Carnegie Museum of Art

2010 - 2011

Goal: Analyze current deficiencies and opportunities within the Carnegie Museum of Art's Hall of Architecture. Propose and design solutions to enhance and enrich the visitor experience, within a redesign strategy that can be implemented over multiple years and fundraising cycles.

Users: All Carnegie Museum of Art visitors

Why: To provide visitors with a delightful and educational experience that inspires collaboration with other visitors and connects visitors back to their CMoA experience even after they've returned home. 

My role: 1 of 4 designers. Environmental design, industrial design, user research, UX design, strategy. 

Process: This was a 12 week project that included visitor interviews, staff interviews, competitive audit, defining design criteria, early concepting, storyboarding, physical prototyping, interim presentations to CMoA, final concept refinement and preparation of design proposal document. Our four person team included one industrial designer, one graphic/print designer, one graphic/interaction/HCI designer, and myself (industrial designer with concentration in interaction design). We were an incredibly collaborative team in all phases of the project. My specific contributions included: writing user interview protocol, conduction user interviews, analyzing results, competitive analysis, framing problem area for initial concepting, leading brainstorms, sketching early concepts (low & high fidelity), constructing physical prototypes, sketching wireframes for all interface designs, material research, tech feasibility research, writing a large portion of the final design proposal document. 

Outcome: We gave detailed design justification and proposal document to the Carnegie Museum of Art to use in the process of applying for funding to improve the museum's Hall of Architecture. 



Our process began with finding out from current museum visitors how they viewed their experience in the Hall of Architecture. Though we had initial ideas about potential areas of improvement based both on what we observed and what the Hall of Architecture curators and staff expressed, the bulk of our research focused on what museum visitors wanted to take away from their visit to the Hall of Architecture, and whether or not they were able to do so successfully. As such, we chose to interview visitors using two separate methods in order to get as wide a range of participants as possible.

Our first method of interviewing was to invite fellow students not involved with this project to explore the Hall of Architecture as we shadowed their visit. By having our subjects first explore the Hall unaccompanied, and then explain to us afterward about their thought process by re-tracing their path, we were able to gain a sense of when visitors were most interested and when they were the most confused or disappointed. We were also able to understand what goals they had going in to the Hall, as well as their knowledge of the exhibit prior to visiting.

Our second method of interviewing was to approach outside visitors and families already in the space, and ask questions about what brought them to the Hall of Architecture, and what they were interested in getting out of their experience. The key issues we identified from user research were: lack of information, presentation, and retaining visitors. 



After completing our user research and competitive audit, we defined the design criteria that we would aim to follow throughout the project. Following creating the criteria, we began our concepting phase. Our analysis of the opportunities that lie within the Hall of Architecture led us to ask the following questions to guide our development process: What if visitors could see the Hall of Architecture as a destination point? What if visitors could see and discover even more than they expected about the collection? What if visitors could share their museum experiences? What if visitors could interact with the Hall in new ways?

n the beginning stages, we looked at ways to organize the vast amount of information presented in the Hall of Architecture. We considered categories such as place of origin, purpose, artist or architect, and current location. After taking a comprehensive inventory of the 140 casts by creating the inventory deck, we were able to determine that a consistent pattern within the Hall already was based off of culture and country of origin. We created a series of plan views of the space that show where specific casts are according to country of origin (see images, right). We began to generate ideas based on the concept of showing viewers connections between casts with these evident patterns. The inventory cards were a useful resource when looking up basic information about specific casts throughout the development process. 



Our preliminary ideas, which remained a focus throughout the project, centered around engagement and extension beyond the museum.




Our design solutions for the Hall of Architecture were both physical and digital, therefore, it was important to communicate our ideas through physical and digital prototypes to clearly illustrate ideas to the clients. Below is an example of one manifestation of this rapid prototype process. I worked with my fellow industrial designer to sketch our design for the new signage system with viewing lens. I then created a physical prototype of this design to prove the concept. He did the final render on the far right to illustrate how the system would appear in the actual space. This is also a great example of how fluid our team's process was. There were no egos and no feeling of ownership over single pieces of our system. I had the initial idea for the sign with viewing lens, we did hand sketching together, I built the physical prototype, and he did the final render. We were all balancing many pieces of the project at once and had to be comfortable handing pieces back and forth for each other to work on.



Based on our early research and feedback we received from the Hall of Architecture team, we moved forward in resolving our preliminary ideas, while consolidating the different components into a unified solution. We wanted to focus on proposing layers of incremental changes that the CMoA would be able to implement based on the funding they receive. 

We arrived at a system concept with three main components:

1. Presentation

Color Changes
Visual Language

2. Interaction

Signage System
Interactive Tables

3. Extension 

Web Presence


Visitors will be given a SmartTicket upon arrival to the museum. Each SmartTicket will be RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) enabled and will allow visitors to have a customized museum experience. A desk attendant or docent will explain the capabilities of the SmartTicket and its ability to further enhance their exploration and learning while in the Hall of Architecture. 

Once in the Hall of Architecture, visitors will be able to “tag” the casts they view by placing their SmartTicket next to each cast’s nameplate. This tagging and visit information will be stored on a server and will be accessible by the user both inside the exhibit and through the CMoA website. 

Once visitors have finished viewing casts, they can use their SmartTickets to access more information about the casts and begin to draw connections within the collection by using the Timeline Table and Collaboration Circles. 


The interactive table system provides the final layer of the visitor’s experience in the Hall of Architecture. As mentioned in the SmartTicket section, the interactive tables will allow visitors to view connections between the casts they tagged with their SmartTickets in addition to seeing the casts placed in a timeline. Visitors can choose to use the interactive tables or simply pass them by depending on what they are looking for in their museum experience. The idea being that visitors will be able to have a rich experience in the Hall of Architecture with an analog, digital system, or combination of both. 

The Collaboration Circles allow visitors to see connections between the casts they tagged and the tagged casts of someone else who may be using the Circle. The Collaboration Circle draws connections based on categories such as original location, current location, architectural style, purpose, and date of creation. The Circles also allow users to share their connections map via social media sites such as Facebook and Tumblr. This extension beyond the physical museum is a key strategy for attracting college students and young people to the Hall of Architecture and the CMoA in general. When users begin to share their museum experience and connection maps with their friends online, there is potential for the connection map sharing to become viral and attract even more visitors to the Hall of Architecture. 



We created an extensive design proposal document, outlining all aspects of our process and final design recommendations. If you like this project and want to see more thorough explanations and more images, I highly encourage you to check it out here.