Mary Tsai
UX Designer | Maker
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CURIO - A Curated Explorational Experience

Click above to download PDF on full project details

Click above to download PDF on full project details

team: zach bachiri, katie herzog, joseph hines, mary tsai

class: interaction design studio

duration: fall 2017 - 4 weeks


Create a system that allows museum visitors to connect more personally with content within the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Write your own brief based off of observation and research done at the museum.

CMNH Curio is a system that allows museum visitors to curate their own museum experience. Through this experience, they will discover larger themes within the museum and learn about their own interests. The system will allow for a deeper connection with museum content, a more active visitor experience, and the generation of valuable data for museum staff.

Curio consists of four main touchpoints: a visitor tag, object plaques, a digital reflection wall, and a mobile web app.


We were tasked to create our own brief for this project and after careful observation and research of the museum, we identified several opportunities to enhance the visitor experience. 


1. First, we discovered that museum visitors are not engaging as deeply with content in the museum as they could be. Traditional museum plaques present content in a static way, creating a passive relationship between viewer and information. 

2. Second, while content is grouped into exhibits and displays, the museum lacks a visible way to construct thematic narratives across exhibits. This makes it difficult for visitors to find meaning in their experience as a whole, and limits the museum’s ability to present new and diverse subject matter.

3. And finally, there is room for greater dialogue between visitors and the museum. Currently, the transfer of information is primarily one-way, from the museum to the visitors without the opportunity for visitors to find their own voice. 


With our objectives in mind, we began ideating solutions to our design challenge. Through generative design exercises, conversations with museum staff, and exploration of past precedents, we created a number of concepts to consider. We also used multiple design research methods such as Contextual Inquiry, Fly-on-the-Wall, Roleplaying, and Expert Interviewing. 


Points of Intervention

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User Flow

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After discussing and researching with the museum, we established four existing themes across the museum: anthropological, biological, geographical, and anthropocentric. These themes are the context for the Curio system. All objects in the museum will be categorized with one or more of these themes.

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Color Change

As a user collect objects throughout the museum, their tag will change color to reflect the new themes of the objects they collect. The tag color will act as a type of passive navigation tool for visitors, implying connections between their color profile and museum objects. This obscure exploration will help encourage discovery of new objects.

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Digital Plaques

With the goal of minimizing both cost and impact to museum infrastructure, we included digital as well as analogue plaques to accommodate existing displays.

The smaller, analogue plaques and stickers were designed for minimal visual impact, while the larger, digital plaques are equipped to deliver multimedia content, allowing for deeper visitor engagement as well as flexibility in terms of material rotation.

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If implemented, Curio creates opportunities for museum staff far beyond those presented above. Data gathered will generate insights that can aid staff in making more informed decisions and engaging with visitors in a deeper way. Marketing and curation efforts can be more responsive to visitor interest. 

Popular Objects
Staff will be able to see the exact number of times an object has been collected, and because objects will be categorized with the four themes enumerated above (Anthropological, Anthropocentric, Biological, Geological), staff will be able to identify the larger thematic interests of the museum’s visitor base. This data would aid staff in planning new exhibitions with a better understanding of the content visitors are likely to respond most to. 

Profile Signups
Curio will create a compelling reason for visitors to create email-based CMNH accounts. To save their after-museum profile and keep an ongoing collection, visitors must signup. These profiles will create a much larger set of users which whom the museum can engage. 

Targeted Marketing
With these profiles created, and the data associated with them, CMNH will be much more informed about individual visitors. This information can then be used for more intelligent, targeted marketing. Based on a visitor’s interests, a curated list of events can be generated and timed emails can be sent. Language of emails can even be tailored to meet the thematic interests of visitors.


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