Semester Wrap-Up

Amber Emory
1st Year Grad Student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

Our class gave our final presentations this past Friday, and it was really amazing to see all of our work in one place on display. It was extremely gratifying to see all of the work in the presentation and hear everyone speak on behalf of their projects and how they changed over time. When you are in the prototyping process, you are always thinking about the next iteration and maybe missing the successes. The presentation gave me a chance to reflect on both our successes and ways the project can grow into next semester.


The last prototype I iterated was the final craft prompt at the Broad Street Ministry art table. I worked at the art table for my volunteer shift, and I was sad to not have been able to participate in the previous iterations because of class conflicts. We planned the last project to be snowflakes. We explained at the art table that each snowflake was unique in its own individual way and encouraged the participants to use their creativity in developing the shapes in the snowflake design cuts to explore their own personal unique qualities. We also encouraged the participants to write answer to two prompts on their snowflakes, “What makes you unique?,” and “How would you like to share your unique qualities with the world?” Verbally exploring these themes with the guests as they brainstormed their answers allowed for personal interaction with the facilitators and created an outlet to share personal stories in addition to the answer they wrote on their snowflakes. I really enjoyed leading and participating in the project and am excited to see how gathering stories expands over the next semester into the exhibit itself.


I personally enjoyed the mix and mingle portion at the end of the presentation. Explaining the snowflake project to a visitor and expanding on how the art table functioned at Broad Street, the growth of our craft prompts over time, and the overall goal in relation to our group goal was gratifying. DIscussing this with someone who is not directly connected with the project allowed me to talk about it in a more personal way and own some of the discoveries I made personally as an educator and designer, in addition to the project-wide realizations.


Joining the Art Table at Broad Street Ministry

Carly Burton
2nd Year Grad Student, Art Education
University of the Arts

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working with guests at Broad Street Ministry at the
art table. I brought a project and a prompt for guests to answer, in hopes to start to collect stories for our poverty exhibit. When I got to the art table I explained I was there as part of a collaboration UArts was doing with Broad Street Ministry. I asked guests if they would allow me to use their art in a pop up exhibit that we would be doing at Eastern State Penitentiary. Almost everyone who participated allowed me to take their work to exhibit. I then explained the art project, I asked participating guests to create an “abstract self-portrait”. This was explained as a work of art that represented you either in a true portrait or a representation of things that were meaningful to them. In conjunction with the artwork I asked each artist to fill out a prompt that my group created to be exhibited with the artwork, the prompt was “What is a dream you have for yourself? How would your life change if your dream came true?”. The artists then had an hour and a half to create their artwork and complete the prompt.

My main goal was to gather stories with the guests. As a group, Jess, Katherine, and I, came up with the prompt and the art project. Our hope was that we could collect stories through the art and the prompts. While the art and prompts the artists completed did fulfill our requirements I found that I got more compelling and in-depth stories through talking with the guests while they were creating art. While I sat with the guests many of them told me told me how they became homeless, how they advocate for themselves and the rest of the homeless population and they were very open and honest with their stories when I talked to them. I found the answers to the prompts and the art to be more reserved in most cases then the conversations I had with the guests.

I think all the stories collected were valuable, but the stories I collected through conversation had more meaning for our exhibit. I wanted to respect the guests and our partners at Broad Street Ministry and I was unsure how I could use the verbal stories to help us with our exhibit since what I had originally asked for was the art and the written statements. After our meeting with Devon from Broad Street last week I was excited to hear her say we can use our verbal conversations with consent from the guest as part of our exhibit. Tomorrow I am going back to the art table at Broad Street Ministry with a new project and a new prompt. While I am looking forward to making art and collecting written stories with the guests again I think I will have a different approach in how I facilitate the artwork. Knowing that we can now use the conversational stories we gather at Broad Street I am going to try to talk to more of the guests at the table to gather more in-depth stories.


Pilot Testing at Eastern State

Kate Curto
1st Year Grad Student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

This Saturday, our prototypes were again put to the test, this time by the visitor of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site. The piloting was very insightful in looking at different approaches to display each prototype and wording for introductory or information panels, and understanding prototyping site boundaries.

When Eastern State visitors are on site, they are for the most part wandering around on the audio tour. This resulted in many situations where visitors on the tour would walk up to/through our prototyping space, unaware and still completely focused on what they were listening to and not on the things around them (other than the building). It was understandable, but an obvious obstacle that we hadn’t thought of when choosing this space/site to set up in. Additionally, it started raining at one point which stopped us from moving outside to the baseball diamond where most people end their audio tour or at least take a break. It also seemed that visitors were less in a mind space to touch and participate in our prototypes as Eastern State, as a historic site, does not provide opportunities like this for the most part and asks visitors not to touch things. Never-the-less, we got a lot of feedback on our prototypes that will help us continue to move forward.

