Strategic Planning

Interpretive Planning

Master Planning

Exhibit Development

Media & Technology

Lighting & Acoustics



Project Management




Our practice covers a wide range of subjects and client profiles providing services to museums and corporations in the form of exhibition planning, design and consulting services.


Before we begin to work on the drawing table, we meet with our clients to understand their institution, their audience and mission. Through this dialogue, a comprehensive approach is defined, and by studying our clients’ resources and business model, we define a concept for the development of the project and how it will be assimilated into the institution’s culture and its communities.

Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is an organization's process of defining its direction and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue a vision.


The key components of strategic planning include an understanding of the client's vision, mission and values. We examine the goals that the institution is striving and suggest creative initiatives that help our clients to get there. We work with our client’s team and conduct strategic planning sessions. As a result, we produce reports that guide and inform the further development of the project, becoming a resource for board, trustee, staff and community decision-making.

Strategic planning documents developed for the "Parque de la Movilidad" (MOVO) museum project in Medellín, Colombia

Interpretive Planning

We work with  institutions such as museums, libraries, science centers and heritage sites in creating new, exciting ways for its visitors to experience stories, messages and information.


This process combines researching, organizing and analyzing content with creative forms of presentation. The resulting product provides a vision for the visitor experience and recommends the most effective, efficient, and practical ways to convey that vision. Our interpretive planning documents inform the development of the project and provide resources for fund raising, architectural design, and exhibit development.

Interpretive planning documents developed for the project:  "Parque de  la Movilidad" -MOVO

During the master planning phase of the "Parque de la Movilidad" project, ZDS met with hundreds of industry leaders from private and public entities to gain their support and participation in the estimated $100 million museum park.

Master Planning
Through the master planning process we work with the institution’s external community in exploring a sustainable path. The resulting plan will provide a structure for the institution’s future.


This process explores all areas of a client's operations to see how they can better align with the needs and interests of its community and unidentified stakeholders. A Master Plan outlines a strategic approach that in collaboration with the project’s constituency reveals new offerings. All meetings conducted during the master planning process provide insight and tremendous amounts of data that we translate into a route map that guides all subsequent tasks with specific directions and goals. Our Master Planning documents are an instrument and a resource to gain support from public and private funds.

We create a comprehensive design group to help our clients explore new effective ways to capture their audiences’ interests.


We work closely with our client’s team, often composed of educators, curators or communicators and depending on the scope of the project we bring into the development team other relevant professional knowledge.

During the Exhibit Development phase of the CosmiKids project, ZDS worked closely with this California based, children entertainment company in the design of its franchise retail locations.

Exhibit Development

Whether the project expands a brand
or highlights a historical period, our approach to design focuses on delivering content through immersive story-telling, using traditional and new media in provocative ways, encouraging interactivity and inviting the public’s participation to build upon the experience.


This intensely creative process is similar to the craft of theater. Exhibits combine all forms of expression: artifacts, words, sounds, colors, images, new media, light, materials and space. As concepts evolve into exhibits, it is our mission to give them physical form and visual interest, providing a supporting stage for the messages or intellectual ideas behind the exhibition. During the exhibit development phase, the elements that form the exhibit narrative take shape and direction. All elements are outlined in a program report with preliminary exhibit plans, budgets and development schedules.

Selected pages of a proposal presented to the Grand Egyptian Museum for the development of all interactive and mobile media.

Media & Technology

New media, interactive, and mobile technologies are indispensable in social environments today. We balance the use of new, state of the art technologies with other display techniques to engage the visitor in compelling and meaningful ways.


We understand that engaging the visitor is of great importance for an institution. Beyond creating audiovisual programs, engagement is about turning a visitor into an active member of the institution’s community. We create channels of communication with the visitor with effective and thought-provoking interfaces that keep the audience tuned inside or outside the exhibit environment. Sometimes these media interfaces are the end product of our work creating media platforms for visual explanations, co-creation, gaming, social networking and institutional services such as programming, membership and retail.

For the pop-up installation of the CosmiKids Discovery Tour at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles, ZDS collaborated with artist Juliana Morris to show her mandala designs with light projections as well as the CosmiKids' brand.

Lighting & Acoustics

Lighting and sound have a crucial impact in a exhibit environment. These components set the mood of the story, affect how objects are perceived and how information is learned by the visitors.


Lighting and acoustic design are specialties that require extensive expert design collaboration. We work with conservators to balance the visitor’s comfort within the architecture of the exhibit spaces and the conservation requirements of the artifacts. We combine natural light with theatrical lighting to create visually arresting spaces. Moderating sound is also crucial. Our role is not only to understand how sound contributes to the narrative of an exhibit, but also to manage the transitions of the visitors between high flow and contemplative areas.

ZDS created architectural visualizations and brands for each interpretive area of the "Parque de la Movilidad"  with the purpose of communicating to the community, public officials, and stakeholders the concept behind the museum park.


We produce brands and photo-realistic visualizations that communicate stories and ideas to stakeholders with the purpose of obtaining support, developing concepts and securing funding.


Beyond visual elements such as logos, packages or symbols, we understand branding as a process of building evolving identities. We help our clients to develop their personalities in the eyes and minds of their visitors. Early planning meetings help us understand our clients’ needs and through the design process we conceive brands and environments that truly convey the client’s values and unique culture.

For CosmiKids, ZDS created prototypes and specifications of all exhibit elements and supervised the production and implementation of the installation in Los Angeles from New York, while managing all production with multiple providers from all over the USA, India, and France.

Specifications Prototypes and design documents are design tools intended for testing operations and estimating resources with clients and stakeholders. We prototype all elements of an exhibit program and conduct testing through multiple scenarios and interfaces. Prototypes give us the most realistic portrayal of an environment –physical or virtual– and help us make final design decisions during the development of production and installation documents. And to make sure final installations are as revealing as the initial concepts, we provide construction companies, fabricators, media producers, printing shops, technicians, vendors, and clients with detailed production documents and schedules.

Project Management

We ensure each component of the design plan is developed and produced with the highest quality, on-time, and on-budget.


We work hand-in-hand with our client’s educators, curators, facility managers and selected production companies to develop each and all of the elements of the design program, providing functionality, safety and durability. Depending on the project, we research and recommend fabricators, produce design contract documentation, select specifications and supervise the production of all components of the design program. We also oversee the production, coordinate and supervise final installations in collaboration with the staff of the host institution.


César Zapata consults and lectures on planning and design of visitor

experiences to design schools, museums, government agencies, and trade organizations sharing his knowledge with students and colleagues through seminars and tailored publications.



- Museum Studies, Harvard Extension School (Online program)

- Altos de Chavón School of Design. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

- Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía. CDMX, México.

- The Fashion Institute of Technology – FIT. New York

- School of Business and Finance – EAFIT. Medellín, Colombia

- School of Architecture and Design – UPB. Medellín



- Museo Casa de la Memoria. Medellín

- University Museum - Antioquia University. Medellín

- Museum of Transportation Foundation. Medellín



- Alcaldía de Medellín

- Ministerio de la Cultura. República Dominicana.



- Conexiones Creativas. Cartagena, Medellín

- Instituto para la Exportación y la Moda - INEXMODA. Medellín