The Whitney Museum
The experience of going to the Whitney is still traditional in most senses. How does one reinvent the experience of walking through a museum and turn common museum tropes like title labels or audio tours on their heads?
We observed how people interacted with the art, navigated the building while searching for additional consumer pain points.
We compared The Whitney Museum to other museums in New York City. All its competitors had a mobile app with free audio tours, interactive maps, and the ability to collect art by using a smart-pen.
We compared The Whitney Museum to other museums in New York City. All its competitors had a mobile app with free audio tours, interactive maps, and the ability to collect art by using a smart-pen. After conducting more than 50 user interviews we realized there was no one way of exploring the museum.
Visits the Whitney based on travel site reviews and city guides. Enjoys art and getting to know a city through museums, however doesn’t travel to see art. Likes taking a lot photos of the view and selfies with the pieces. Really active on social media while traveling.
Local to the city, member of the Whitney, visits different museums around town several times a month and knows about current exhibitions and artists. Enjoys the space and the views, but hate the crowded rooms and long lines. Usually plans a visit when tourists are not around, like late nights or Members Day only.
Visits the Whitney as activity to change up the weekend routine. Enjoys bringing friends and having coffee before or after going to the exhibitions. Doesn’t know much about artists’ names or intents but admires the art pieces. They visit the museum for the experience more than for the content.
People want to explore the museum in a sporadic, organic way. There’s no correct way of experiencing art.
“I like to be totally lost inside of the museum with no plan at all. Just with my eyes”
“I don’t want to be influenced by the description. I don’t want the instruction to tell me what I see. I want to see them and feel”
“I am not interested in reading the name, the piece should speak directly without an intermediate step”
People take photos so they can remember the views, the artists, and the pieces they liked.
“The space imposes a certain attitude that makes me want to share it with my friends”
“When I see something I like, I take a photo of the description label so I can Google it later”
“I love Instagramming as I explore the museum”
The two behaviors
Certain population of The Whitney visitors like to experience the museum in a fast, surface-level way. They don’t read the descriptions or the exhibit introductions, they don’t know much about the artist’s life or background, and walk swiftly through the galleries. For them, understanding the details of art is not needed in order to appreciate art, they guide themselves by feelings and quick reactions to what they see.
The other behavior was from people that really enjoying knowing everything about the pieces they were looking at. They visit the museum to see a specific exhibit, they read about the artist’s motive before visiting the museum and ensure to take time to read every piece of information provided by The Whitney. For this group of people it’s essential to understand the background of the art in order to appreciate it. They are often annoyed or distracted by the surface-level visitors and their naive way of experiencing art.
An approachable gallery experience tailored to your interests.
Upon arrival visitors are given the W–Headphones, this have bluetooth beacon technology that tracks the visitors as they explore the museum. The W–Headphones have three channels: a curated playlist that matches the art, ambient music, and a narrated audio tour. These options allow the visitor to explore in a surface level or to take a deep dive in to the artist’s intent.
Visitors will explore the galleries with the W headphones on and by using iBeacon technology they will listen to details about the piece. If the visitor moves away quickly from the art piece, the audio fades out.
After leaving the museum, visitors can retrieve their experience online that includes photos, hotspots in the building, and their favorite pieces of art. The gathered data would inform and drive future exhibits at The Whitney, learning from people’s behavior and reacting to their preferences overtime.