Inside "Faces of Diplomacy" Exhibit Design

America’s diplomats are on the front lines of foreign affairs, serving our nation 24/7 around the world in ever-increasingly challenging and often dangerous conditions. However, their work is largely unseen, often occurring behind closed doors or in far-flung locations that are inaccessible to the general public. Made possible through a generous grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation, and created through partnerships with The George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design and the Department of Defense’s Combat Camera crew, “Faces of Diplomacy” brings the stories of our American diplomats to life. The talented men and women portrayed in the exhibit come from various regions, have diverse backgrounds, and bring a wide range of skills to the work of American diplomacy.

Current exhibit design methods emphasize visitor-centric design. The Diplomacy Center had the opportunity to test “Faces of Diplomacy” using prototypes and feedback from potential visitors at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. In partnership with Smithsonian Exhibits and the Lemelson Center Spark!Lab, Diplomacy Center staff invited visitors to interact with a prototype of this exhibit.

In testing this exhibit, Center staff sought feedback both on whether our prototype was effective in illustrating the role of America’s diplomats in securing our nation’s security and prosperity, and also what could be improved.

Over the course of an afternoon with the prototype set up at the Spark!Lab, Center staff spoke with over 300 museum visitors from across the United States and the world, getting their reactions to the stories of our nation’s diplomats and gathering their thoughts on the purpose of diplomacy. Center staff used entry and exit surveys to gather data and brought in a whiteboard to allow free-form feedback.

By the end of the testing, the whiteboard was filled with words such as communication, negotiation, peace, and freedom. On average, visitors reported the exhibit increased their knowledge of U.S. diplomacy and its relevance to their own lives. They also related to the diplomats portrayed and said their identification with diplomats increased.

Center staff plan to continue to expand “Faces of Diplomacy” with additional profiles, build additional interactive and engaging exhibits, and further apply innovative methods of visitor-centric design.

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Fatima Aboukir

Diplomacy Center, Diplomat, Sports

Being relatively young has helped me a lot in my job because I know how Moroccan youth think… That’s why I always try to be innovative by coming up with new ideas that can shift diplomacy from its traditional course to new ways of bringing the two countries closer.

Fatima Aboukir, Civil Servant