Young people feel misplaced when visiting museums…
How might we reimagine museum spaces to be more accomodating for young adults?
For the research phase, initially I worked with:
For the Design and Development phase I worked solely with Margaux.
Empathy based research
I created, collated and formatted user sensitising activities, also gathering insights by collectively facilitating ethnographic studies, generative session interviews, group context and cognitive mapping sessions.
We collectively designed, developed and iterated through possible design solutions, evaluating each possible solution using design thinking to explore concepts without the limitations of physical form.
I created the majority of all graphic elements and illustration assets, visualising the design of our UX solution.
Museums pose as a culturally enriching playground for the arts, history and science to interact with the public. More specifically, a museum builds relations between it’s props (the environment and artefacts), people (the public), and the processes (the interactions). However, the format of the museum experience has not been updated or appropriated since its origins. Which makes us pose the question – How can we better adapt the visitor experience to help the institution with engage with new audiences, or affirm their relationship with existing ones?
To further our understanding of the current museum experience, we conducted ethnographic studies and created a series of cultural probes in order to delve deeper into the tacit reasoning behind what people thought about museums. Firstly, we presented out research participants with user sensitising activities, in order to invoke introspection. We created these activities using an initial pilot test, and adjusted these based on feedback before presenting the activities to our research participants.
After the user sensitising activities, we ran group generative session interviews, group context mapping sessions, and finally, collaging and cognitive mapping activities. The collage and cognitive mapping activities which were created involved the users to assign their own meanings to ambiguous words, images and icons. These activities simply act as a springboard, prompting the research participants to consider their tacit emotions and experiences, generating more personal and genuine responses.
Following these generative sessions, statement cards were created in order to categorise and conceptualise these insights. From this, eight areas of engagement emerged, which is included in the following infographic. In particular, my role was to create the bulk of the visual assets, whilst the rest of our team collated and organised information.
Developing the solution
One area from the eight themes generated from research was chosen to be delved into. The chosen topic area was “Perceived Constraints and Pressures,” which restricts young adults from enjoying museums.
These perceived constraints and pressures were experienced in a number of ways by our patrons, which decreased their enjoyment and engagement with the artefacts. These are:
- carrying/managing belongings
- imposed rules (i.e. do not touch exhibits, do not make noise)
- feeling as if they weren’t welcome
- the perceived judgments being made by other patrons about them
- the pace and directions implied by other people within certain spaces
- the perceived expectation that they would possess pre-formed knowledge as well as be gaining cultural and historical knowledge while there.
Essentially, young adults feel as if they aren’t welcome within the museum space. Thus, the ultimate end-goal for our design is to alleviate these perceived constraints and pressures placed on Young Adults, changing the museum ethos of the strict and unwelcoming environment reported.
Margaux and I each created 2 proposed solutions and storyboards in response to this problem. We discussed and critiqued these ideas not only through design thinking, but also with peers and industry professionals.
We continued to evaluate and discuss each of our solutions using a Harris Profile Decision Matrix in order to objectively justify our decisions. When making these Matrices, we used designed a set of heuristics based on user needs, the project brief, and external literature to inform our evaluation.
It was decided that The Zen Den concept was the most successful in responding to not only our design brief, but the user needs identified through the Research Phase. The Zen Den responds to the issues of young adults feeling as though they have no control over their own museum experience, anxiety about external stressors, and feeling seperated from other visitors; holisically responding to the perception that museums are “too strict and unwelcoming.”
Designing the Content
The concept for The Zen Den was then refined and fleshed out further. From there, began the process of creating a user journey map, all supporting assets, the video prototype, and final design of The Zen Den.
The Zen Den is a user experience concept aimed to redesign the museum experience for Young Adults in Sydney. Using emerging technologies, the Zen Den helps engage and affirm the user’s relationship with the museum and it’s context, designed in direct response to findings from background and user research.
The chosen gallery, The White Rabbit Gallery, aims to educate and engage the public with Chinese contemporary art. Hence, the Zen Den is inspired by the art of Chinese paper folding, called zhezhi. The Zen Den requires museum patrons to collect pieces of paper, displayed next to each artist exhibition. They then can follow a tutorial and create their own zhezhi. Using a 3D scanner, their zhezhi can then come to life, and the Young Adults are encouraged to interact with their digital zhezhi, as well as with other museum-goers.
The Zen Den tackles the perceived constraints and pressures faced by Young Adults when visiting museums through the following ways:
Multi-sensory design and immersion rids patrons of external stressors, thereby replacing the formal and didactic method of ingesting information at museums with experiential learning, allowing users to better learn at museums.
Control theory makes the user central to the experience and provides them with agency, creating a sense of individualism and making patrons feel as through they are shaping their own experience.
Creating a common atmosphere and stimulating environment creates a common reality for museum visitors to comfortably interact with each other.
This is an overview of the user journey map outlining the current and future state touch-points of The Zen Den.