On Saturday 16th, 20 strangers (I among the number) gathered together surrounded by the white walls of Spike Island to take part in Design Jam Bristol #1. Described as “a one-day design session, during which people will team up to tackle engaging User Experience (UX) challenges. Similar to developer ‘hack days’ the aim is to get UX professionals, designers, developers (and more) together to learn and collaborate with each other while working on actual design problems.‘
With that description, my interest and excitement levels rose to 11 – ‘actual design problems‘ promised, a day of mental exercise, twined with learning from new friends. It did not disappoint:
Placed in random groups, 20 became ‘Group 4′ (myself, Tom, Keir, and Zak) The task was revealed – ‘Explore how to make art galleries more compelling and rewarding?‘ We started our creative juices, thoughts flowing, ideas bouncing, concepts reduced to one theme – CELEBRATION. The intention of this theme was to get to the core of the art gallery experience, from which all outcomes we generated would be governed.
The next step in the progress was to develop a structure to define what the gallery experience was. Visualised in a circular structure helped understanding on the relationship between each element, and how each informed the other to create the best possible gallery experience.
This structure helped to focus our discussion and ideas around the celebration theme. We reduced ideas down to the ones which could bridge the physical and digital world, addressing the task from a point of view of all galleries with Spike Island as the case study. The ideas developed were:
- Mixing physical and digital communicating using a wall. Encouraging visitors to offer their thoughts on the experience using a giant wall which visitors could physically write on, or using free communication tools – Twitter, Facebook etc. Then displaying those thoughts side by side. (Note: Spike Island has started this, but we thought should be more of a galleries DNA than a small feature – two way communication, good or bad is part of an evolving gallery experience)
- Gallery to increase and encourage more interaction – this would be exhibition dependant, changing for individual needs.
- Have the gallery invigilators actively talk to visitors in the gallery space. Instead of fading into the background, become part of the experience, share stories about the exhibition, what the gallery offers and so on. Galleries can be intimidating space, use people to help break this down. Allow noise and feed excitement around exhibitions.
- Encourage taking photos and sharing them. Switch the behaviour to one of celebrating the art. People take photos of things they like and what to remember – let them. Feed all parts of the cycle, and have conversations where people are already having them – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. Encourage these conversation at the point of interaction – in the gallery when a visitor is experiencing the exhibition.
- Let the conversation continue away from the gallery. Encourage conversation between artist and visitors, again at the point of interaction, and then get out of the way.
- Then use these interactions to extend the exhibition and galleries voice. Addressing the issue that came up again and again, as a first time visitor to Spike Island I didn’t know what they were doing, use the conversation people are having to help others discover and engage with your gallery but capturing and recording it.
- Speak to the curb. Let the world know you are there, and invite it in. Extend the personality of the gallery to outside of the space, to have a visual voice within the community. We thought about having ‘map lines’ extend out of the gallery to the street for people to discover and follow, inviting them into the space.
Here is the resulting slideshow (which includes visual references) capturing all the ideas we presented at the end of the day.
By embracing new digital tools (which are mostly free to use) and concepts from different industries as a way of celebrating galleries, visitors are activity encouraged to share their experience. What was expressed as a group within Design Jam Bristol I believe could provide a fundamental shift in how we engage with galleries, switching to a core mentality of celebration presents a value for experiences to aspire to.
Special thanks to all the organisers, the other teams and to ‘Group four’ for a brilliant experience and thought provoking day.