At our previous staff meeting, we “ideated”. We brainstormed ways to bring the education component of the museum to visitors. It is all part of our new Creativity Center design, which we are all very excited about. Come visit us in the new year to see all the new changes. It is an interesting challenge- how can we implement education into our exhibits and throughout the museum, without being too “teachy” and science museum-esque. The ideas of the staff and the fantastic education department are well on their way to solving that problem.

But at the Bass Museum of Art, the departments are not silos. We learned all about this during our Empathy stage. It is a lean staff, who help each other at every turn and each contribute to the exhibitions, events and promotion of the museum. The entire staff seems to enjoy the challenge, and say it is one of the things that keeps their jobs interesting. But is not easy, and can drive people crazy at times.  So with this in mind, we used the prototyping step of the  design process to investigate the needs of the museum staff, identify synergies and overlap within each other’s jobs and find ways that we can make the collaborative process of events and other responsibilities happen more easily and efficiently.

How did we do this? We imagined we had money. Which was fun. More money, enough to hire three more people. And so if we are going to hire more people, what should be their job description? With partners and later as a whole group, we discussed what the new job titles are and what their duties would be. Editors note: there will be no pictures for this post, as some of the information shared in the room needs to remain internal.

Prototyping is used to test parts of solutions, but it can also be used to uncover more about your user’s needs. It was in this fashion that we decided to pretend to hire more people. By going through this process, the staff also was given a chance to review their own jobs and the jobs done by their coworkers. Employees were able to voice what they believed to be their responsibilities, and their coworkers could learn where to go when they needed assistance. The exercise allowed employees to feel free to talk about what they needed help with, and what they would like to be responsible for, without fear of reprisal.

Some employees, as a result of the discussion, picked up new job responsibilities, the goal being that these shifts would make the workplace function more smoothly and employees would be happier with the work they are asked to do. At a place like the Bass, we will always be asked to do more than just that, which most of us agree  is a positive thing. If one only has a limited job scope, he will become bored easily. But on the other hand, to not know what one’s job is, or who to go to when you need help, is even more frustrating. And so changes were made, and now comes the final step in the process- testing. Different structures and responsibilities will be explored.  No one should feel that they are stuck in their job. The design process is constant, and we will be constantly evaluating our work and responsibilities.

My time here as the idea@thebass Fellow is coming to an end. If I was successful at my work here, then the design process was experienced and shown to be effective in examining problems and coming up with innovative solutions. Commitment to the process should result in the constant examination and tinkering with the solutions. It might even be necessary to start over, with the knowledge learned from our prototyping and testing. The Creativity Center should be constantly reworked and a place of constant innovation and experimentation. If we try and fail, we learn and improve. The Bass Museum of Art is a place of great creativity and intelligence. I was honored to be given a chance to work with the wonderful staff at the museum, and am excited to see what comes next.

We are still working our way through the design process here at the Bass Museum of Art and our meeting this week focused on ideation, otherwise known as brainstorming. Being an “idea man” this is my favorite part of the process. No messy evaluating for feasibility, not yet in the more labor intensive test or prototyping mode, this part of the process is pure imagination and creativity without bounds. The goal at this point is to go for volume of ideas, regardless of real world limitations. And it is not the time to evaluate or judge others’ ideas, so you can really run wild. When brainstorming and coming up with ideas, it is important that you keep all of those rules in mind, because even ideas that are completely outlandish might have some nugget that you can bring to a more doable idea later in the process.

I was also looking forward to this meeting because we would be using the developing Creativity Center and the education departments’ goals as the topic with which to generate ideas. I presented the staff with a POV: “A driven museum director wants to expand her education department without losing the cultural significance or aesthetic values of her leading contemporary art museum.” The insight that led me to this POV was from a conversation I had with the director of The Bass Museum of Art, Sylvia Karman Cubina, regarding the museum’s educational goals. She told me how committed she was to expanding the educational reach of the Bass, but how she did not want to turn the museum into a children’s museum. I thought that a profound and challenging statement, and certainly a challenge worth bringing our collective minds to conquer via the design thinking methods.

