The YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre is powerful and impactful, playing a major role in the lives of Calgary’s youth. It is an innovative police museum with a mission to change lives.
- Calgary Police Service
- YouthLink Calgary Police Interpretive Centre
- 8,500 sq. ft.
- Design-Build, Exhibit Design, Graphic Design
- Calgary, AB, CA
- Year Completed
Working to empower elementary school students who are at an age where poor choices can shape their futures, the YouthLink program is nothing short of extraordinary. The vision of the centre is to create a safer community by helping kids to make informed choices and become better citizens, with a goal to build greater resilience in Calgary’s youth. Paired with the student program, the police museum celebrates and demystifies the police force to build trust and a positive connection between police and the community.
Aimed primarily at a youth aged 10-14 with a secondary audience of parents, teachers, and families, the challenge for this project was to deliver the range of messages in a way that was compelling and authentic for an audience who don’t usually tune in.
- We required the highest standards of creation, innovation, collaboration, planning, and understanding of our uniqueness, and R&P exceeded our expectations in all areas.Tara Robinson, Executive Director
YouthLink is divided into two main components with very different design characters; the policing exhibits and the Safe for Life education spaces.
YouthLink policing exhibits are bold, brash and interactive, which is a direct result of input provided by their teen advisors who were very clear on how their sensibilities are different than a typical adult audience. Each zone focuses on a different policing unit showcasing officers in action and with dramatic backdrops and multimedia to put visitors into the scenes. These are paired with authentic recounts of major events in Calgary’s history and the evidence and artifacts that tell those stories. Visitors step into the role of riot police or helicopter pilots. The Forensics lab is transformed by black light. A replica police helicopter is suspended overhead while visitors on the ground below can experience the effective use of high powered lights and infrared to track criminals moving and hiding on the ground.
The other side of YouthLink is it’s Safe to Life program, which R&P reimagined with the educators and teens. These are a series of interactive program spaces set up to tackle challenging topics such as gangs, bullying, drugs, healthy relationships and online safety. Each space was strategically customized to drive a program experience related to these tricky topics. Together with our media partners, RLMG, we crafted experiences, spaces and a multimedia interactive program that allow the educators to frame conversations. We embedded real stories of bullying into a set of staged lockers, we set up a family dining table with voting screens where kids can make judgement calls about whether the interaction shown in the media program is healthy or not. Throughout, media and graphics help to authentically portray the complicated issues, while taking care to not talk down to their audience.
YouthLink is incredibly successful, reaching approximately 20,000 people a year. It has expanded its programs to add opportunities for groups to visit beyond what was originally conceived. There are camps, weekend events, adult evenings and many groups who are booking onto its very long wait list. R&P is proud that the power of an innovative approach, good design and critical stakeholder input along with a very forward-looking team can achieve so much.
Already, YouthLink is attracting international attention as other law enforcement agencies tour the facility, hoping to copy its success and impact with youth. YouthLink has become a valuable resource for the community as a whole and for the Calgary Police.
Working with the youth advisory council was a memorable part of this project. They gave us invaluable advice as we were developing the graphic look and feel. Their input had a fundamental impact on our work, with repercussions through the content and media development as well. The group was outspoken and decisive in a way that was refreshing for our team; nothing cutsey, no actors, no stock photography and no long paragraphs of text. They wanted information parsed out into small pieces. Graphics should be bold. And, most impactfully, we were to source and use only real people from Calgary. The YouthLink team used their connections with the police officers to source individuals willing to be photographed and interviewed in order to tell their stories. The resulting authenticity is palpable in the raw emotion that the exhibitions evoke.