model on the fly, to get a real sense of the volume and fit of the product within.

The next step was to design and add the necessary internal dividers and exterior pockets to organize and contain the product. Throughout the design of the display, we had to be conscious of the thickness of the plexiglass, the size of the product, and the fitment tolerances.

After a few months and several revises, we arrived at a smart and sexy retail display design that spotlights Van Dam’s products while still faithfully mimicking the architecture of the East Wing.

For additional details on the design and construction of the East Wing display, as well as a look at the final product, visit Van Dam’s site.