From the POV we generated a bunch of “How might we…” statements. These statements are short, actionable questions that are derived from the POV. Rather than trying to come up with a solution to the larger problem posed in the POV as a whole, we break it down to smaller chunks that are more specific and will generate ideas more quickly. In our meeting we came up with about 6 HMW questions, but settled on just two: “How might we lead museum visitors to find and explore the Creativity Center?” and “How might we integrate family needs into the museum exhibitions?”.  Both of these questions were generative enough so that we would be able to come up with creative solutions during a brainstorm. And so we did– we broke into two groups, and each took 15 minutes to generate as many ideas and solutions to the problem statement as we could. Our goal was to create 40 ideas in 15 minutes. Here is what our respective boards looked like after those 15 minutes:

Some of the ideas were very specific, and others will require further investigation and ideation. But it was a great start, and the conversation that resulted after we regrouped and presented our ideas to each other was extremely interesting and informative as to what our goals with our education department should be. It was decided that the education department will review the long list of ideas and pick the few that they are most excited about trying. The next step will be to prototype those ideas, and test them with our users. Soon we’ll let you know the results!

There was one last week of camp, and the teacher of the class, Andrea, was kind enough to give me one more shot at working with the young children to design a Creativity Center that would address their needs. I wanted to give it another go, and see if I could get better results–less hot tubs and roller coasters and more education and artistic discovery. The results: eh, so-so.

We began this class with a discussion of the role of the designer. The children ages 7-12 seemed to have a firm grasp on the idea that if something works well and addresses a need, it was likely designed by some person or persons. We were then able to discuss user-centered design, and the tenets that I have been detailing in this blog and throughout the education programs here at the Bass. The children seemed to have a firm grasp of the idea that one must design for the user, and not oneself. And then we started building…

There is no doubt that the children were enjoying themselves. Being able to use a multitude of materials with very small constraints on their creativity allowed them to really run wild with their ideas and constructions. Maybe too wild- places for pets started creeping into their Creativity Centers, rocket ships hovering above the space, larger than the entire museum. But I did begin to notice a pattern in the success and failure, and it seemed to be determined by the age of the child. The younger ones, 3rd grade and lower, quickly forgot about the users that had been assigned to them, and started designing for their own flights of fancy. The 5th and 6th graders however, spent more time thinking about what their user would need, and designing their creations with more detail and with better sense of scale. Check out the difference:

Here is a design for an elderly woman, who wants to learn more about video art:

The tower in the middle of the room is a 360 degree video monitor. There are comfortable chairs, video art on the walls, a computer to learn and create one’s own video art, and a green screen. Fantastic ideas that speak directly to the users need.

Here is a younger group’s design:

Now dont get me wrong- this is a beautiful, creative and fun design.But somewhere along the line they got off the tracks. If memory serves, I believe they were designing for a family who was visiting the center with varied interests. What resulted however, was a pool filled with animals, a cute tiny monster with his own room , and beds for the family to sleep on. It became the family’s house rather than the Creativity Center within the Bass Museum of Art.

After our first 15 minutes of discussion I felt fairly sure that they had at least learned about design and how to address the user. But when it came time to do so, not all of the children were successful. I cannot fully blame the children’s age however. Once, while at the Stanford d.School, I worked at a booth at the Maker Faire, and we had short design challenges for kids of all ages. And even the littlest ones were able to come up with solutions for the user, even if they were outlandish (outlandish design solutions still have their utility). I wonder if it was the redesign of an entire room that made their minds wander from the original user. Perhaps the attention span needed to remain focused on a whole room design, as opposed to one object or product doesnt come about until they are 10 years old or more. And of course, there is another reason it may not of worked- operator failure. Perhaps I was not clear enough, or did not have them focused enough on the idea that this was a redesign for the Creativity Center within the Museum.

