I love going to museums, especially art museums. I love them because the materials inside museums surprise me to think outside of my invisible thinking box, evoke me to think deeper about certain topics, educate me in all different sorts, and tell me interesting stories. When my team was assigned to look at existing public services, we picked museums because they are a service that is very traditional but on the verge of adopting and embedding new technology.
My team visited several different museums including, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Tenement Museum New York City, and Museum of Sex. We selected all these museums because they serve different purposes, visitor motivation, and visitor expectations. After visiting all the museums above, we picked Museum of Sex (a.k.a. MoSex) to be our in depth research target because it is an edge case on the spectrum of traditional and themed museum experience.
To be honest, I've walked by this museum so many times due to its location on 5th avenue of NYC but never thought of going in because as a person who is not too comfortable with the word 'Sex', I felt awkward walking in. So I didn’t know what to expect. My team, mix of returning and new visitors, however, immediately experienced some pain points that could be fixed and saw some opportunities that could enhance the MoSex experience.
At the end of the research, I realize how sex is for everyone and it shouldn’t be the embarrassing word to say but appreciate and should know about the importance of what the Museum of Sex really holds and what it tells the public.
Solution I: Easier Navigation
Based on our research, one of the main pain points is location of the ticket booth.
Currently, visitors have to go to basement to purchase tickets from a bartender and come up to the first floor to enter the museum. The new floor plan dissolves this confusion by having to purchase tickets from the first floor. Also, throughout the museum space, goods from the museum store will be displayed, so that the visitors get a chance to take a break and interact with the items. Lastly, the museum exit is moved from the first floor to basement which automatically leads visitors to the bar area so that they can have a space to to sit down and recall back on the museum experience.
Solution II: Engagement and Co-Creation
When my team presented, we passed out a card asking "What does sex mean to you?" to simulate vulnerability and exploration. This simple test proved how quickly people recalled back to their personal history.
The interactive wall encourages visitors to share what sex means to them privately and publicly. By using the kiosks positioned in from the wall, users simply input a one word answer and it appears on the screen. The type size of the words will appear proportional to the number of the collected answer. This interactive experience will start conversations among users and create a more open and friendly environment throughout the museum.
SOLUTION III: On Ground Events
The MoSex mission includes promoting discourse and engagement on the topic of sex. By hosting on ground events, they can achieve this and boost the number of visitors. We believe the museum can bolster its public profile by setting up educational events and talks where field experts can talk about their work and research. By doing this, MoSex has the potential to become a landmark in conversations relating to sex. These events can also be recorded and launched online as videos and/or podcasts in order to ensure they reach a global audience.
MoSex is an edge case on the spectrum of museum experiences. MoSex services visitors from many demographic backgrounds with different motives. From our visit, we saw how MoSex currently uses technology to enable more engaging interactions with the exhibits they offer. We wanted to push the barriers of experience in which these interactions can be made more meaningful.
We spoke with staffs and managers at MoSex to better understand the museum from it's perspective. We learned that they aim to create an environment where people can come to explore and learn about sexuality.
We spoke to a designer who helped design an interactive experience for the Cooper Hewitt to get more insights about the role of technology in museums. We learned about the process and feasibility of introducing new technology to a traditionally non-tech environment.
We interviewed Steven Heller, a past member of the MoSex board of advisors, in order to have a deeper understanding of the museum and its mission to “advocate open discourse surrounding sex and sexuality as well as striving to present to the public the best in current scholarship unhindered by self-censorship.” We learned how the perception of sexuality has progressed over the years.
Our research started with the team learning about how people learn about MoSex. We looked at both its online (Google Search and Map, Yelp and TripAdvisor) and offline (subway ads and street signages) presence to understand the general public perception. Also we interviewed a number of MoSex visitors during their visits to the museum and found out that ticket purchasing process and complicated navigation were the biggest pain points.
While MoSex provides a museum experience, its direct competitors are not traditional museums like the Whitney, MoMA or the Museum of Natural History. It shares much more common attributes with experiences like the Bodies Exhibition, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, Nascar I-Drive, iFly Indoor Skydiving, Escape the Room and Sleep No More. On the spectrum between industrial and expertise-based services, MoSex falls somewhere in between, but tends towards the latter.
We drew out customer journey to deep dive into where the service is failing visitor needs and which the opportunities MoSex can improve.
MoSex is an institution dedicated to progressive thought and personal freedom. We found that some aspects within their customer journey were in direct conflict with what they stand for. All initiatives that we recommended are built on the premise of designing for guided exploration. We want visitors to get lost in the experience itself. Overall, there is minimal risk involved in implementing our recommendations, as we have arrived to our solutions by validating through visitor and key stakeholder interviews.