Jon Coe Design Pty Ltd

Jon Coe Design Homepage
Zoo Home | Species Specific Exhibits | Zoo Trends | Clients and Projects
Botanic Garden Home | Highlighted Projects | Botanical Garden Trends | Clients and Projects List
Services for Zoos, Botanic Gardens & Theme Parks
Zoo and Botanic Garden Clients and Projects
Publication Home | Professional Papers | From the Field | The Dream Pig
Contact Jon Coe Design | Project Awards | Jon's Resume | Personal Recogniton | Travel and Research
subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link


Learning Environments:

A growing number of zoos, botanic gardens and theme parks see themselves as environments for learning as well as collections and recreational attractions. What is your message and how can it best be delivered?

Learning Environments for exhibit planning include the following components:



Gorilla and children bonding.

Bonding at Philadelphia Zoo.

Photo: CLRdesign inc.

People remember things they care about. The actions they take are based upon the passion they feel...

No passion…No action

Momentary passion…Momentary action

Sustained passion…Sustained action.

In the case of zoos and wildlife conservation, people care about individual animals they feel connected to, a bond formed from memorable, individual or multiple experiences with an animal or group of animals. Usually these bonds are formed from “nose-to-nose” or “eye-to-eye” encounters. They could form in a moment of:

Empathy… “…they feel just like we do.”

Surprise… “Wow!”

Delight… “Oh, isn’t that too cool?”

Fear… “Yikes! Crimony…that got my heart pounding!”

Back to list


Message Delivery

Stage One
Select, refine and define your “message”. What do you have to say which the public will find worth remembering one year or ten years from now?
Stage Two
Create an attraction. Why else would anyone come?
Stage Three
Set up the encounter. Set the scene, build anticipation, eliminate distractions then immerse visitors in the story context or habitat.
Stage Four
Deliver the goods. Provide a memorable encounter, demonstration, “postcard” view, or photo opportunity (later viewing of photos reinforces the memory.)
Stage Five
Link your “message” to the memorable experience overtly and/or subliminally.
Stage Six
Generalize the emotion. “If you care about protecting this orangutan you must also care about protecting rainforests.” Link your message to an immediate or recent action.
Stage Seven
Reinforce your message with similar memorable experiences of other species/habitats, repeat visits or reminders such as publications, media exposure, special interest groups, on-line communications, etc.
Stage Eight
Update attractions frequently with “what’s new”, new attractions or provide other reasons for return visits to reinforce and update your message.

Back to list

"What good are all of our conservation efforts if we don't teach young people to be better stewards than we were?"       

Jane Goodall


"Novelty is the engine which drives attendance."    Jon Coe


Just as stage sets and costumes help bring movies and plays to life, themed buildings and landscapes can bring a feeling of “reality” to the zoo, botanical garden or theme park visit.

“Immersion design” means simply immersing visitors in the theme of the story. Whether it’s placing visitors in a re-creation of an Asian rainforest, the Simpson Desert or a South African safari lodge, people, animals, plants and built forms all share the unique, memorable setting, free from distracting or discordant elements.

“Cultural resonance”: Re-creation of cultural settings adds a human dimension to the educational message and visitor experience just as the re-creation of natural landscapes adds realism and an ecological connection to habitat immersion settings.

  • Buildings, furnishings, graphics and plantings resonate with the educational message and cultural connection.
  • Most visitors are naturally interested in other peoples and cultures.
  • Cultural displays provide an opportunity to artfully integrate visitor service facilities, performances, classrooms, mini-museums – even animal holding areas – into the total immersive visitor experience.


Back to list

Orangutan Exhibit

Orangutan crossing at

the Los Angeles Zoo.

Photo: Jon Coe

Cultural Resonance Examples

Educational graphic of Mr. Zuma.

Zoo Atlanta's action- theme hero Mr Zuma in cartoons and then ...

Photo: K. Kingsbury

Mr. Zuma with children.

Mr. Zuma in person.

Photo: J. Sebo

Storylines…like walking through a story as it happens.

Story telling may be our oldest and remains one of our most effective means of teaching. From the tales of Aesop and the Brothers Grimm to Disney, good storytelling captures our attention and our imaginations, sets the scene, delivers the message, and bears repeating. Stories also seem to fit into the brain’s framework for memory storage and retrieval.

Storylines in theatre, movies, literature or themed attractions create a context or rational for the overall visitor experience and a guide for the sequencing or choreography of the component experiences.

Back to page top

" Those who think there's a difference between entertainment and education don't understand either one."

                      Marshall McLuhan

© Copyright 2004 Jon Coe Design Pty Ltd  –

250 Mt. Riddell Road, Healesville VIC 3777 Australia – +03 5962 1339