Finally,  I must add that when I say poor outcomes, I only mean that many of the designs were unhelpful to my ultimate quest of redesigning the Center. The activity itself was a fun, creative and novel experience for the children. Many of them were unable to finish in the time they were allotted. They wanted to continue working, which is always a good sign. So it is only  for my own selfish needs that it did not work, the kids had a great time.

During last week’s staff meeting I gave a quick overview of the design process to the Bass Museum of Art staff, and it was decided that we could use it explore the possibliity of making work at the museum more efficient, less stressful, and create better results. Knowing that IDEO and the Stanford d.School have often helped companies redesign their culture, I was confident that we could do the same here are the Bass.

I chose a few different tools from the design process toolkit that I had acquired while at Stanford. A great resource for me and for anyone interested in this type of work is the d.School Bootcamp bootleg. I have used it again and again in my work.

We began our meeting with a 2X2 matrix. A 2X2 matrix helps scaffold a conversation about a problem space that one might be working in. In this case, I chose it so we could see the type of work that we are all engaged in at the Bass. In a 2X2 matrix we delineate two opposite categories within the space we are working in. At the Bass I used “Collaborative Work——-Individual Work” as the two endpoints of the horizontal axis, and “Work on-site at the Bass”——–“E-work” (work one could do elsewhere) as the vertical. By plotting our job responsibilities in the quadrants created, we can see opportunities where our work might overlap, or ways we might get our work done more efficiently. We did not focus on this discussion too long, for we saw that we were doing all sorts of work in every quadrant, and our space was too saturated to see any patterns emerging. But it served its purpose, getting us all thinking along the same lines–what were our job responsiblilities and how could we find ways to integrate them with others’ to eliminate overlap and miscommunication. Midway through the 3 minutes of posting our duties, notice how busy the employees of the Bass Museum of Art are!:

Next, we found partners and interviewed them about their jobs duties. When doing user interviews, it is important that our questions are open-ended, allow time for the user to form their answers, are not leading or binary questions, and more than anything else, is a conversation where we must share as much as we should listen.

During the interview portion, the staff took notes on “Empathy Maps” that I had created for them. An Empathy Map helps us to structure the information we receive from interviews. We take notes on what they say, what they do (body language), emotions that they are conveying, and thinking that we see behind the words. We can then use these notes to identify the user’s needs, and form insights about why they may be feeling and thinking the way they are. One could either take notes directly on a Empathy Map as we did, or synthesize notes from an interview on an Empathy Map later. Here is a photo of one staff members interview notes on an empathy map:

Then we moved on to the next step, forming a Point-of-View Statement. A POV, as you may remember from the design process post, is where we distill all of our findings from our interviews and other empathy steps into a single user who we can then create solutions for. This is a critical step in the process, for it is extremely important to create a POV that is inspiring for ideating solutions and provides clear direction for moving forward. Here is an example of one staff members POV:

Notice how the person who created this POV tried out various versions, before finalizing one, a very useful way to create a POV. Though this POV may be a bit too metaphorical for specific idea generation, it is so close to a perfect POV-descriptive of the user, uses action verbs for the needs, and insightful about the reasons that drive the user.

After creating individual POV’s, we noticed that many of the POV’s created had a similar theme- staff members trying to juggle all of the demands of a fast paced, creative and collaborative environment.  So we spent considerable time trying to filter all of the POV’s of the staff into one individual POV that might speak to that idea. But we never actually completed this step. We were getting close:

By trying to create a inspiring, actionable POV, lots of issues and explanations emerged about the intricacies of the work environment of the Bass Museum of Art. As a group, we decided to stay with this conversation rather than proceeding to the next step, brainstorming solutions. Though we were unable to move forward in the design process, it was the right decision. Rather than move to the ideating stage with an imperfect POV, we remained in the empathy stage, trying as a group to really dive deep into the underlying needs of the museum staff. And this is fundamental to the human centered design process- truly understanding your users.

