During my time at Stink Studios, I’ve had to learn to be adaptive and fluid in the way I approach projects. We think about the user of the product we are building and design an experience based on their needs.
College is a regimented environment that lays the framework for what will become your personal design style. After RIT, it was a huge adjustment to be without guidance during the design process, but after two years of not having a formal process, it all makes sense. Every project, user, and client is different. If no two users are the same, why do we use the same solutions for all? Our process is to create the best user experience, regardless of how we get there.
This two-day workshop exposed students to the tools necessary to build experiences within the context of any process or environment. These tools included incorporating empathy into design thinking and how ability-aware design can lead to better experiences for all.
Students learned to design for context, not trends, and how to make choices for the user’s needs over what is trendy. Tying in context, students learned to address the problem at hand using ingenuity to find solutions that work for users. This resulted in unique designs rather than repeated patterns exhausted by previous students.
The workshop’s goal was for students to learn how to create a better digital and/or physical experience for all users at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery. In a talk before the workshop, I broke down the key touchpoints for successful user experience: empathy, inclusion, context, and ingenuity.
The Rochester Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) is a local art museum in downtown Rochester. Frequented by students from the local universities, the MAG is a small town art museum. They haven’t updated their exhibits and space in years, leaving many pain points for visitors.
The first day of the workshop began at the MAG, where students were required to conduct user interviews with patrons. After the participants shared their findings with the group, we did brainstorming exercises on creative solutions to the pain points the students discovered. After everyone shared their ideas, students could pick any of the pain points the group identified the pain points as their focus for the rest of the workshop.
On the second day, students started their day again at the MAG, this time user testing their projects with museum patrons. After getting some feedback, students revised their prototypes and put their work into a deck for a final presentation.
The prompt was intentionally open-ended to get students to think bigger than just an app or a website. Because of this, there was a huge range in project types. Because of the workshop’s short time frame, students only were able to ideate and prototype their experiences, but they were encouraged to continue the project once the workshop ended.
Angela Bozza, 3rd year graphic design student, learned from user interviews that patrons didn’t know about events going on at the MAG, but they would love to attend. The users that did use the MAG’s online calendar found it hard to navigate and didn’t enjoy the experience. She created a new calendar design for the MAG’s website that was organized by categories, so different users could easily find events of interest. She also created a mobile version of the calendar so visitors already at the MAG can easily find upcoming events.
Dasha Buduchina, 4th year graphic design student, noticed that none of the MAG’s collections were online, like most museums. She created a new filter structure for the MAG’s online collection to encourage visitors to find work they are interested in and come to the MAG to view it. Having access to online collections would also be helpful for students at the nearby universities, who are major visitors to the MAG.
Emma Fleming, 4th year graphic design student, learned from user interviews that patrons were interested in learning more about the art than what is offered on plaque, but are too lazy to Google it. She created an app where users can take a photo of art they are viewing and using Google’s Vision API, the app can read what art they are viewing and give the user information about it.
Kevin Zampieron, 3rd year graphic design student, learned from user interviews that patrons had questions about the art they were viewing and about the museum, but couldn’t find someone to help them answer their questions. He created a chatbot app, Maggie, for the MAG’s visitors to easily ask questions about the art and the museum.
Laura Stockman, 3rd year graphic design student, learned from user interviews that patrons wanted more information about the museum and the art than what is on the plaque. She discovered that older visitors were more interested in audio tours than younger visitors because of the ease of use. She created an app that included museum information and self guided auto tours for visitors of all ages.
Madison Mitchell, 3rd year graphic design student, learned that some patrons had a hard time reading the plaques next to the artwork. She created digital museum plaques so users can adjust type size for better legibility and includes maps so users can easily navigate around the museum.
After working with these students for two days, it was amazing to see their interest in user experience and curiosity. Many students completed the project after the workshop was over. I enjoyed working with students that were so excited to learn and be pushed out of their comfort zone.
RIT Graphic Design Department Chair - Nancy Bernardo
Designer and Speaker - Liz Wells
Illustrator - Claire Cianca
Animation Developer - Brandon Romano