Six Design Principles to Redesign the Label

Towards the end of my third semester, I synthesized my interviews, research, readings, and experiments and created six design principles that I believe can be used to redesign the museum label. Below are the principles, as well as a short description for each one:

  1. The museum must provide options on how context is received. 
    • This is about accessibility. If you want interpretation to be accessible, than there must be options that satisfy various visitor needs. They should also be made equal and most importantly…
  2. These options must be known to visitors before they even enter the building.
    • When speaking to Chase Bearden, the director of advocacy and community organizing for the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, he emphasized the importance in creating space that feels welcoming for people with varying abilities. It goes beyond just making the museum physically accessible, that it’s a social issue. Pierre Bourdieu once stated that it is the museum’s job to make visitors feel they have “the right to be uninformed. And the right of the uninformed to be there.”
  3. The artist’s POV must be made present.
    • When conducting interviews with different types of potential museum visitors, one of the most common pieces of feedback was the desire to know what the artist’s intention — especially when it came to contemporary art. Why did the artist paint this specific piece? Why did they choose this specific material? Not a neutral museum voice that speaks generally of the time period or the artist’s background.
  4. There needs to be a system in place for visitor’s to easily provide feedback.
    • This is a subject which I explored at length during my first year of grad school. Inspired by Eileen Hooper-Greenhill’s research on the museum feedback loop, I believe strongly in having the visitor’s voice heard. This can keep museums in check as well as encourage inclusivity, community, and dialog. 
  5. The system must allow for the museum to implement feedback.
    • It’s one thing to put up a survey or a suggestion box at the end of the experience, but it’s an entirely different thing to do something about it. Museums must set aside funding, time, and a willingness to implement the feedback given. There must be a clear system in place that allows to aggregate and collect data and the museum must be flexible enough to allow for change (without putting stress on specific members of staff).
  6. It’s gotta be cheap.
    • This can’t be a tech-heavy solution that only the MoMA can implement. The solution must be low-budget enough for any small non-profit. The low-fidelity prototypes should inspire the big-budget ideas, not the other way around. If it is the other way around, change won’t occur. The same museums will just continue to slap band-aids (often in the form programming or supplementary materials) onto their long-term problematic, standardized labels.
10 months ago

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