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What is interpretive planning?

Interpretive planning is strategic planning for your mission, message, and visitor experience. The process helps you and your stakeholders clearly define the “theme” (aka "big idea") for either your whole organization or a specific project. Then, you envision what experiences will help your audiences best connect with that theme.


If you are an informal education organization, an interpretive master plan is a critical complement to your master plan and strategic plan. You can also use the interpretive planning process to develop individual projects that integrate exhibits, media, and programs around a central theme.


Why should you create an interpretive plan?

A solid interpretive plan:

  • Ensures an integrated, easy-to-navigate experience for visitors.

  • Increases your intended impacts.

  • Provides a clear and compelling tool for sharing your vision with funders.

  • Allows internal and external stakeholders to co-create interpretive goals.


What is included in an interpretive plan?

This depends on the needs and constraints of the organization. The plan can be a simple interpretive assessment outlining audience(s), a theme and subthemes, relevant stories, and simple exhibit/media and program recommendations. Or, it could be a comprehensive interpretive master plan:

  • providing a market analysis and audience profile,

  • mapping the complete visitor experience,  

  • summarizing the relevant content and stories, and

  • providing detailed descriptions of exhibits, programs, wayfinding, and other visitor materials.

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