Thankfully, I received feedback from members of the staff that the meeting was time well spent. Oftentimes trying to uncover challenges in the workplace among coworkers can be difficult, either because people hold back or conversely, they are too aggressive. I believe our meeting was successful because of these design tools. It scaffolded our conversation, gave us ways to filter the information we learned from each other and allowed us to consider a staff member who was a composite of the group yet specific enough that we might uncover a particular issue that is central to workplace difficulty. In a couple of weeks we will return to the conversation, and begin creating and prototyping possible solutions. I’ll keep you posted!

Every weekday during the summer the Bass Museum of Art hosts an art day camp for children 7-12 years of age. This group will be one of the prime users of the space, so we thought they should be our first collaborators of our redesign.

Early Friday morning I met with the group, and we immediately began brainstorming all of the types of projects they would like to do in camp. Next, I provided them blueprints (drawn by our resident interior designer, Jay Dick) and asked them to sketch out a new plan for the center. Perhaps they needed a bit more direction, because many of them put hot tubs and roller coasters in the room. Fantastic and creative solutions to be sure, but not geared toward fostering a place for creative design.

Next, we paired the young people into teams, and asked them to design for users other than themselves. The users we gave them had divergent needs, and we asked the young designers to address them. For example, one group was asked to design for a young boy who loves sports who is visiting with his art loving grandmother-how might we design a Center that entertains and educates them both? Another group was asked to design for a art phobic business man on a layover. Still another group was asked to create a center for a young boy from a poor part of Miami, who yearns to have his art considered equal to the art on display upstairs in the gallery. As the design process insists, we asked the camplers to create 3-D models of their new spaces, using any materials they could find. And finally, we recorded video interviews asking them to describe their creations to us. This last step helps them create a story for their users, and explain their creation in detail. We cannot show you those videos here without their permission, but here are some pictures of their creations.

Here is a model two young ladies created that helps to teach a 75 year old grandmother about video art and its creation. There are examples and computer stations so she can make her own.

Here is another group that designed a space for a young inventor- in it a visitor can vote on favorite artworks and the results of the voting electronically make puffballs grow bigger. If you could see the video, it might be a little more easier to understand their novel solution.

This awesomely crazy jumble is a waterfall, lazy river, computer game station and playground.

The results of this experiment were mixed. We learned that the children appreciate art, though their best description of it is that is it “colorful”. Many of them would like to add physical movement to exploring art, and as we expected, would like video games to be a part of the museum experience. Their solutions were very creative and fun, but somewhat missed the point of creating a space for groups to work through creative problems. Or perhaps their point was that to be creative we must inject fun into the process, which makes a lot of sense.We will do this again next week with new campers,and report back on any new ideas.

On my second day working at the Bass Museum of Art, I brought my camera and took pictures of the space that will become the Creativity Center. With these pics we will be able to study the space and take notes as new observations present themselves. And we can use the photos as a focus for our conversation with the various stakeholders of the space and its redesign. So lets take a tour, and if the reader any ideas, please leave a comment.

First, there is the long hallway that takes one from the entrance to the space. It is unclear whether we will be able to work with this space, but as of right now it is an empty canvas, and could possibly be used to lead a user physically and emotionally to our Creativity Center, getting them ready to do interesting, challenging work. It is a long hallway, and it follows a ramp, which creates a wall space with increasing elevation. To me, it lends itself to some kind of timeline, or storyline that can prepare users to enter our design thinking space.

Once you turn the corner at the end of this long hallway, you see our new space. Using the space below the stairs is also an option, though for what I cannot be sure. The best idea so far is for some type of small child’s exploration space. Again, any ideas are welcome. In the picture you can just see inside the new space.

The space inside the creativity center is basically a large circle, with about one third divided into two offices. There are large windows every few feet, giving the open space lots of bright, refreshing South Florida light. It is difficult to get a good picture of the entire space, but the pic below gives some sense. Notice how the young IDEA@thebass Art Camp participants, taking a break from their artwork, have arranged themselves just about every place except the tables that have been setup for them. This tells us that a more natural workplace for this age might have various levels, especially ones low to the ground, and might benefit from being able to be sectioned off for groups to have private discussion/play areas.

