[Design Thesis] 1-9 Retrospection

At some point, I started to look back on my thesis topic again. I did research on the museum, technology, information, visitor studies, label studies and case studies. What exactly am I looking at? What is the question that I want to answer?

It’s not just about the art museums. I found the same problem occurs in art museums, botanical gardens, expos and daily activities, such as reading a book. They all involve certain type of information interaction and mutual expectations. People who design the information wish the audience could understand and possibly take actions; while the audience also wish to take something away from it, though sometimes they don’t know what it is.

Every information creator has to compete for the limited attention of the audiences. Some people design for a glance, i.e. advertisement; yet some need to find a way to engage the audience for longer period to convey the meaning. I think in this sense, the curators in exhibit spaces have to solve the same problems as writers.

It’s not just about new ways to present information. After my research into the technology, I realized that technology is important in that it’s the carrier information, but what’s equally important is the information itself. The ever-advancing technology continues to surprise us: the screen is going to be bigger and thinner, projectors might become ubiquitous to provide interactive interfaces on any objects, we can retrieve information at any places. On one hand, we need to understand the “information affordance”(if there’s such as word) of different medium. Does it afford long text or short texts? Do people tend to glance or read (though nowadays, being able to understand information at a glance is almost a survival skill)?

On the other hand, how to enrich the viewing experience itself. The moment when a person looks at a work itself might be esthetically pleasing as the artwork itself. The questions, imagination, pondering, and emotions involved are as valuable but also fragile as any oil paintings by genius painters. That’s why I came up with the idea to present information on the artworks (though the idea is still debatable).

Boil down to the earth, I use a simple question to rethink through all the elements in my thesis topic. How to present information to the public? I further dissect the question into different parts:


information: I have some hard time to define what this type of information is. It is context-rich, has multi-layers and needs some time to read and process. This relates to stories/storytelling, memorable and packaged information, as well as information from the context (which I might further explain in future posts.)


the public: I roughly define this public as audience with various needs. One way to fulfill all these needs is personalization of information, then it leads to the question: how to balance personalized information with curated information? This reminds me of Google Now. It provides information when the users needs it based on user’s behavior. How can it present more in-depth information?

Another question is about the power and control of curators, writers and designers. To engage visitors, we need to understand them and design for them. So, when talking about user-centered information design, how far we can go?


how to present: when talking about present the information. It’s about how to present, which includes types of information, the medium and the style of the information. Under each part, there live several questions.

Types information: how to tailor information to the medium? how could the methods or guidelines be used in different museums?

Medium: what’s the technology I might need to learn?

Style of the information: how would the style (humor, anecdotal, entertaining, serious, etc.) affect the interaction?


It also relates to the context: when and where to present the information. Is it when the audience need it or when they are highly motivated? Is it in the museum, or is it anywhere, any time?

To go one step further, I also asked why. Why should I present this types of information? Why should I present the information in such a way that I wish they could actually engage with it?


20131001_204822So, this graph is kind of a mind map for me. It helped me position the questions that I came across in the first month and also helped me clarify my interests and focus. It makes me think in the context, but also out of the box.


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