National Air & Space Museum

Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumClient: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Project: Custom Design Thinking Bootcamp
Location: Washington, D.C.


The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s grand entry hall gallery, the Boeing Milestones of Flight, exhibits some of the major “firsts” in aviation and space history and has a huge impact on the overall visitor experience. Seventy percent of visitors enter through the space, yet it had not been redesigned for many years. The Museum wanted to bring together a multidisciplinary group of staff members from Curatorial, Education, Web and New Media, and Exhibition Design to explore how well the space was meeting the needs of the millions of visitors who pass through it annually in order to kick-off a two-year renovation and redesign of the hall.


National Air & Space Museum workshop
Photo courtesy Michael Edson, Smithsonian Institution.

To explore how the Boeing Milestone of Flight hall can better orient visitors to the rest of the Museum and its collection, we designed a two-day design thinking bootcamp to explore visitor needs and prototype new in-gallery interactive exhibits and experiences. Staff observed and interviewed visitors on the floor, synthesized findings, and honed in on problems around wayfinding and interpretation. They built and tested prototypes for new interactive exhibits, multimedia displays, services, and online content.


After the workshop, staff at the Museum continued to use and apply design thinking practices to the development of the new Milestones of Flight. Methods such as empathy interviews, visitor observations, and rapid prototyping contributed to the reconceptualization of the space, and many of the ideas prototyped in the bootcamp were incorporated into the new space.