Spend time on ideas to make richer experiences

This article was originally published by the GIFT project, a research project that Culture24 was partnered with, funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme. To find out more about GIFT, visit their website.

Experience Design: Spend Time on Ideation

In the GIFT Action Research, researchers and 10 museums from EU and USA collaborated to better understand practical challenges for designing digital visitor experiences. The following are recommended things to do and methods to try out – all about practising ideation in a museum context.

Start with purpose & people

With our group of museums, we discussed how tech ideas sometimes dominate design projects. Instead of implementing the latest gadgets and making ‘shiny’ solutions, we found that richer experiences come out of putting purpose and people first.

Things to do

  • Start by thinking about what problem you are trying to solve and how you can learn more about the people for whom it is relevant.
  • If colleagues or other people say “we want an app” or “let’s do VR”, encourage them to reflect on why and for whom.
  • Always try to describe what you seek to do without using tech language.
  • Try out the VisitorBox Ideation Cards to get technological ideas with point of departure in purpose and people.

Collaborate on ideas

With our groups of museums, we reflected on how museums tend to bring in others too late – co-workers, technologists, content creators, visitors and other stakeholders. We noticed how this typically causes problems and limits innovation.

Things to do

  • Abandon the idea of having a clean start: think about how you can learn from and build relations with other projects.
  • Remember that there is no such thing as a common language: spend time on developing shared understandings across collaborators.
  • Let collaborators know why they are invited, yet be open: if you know exactly what you’re asking somebody for, you will never end up anywhere new.
  • Try out the ASAP Map – a paper-based tool that helps you strengthen your ideas together with your collaborators.

Test ideas

With our group of museums, we discussed a typical resistance at museums towards showing things in the making. In contrast, we found that working experimentally, making tests and small outputs, better supports innovation.

Things to do

  • Let go of control. To be able to innovate, you have to take risks and sometimes even fail.
  • Think of harvesting rather than just documenting experiments: harvest insights that can help you and your organisation grow.
  • Remember to share learning across your museum: be generous with your findings even if there were disappointments.
  • Try out the Experiment Planner – a paper-based tool that helps you plan an experiment to test your idea.

About GIFT

The GIFT project was a research project funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme. The project brought together internationally renowned artists, designers, museum professionals and researchers to help museums create hybrid experiences: experiences that combine the physical and digital to create personal encounters with cultural heritage. The project started in January 2017 and ran for three years, to December 2019.