The Al Smith Experience

Al Smith photographed the life of the Central District (CD) starting in the 1940’s. The CD was formed by redlining, and gentrification is now erasing its history. The Museum of History and Industry is looking to preserve this history and asked us to create a walking tour but our research led us down a different path.

My Roles

Details

UX Research 

Visual Design 

Interaction Design

Prototyping 

User Testing

10 weeks with a team of 4

Tools: Adobe Xd, InDesign, Photoshop

Client

MOHAI - The Museum of History and Industry, Seattle 

Client constraints/parameters: low budget; limited technical & time resources; creating something for/with an underrepresented community currently being displaced.

The Goal

MOHAI is working to build relationships with cultural partners in the CD. These places will hang Smith’s photos on their walls and we figured out a way to drive people to the places where the photos will live.

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Redlining map of Seattle.

Photo Finish

Our solution included a physical map, a digital experience and community engagement recommendations.

Here's how we got there...

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We set out to build an engaging experience for people to connect with Al Smith’s work and legacy.

User Snapshot

To learn more about our users, we surveyed 71 people, conducted an expert interview, researched articles and white papers and analyzed demographic data for the CD.

The CD residents we surveyed like their neighborhood because of: 

  • Its diversity and culture

  • Urban proximity and walkability

  • The people in the neighborhood - sense of community 

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Adults touring historical landmarks is on the rise: +18.4% increase between 2012 and 2017

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Women & African Americans, 35-44 year-olds are going to historic or art events, more than other groups

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Downloading apps, especially for one-time use, is a barrier

“The less stuff that’s behind glass and velvet ropes the better.” 

- American Association of Museums focus group participant

Taking into account our client's constraints and user research, we came up with 3 design tenets to keep us grounded and guide us through the design process.

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Discoverability: 

People can stumble upon the map in the places they know and love - coffee shops, bars and cultural institutions. 

 

Engagement:

The map guides people physically to the places they can see Smith’s work like a walking tour. The poster on the back of the map encourages people to keep it as a souvenir. 

 

Design for All:

The map is an analog option for non-tech users.

Physical Map
Digital Experience
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Discoverability: 

We designed the physical experiences to have a QR code and text-to-link so that anyone with a smartphone could easily get to the digital Al Smith experience.

 

Engagement:

The digital experience allows people to explore photos, audio and a map of where to see Smith’s work in real life.

 

Design for All:

This experience was designed to be built on the Guide By Cell platform, something MOHAI already knows and uses. It doesn’t require much technical ability to maintain, which respects the client's technical constraints. 

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Community Engagement

The staff at MOHAI are experts at designing participatory experiences so we recommended they work with community members to design something interactive and meaningful. This piece could be a temporary installation at a launch event or something with a more permanent place at one of their partner locations.

Overall I see more opportunities ahead for MOHAI to collaborate with the community whose history Smith’s work captures. 

Conceptual sketch for community engagement event.