One interesting detail of the room is the ceiling, which has a triangle shaped space cut into it, with recessed lighting. It also has a sturdy curtain rod along one side, which might be useful for hanging whiteboards, or display boards, or perhaps even curtains! It is a cool geometric detail that creates a nice interplay with the otherwise round room.

There are a few other spaces to consider, ones that might stimulate other fresh ideas and ways to use the space. The closet and office that are in the other third of the space might be used in creative ways. Right now it is a crazy mess of art supply storage for the camp. Would it be better for the supplies to be out in the bigger room, to inspire the creativity of the users of the room? Or might it just make it to disorganized? There is also a bit of space just outside the room, that we might be able to use for some type of creative activity. Having a background in audio, I immediately think of some type of recording booth, but for recording what I dont know (yet).  Outside the windows of the Creativity Center there is a small grass courtyard, and a wall that faces the room. A mural perhaps? Or a place for projecting images from inside? The sky is the limit. Finally, there is a small room (5′ X 8′)just outside the Center, formerly a room for the public phone bank. It is currently empty and unused, and begging for some cool installation or meditation space. Check out the pics of these spaces, and help us brainstorm some creative uses for them.

Some call it Design Thinking. Others say Human Centered Design. Whatever you want to call it, it works. People with diverse viewpoints collaborate and create novel solutions. We will use it, and we will prevail!

My name is Tony Schloss, and I am the IDEA@thebass Fellow for 2011. This means I will be at the Bass Museum of Art for the month of August, helping to get this process started, and hopefully returning periodically to be a part of the process until it is finished.  I was chosen for the fellowship because of my studies at the Stanford d.School. In 2010 I was a part of the Learning, Design and Technology program at the Stanford School of Education. In this program, we study education theory, design theory, and using new technology create products and processes for improving education. In my final project, I created a website and curriculum that helps teachers teach their students 21st century skills such as digital fluency, critical thinking, web ethics, and collaboration. In addition, it provides authentic opportunities for students to practice their reading and writing skills. It is being piloted in various schools throughout the country, and hopefully we will see the results of those pilot programs and find ways to improve our product.

During my time at school, I was introduced to Design Thinking as developed by David Kelly of IDEO and the Stanford Design school.They also call it human centered design because of its emphasis on learning and creating empathy for the users of your product or service. Instead of the lone designer at his draft table, think of the designer as an anthropologist, studying every aspect of a users life. By doing this, we end up designing for the user, instead of ourselves. This is the Empathy portion of the process, and it is the foundation for which all further work is based. We must never lose sight of who our user is and what their needs are, and why.

Once we have a clear understanding of the problem space, we form a clear picture of one user and call this the point of view. A POV is a user + a need + an insight (observation + interpretation). For example, one POV for our creativity center might be a young boy who needs a place to explore his creativity because he hates art but loves inventing things. So we focus on his specific needs, and design for him. We trust that once we have met his needs, we will see that many other people will benefit from the design of one user.

But we will not be able to find these solutions unless we dive deep into possible answers to the need he has. So in the Ideate stage of the process, we brainstorm quickly, and try to come up with as many possible solutions to the problem as we can. We go for sensible, wild, wacky, and crazy solutions. We then filter those solutions, and find a few that seem promising.

That is when we begin to prototype our ideas, and get them off the white board and our brains and into the physical realm. Giving a person a model, or visual, is always much more helpful for getting productive feedback. Unencombered by the designers explanation or influence, the person responding to the physical prototype is free to notice whatever aspect speaks to her first. While prototyping, we isolate variables of our design for testing. If we want to know how it feels in someones hand, it is not important that it functions. If it were to function, we might get response to its functionality. And there may be a time to get that feedback, though it is likely later. But if we stay aware of the feedback we wish to attract, and design our prototypes to get that type of feedback, we are one our way to a successful design.

The last step is to test our prototypes with actual users. Get it into their hands, and ask if it addresses any of their problems or needs. Only by testing with the actual user will be able to know if our design has succeeded.