Client: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Project: Human-Centered Design Coaching + Custom Workshops Development & Facilitation
Location: Philadelphia, PA and Miami, FL
How might cultural institutions use technology to connect people to the arts?
This is the question that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation tasked 12 nonprofit, arts, and cultural organizations with exploring through the Arts & Technology Prototype Fund. The Prototype Fund was developed out of a belief that human-centered design, coupled with an iterative approach to technology development, produces better results.
The participating organizations, which included the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology were charged with exploring the potential of technology to meet changing audience expectations and help people delight in the arts.
Many of the participants were not experienced with human-centered design, and this approach represented a new way of working for their organizations. For this reason, the Knight Foundation turned to Designing Insights to help grantees learn and apply design thinking techniques, collaborate and share outcomes, and test and explore ideas through prototyping.
Designing Insights worked with the cohort of grantees for over nine months, delivering a custom program that involved:
- An intensive, two-day training in human-centered design
- Nine months of remote coaching for participants
- A custom-designed, final convening that included coaching and guidance in storytelling and public speaking
- A facilitated “Demo Day” in which participants shared lessons learned with peers and members of the Miami arts and cultural community
Many of the participants came from institutions with internal processes that are at odds with the mindset of iteration. Therefore, the training and coaching from Designing Insights was critical to ensuring that participants followed an experimental and iterative approach.
The participating organizations developed novel and innovative solutions that ranged from digital museum labels to augmented reality smart glasses for disabled audience members to utilize in performing arts venues.
Grantees gained new insights about audience members and visitors, and many organizational assumptions were disproved.
For example, one of the participating institutions, the Newport Art Museum, initially assumed that visitors don’t have enough knowledge about exhibitions to contribute comments to a digital feedback system, but they found this assumption to be false. The Museum received astute and thoughtful responses from visitors, and learned not to underestimate the knowledge and willingness to participate of their audiences. This learning will inform other programs at the Museum beyond their Prototype Fund project.
The final “Demo Day” presentations were noted to be among the best presentations delivered at the culmination of a grant cycle by Knight Foundation staff, and participants rated their experience with high marks:
- 90% of participants reported that they would recommend a workshop with Designing Insights to a colleague or friend
- 90% of participants reported that they will use what they learned from the experience in their ongoing work, beyond the grant funding
- 94% of participants rated the facilitators as excellent
Lisa Sonneborn, Director, Media Arts and Culture at Institute on Disabilities, Temple University