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Nothing About Us Without Us - Exhibition design brief


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About People’s History Museum (PHM)

PHM is the national museum of democracy and the home of ideas worth fighting for. We are based in central Manchester and tell the story of the past, present and future of democracy in Britain. Our vision is of a fairer society where everyone’s voices are heard and people are empowered to make a difference.

We have two permanent galleries at the museum and one changing exhibition space. This design brief refers to the changing exhibition space. PHM will provide floorplans of the space to successful designers.

Project Background

Nothing About Us Without Us (NAUWU) will explore the history of disabled people’s rights, activism and fight for inclusion and will take place across 2022 and throughout 2023 at PHM. The programme will include exhibitions, events and activity developed in collaboration with disabled people.

A Steering Group of disabled people, who have been working with the museum on various projects since 2018, are guiding the way forward in all areas of the programme. Additionally, a group of four disabled Community Curators are working directly on the NAUWU exhibition that will use objects, graphics, text and other interpretative formats to tell the story of disabled people’s fight for inclusion.

The exhibition will contain a mix of 2D and 3D artworks and objects from PHM’s collection, alongside items from individuals, artists and other collections and archives.

Ethos and Values

The programme is underpinned by a particular way of thinking about disability.

This focuses on the barriers disabled people face, not their impairments or perceived impairments.

‘Impairment’ means a difference in mind or body to what society expects. Some people do not view their difference as an impairment.

‘Disability’ means the barriers people with impairments face in society. These barriers can be because of people’s attitudes, how the world is physically built or how the world is organised and services provided.

Having these different meanings for ‘disability’ and ‘impairment, and focusing on how barriers can be removed instead of trying to change people to ‘fit in’ is known as the Social Model of Disability, which uses the term ‘disabled people’.

This includes anyone who identifies as a disabled person, such as (but not exclusively) deaf, autistic, neurodiverse and/or learning-disabled people; people with first hand lived experience of mental illness, chronic illness and fatigue, survivors of mental distress, and/or mental health service user; movements, communities and individuals.

Design Brief

We are looking for a designer or design studio to work with the programme team to develop and deliver all elements of the exhibition design from concept to detailed design, technical design and delivery. The designer will be responsible for graphics production or will managing the relationship with the graphics producer (if they choose to subcontract this work package). The designer is expected to regularly present to the programme team and incorporate time in the schedule for feedback and drafts.

The designer or studio will be responsible for the following packages of work:

  • Exhibition identity including colour palettes, materials package and concept for the space
  • 2D and 3D designs including a detailed gallery layout, print ready labels, panels, vinyls and image reproductions
  • Marketing assets including print ready files for posters, exhibition preview invitations
  • Digital assets including gifs, email footers and social media banners
  • Design and artwork for 2-sided vinyl (each 360 x 68 cm) for glass balustrade outside the museum entrance to promote exhibition (supplied as PDF)
  • Ideas for PHM foyer/entrance ‘installation’ to attract attention and ‘bring out’ the exhibition into the public areas



The budget for this work package inclusive of all expenses and graphics production is £15,000. It is anticipated that roughly half of this will be allocated to graphics production. We are open to designers recommending another split of this amount if they are able to work with printers at a more competitive rate. Please note designers are expected to manage the relationship with the graphics producers but production of marketing materials will be managed by PHM

This budget is not inclusive of any build or the purchasing of new cases, plinths, frames and mounts however this budget is also limited to approximately £10,000. We are also keen to reuse as much of our existing stock as possible and look forward to working with designers who are able to creatively incorporate this into a new design treatment.


Design Challenges


The object list including AV will not be confirmed until the end of June at the earliest. Designers will need to produce a flexible design treatment that can embed this detail at a later date whilst remaining creative.


The Community Curators work for one day per week and must be consulted regularly, designers must be prepared to work around this schedule that means immediate feedback is not always possible.


The exhibition is by and for disabled people first and foremost however the Community Curators are keen to ensure all audiences engage with the topic, designers should consider how to present information that honours the Community Curators and also welcomes people with limited prior knowledge on the topic. The exhibition is not designed for a family friendly experience (although families do make up a significant proportion of PHM’s visitors), the Community Curators are especially passionate about the exhibition attracting young people aged 14+.

PHM’s Design Principles

Always accessible

Our exhibitions and programmes centre accessibility and consider the needs of all visitors. Designs must reflect this in demonstrating active consideration for access needs that are inbuilt, innovative and creative whilst remaining within budget. In terms of design this refers to ample space, rest areas, colourways, lighting and collaborating to produce accessible formats.

Always sustainable

PHM is committed to being conscious of our impact on the climate crisis, we expect designers to share these values and to suggest creative alternatives to materials and the design process to minimise our carbon footprint and reduce waste. We are also keen to reuse as much of our existing stock of plinths, cases and frames across multiple exhibitions as opposed to purchasing or building new items regularly.

Always collaborative

Collaboration is at the heart of our practice at PHM and the appointed designers will be expected to work closely with the Community Curators, steering group and PHM staff.

How to apply

This project is led by a steering group and curatorial team of disabled people and non-disabled allies. We actively welcome applications from exhibition designers who self-identify as disabled people alongside design studios with staff who self-identify as disabled people. We also welcome applications from non-disabled designers and design studios who can demonstrate experience of and a commitment to accessible design practice.

If you would like to submit an expression of interest please return the following by email to by Monday 16 May.

  • Full contact details
  • Relevant examples from your portfolio
  • A statement no longer than 500 words outlining your approach to one of the design challenges and expressing how you are aligned with at least one of PHM’s design principles with relevant examples.
  • A preliminary budget

We want our workforce to be representative of all sections of society and we actively welcome candidates who are currently underrepresented in the arts including people who face discrimination as a result of racism, those who self-identify as LGBTQIA+, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those who self-identify as disabled.

Interview / Selection process

The programme team will assess all applications with a consistent scoring system that will prioritise designers who are able to work within budget and respond with specific examples and ideas in relation to the design challenges and principles.

Up to three designers or studios will be invited to pitch and paid a fee of £200 per application to do so.

Candidates will be appointed based on their transferrable or relevant experience and their commitment and practical examples of embodying PHM’s design principles.

Key dates / Schedule

This schedule does not outline every detail of the process however it does highlight the estimated time between each stage and the expectations around text being supplied. The designers will work with the team to create a detailed schedule when appointed.



19 April   Design commission brief distributed  
16 May  Expressions of interest returned by email to  
18 May  Shortlisted designers notified and given information for detailed pitch 
W/C 30 May  Shortlisted three designers or studios pitch to Programme Team 
End of W/C 30 May  Successful designer notified  
June  Successful designer begins work with NAUWU Programme Team on developing the design concept  
Mid July  Delivery date for design concept options 
End of July  Design concept agreed and designers begin work on detailed design  
August  Detailed designs go through edits and feedback 
September   Detailed design agreed, text begins to be supplied  
September/October  Designs signed off, production and installation 


Intellectual property rights  

PHM will require EITHER a perpetual assignment (or transfer) of copyright OR a perpetual exclusive license to use the design including digital copies specifically for PHM’s purposes  

If copyright is assigned to PHM, a royalty-free, non-exclusive license will be granted to the supplier for demonstration purposes for clients/portfolio  

The supplier will be responsible for rights clearance of all content it supplies that is owned by third parties, including documenting and recording these permissions in line with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and supplying this information to PHM  

PHM will be responsible for clearing copyright of objects and archives supplied from its collection as well as items the programme team select from individuals, artists and other organisations’ collections and archives. 


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