First thing we switched up was our intro board. It was first placed immediately inside the door and we soon noticed that visitors nearly always walked past it without even glancing at it. We also ended up defining who and what Broad Street Ministry is and does at entry to give context to the following prototypes.

It was decided that we should no longer actually referred this prototype as Jenga (or at least label it like so to visitors), as it put visitors in the mindset that 1. It was a game to be played to completion instead of a short activity that represent a larger message and 2. Jenga is such a well-know and successful game, we needed to separate from it, the idea of what Jenga is known to be. We first took away the chairs we had originally set up with the game as, at a point, a larger group of people were all interacting with the prototype at once and it started creating a better dialogue. Also the chairs reinforced that the game would take a while to play and therefore require a visitor to sit down. The sign that originally said “Life Jenga: What do you need for stability in life?” was not getting our point across and so new signs were created. “These building blocks represent ingredients for a stable life.” and “ Take one block away. How does the block you took away affect the stability of your life?” are closer to the intention of the prototype. We also taped over the word Jenga on each block in order to even further separate the prototype from the game.

To go with our mythbusting prototype mailbox, we also created a briefcase job prototype on the fly to accompany it. These two prototypes aim to provide visitors with statistical information of physical formats. Originally the mailbox was closed and intended for visitor to open and read the mail, but we noticed no one touched the prototype. Even with the open door, visitors still didn’t reach in and read the mail, potentially stemming from lack of directions but also the context of the visitors on the audio tour.

A fair number of visitors stopped at the dream catcher prototype and some added their dreams to the web. Interestingly enough, it was only pairs that again stopped and participated in this prototype, similar to what happened at City Hall test piloting.

This prototype presented the stories and self portraits collected at Broad Street Ministry this past Tuesday at the arts table. It was originally taped to cardboard pieces that 1. kept falling down and 2. gave it a science fair vibe. We then hung the pieces more as an art show and it was an easy observation to see more people stopped to look at the portraits and read the stories.

This prototype prompted “How do you think the world sees you?” and “How do you want the world to see you?”. We observed a fair number of reading what other people had written, but most did not themselves add to the responses.

Our prototype on drug use in Philadelphia/in your city probably got the most reaction out of visitors. The graphic element of the map really drew visitors in, though our next steps are to further connect to people experiencing homeless and Philadelphia and all of its citizens as a larger group experiences such problems.

Again, our pilot testing this weekend at Eastern State has given us a lot to think about moving forward, but has overall given us another context to approach each prototype in its continued iterations. We will continue to connect the variety of prototypes together into a larger story but this prototype testing has provide much insight and we are excited to keep working!


Refining our ideas: One Step Closer to a Successful Prototype

Sam Mera
1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

This week in our Monday class we went over the information we collected and our observations taken during last week’s prototype testing at City Hall. We discussed what we thought worked well and what could be improved upon based on the interactions the public had with them. The whole class also had some time to get together with their groups and work on next steps and improvements, or even new ideas.

In my group we have created two different prototypes, The Tree of Knowledge, which posts the question “What is the best advice you’ve ever received?” and Identity Board, with the prompt “How do you want the world to see you?”. We discovered through testing that the answers we received for The Tree of Knowledge were not the information we were expecting to get and that instead, it could sometimes give out a condescending message, something we definitely want to stay away from. On the other hand, the responses the public shared in the Identity Board were deep and very thoughtful, yet they could definitely be built upon.

By Friday’s class we had had a chance to think about the challenges and possible solutions for our prototypes and even made the decision to discard The Tree of Knowledge prototype, and instead focus our efforts on the Identity Board. The group that is writing the proposal had an opportunity to meet and assess the class’s progress in achieving the goals set by Broad Street Ministry. They came to the conclusion that we still need to address the issues of lost jobs and drugs, as well as the lack of services around the city to help the community heal and grow. With this in mind, members from several groups came together to work on these specific issues, while the rest of the class continued working on the development of their prototypes in hopes to have more concrete ideas to test with the public at Eastern State Penitentiary on Saturday, November 18th.

Slowly but sure we are creating interesting approaches to tackle the difficult conversation around homelessness and poverty. We have even come up with a solution to the problem of getting stories from Broad Street Ministry guests! Laura suggested we all take the prototypes to Eastern State and collect stories from the public, to then share with Broad Street Ministry to have their guests reflect on them. Also, Carly will be volunteering at the Art Table this upcoming Tuesday to get some guests to participate and answer some of the prompts the different groups have created for their prototypes. Once we receive all the information the cycle begins again. We will analyze what we have gathered, make changes and keep trying to make these activities as successful as possible.

Putting knowledge to the test

JessicaLee Clark
1st year grad student, Art Education MAT
University of the Arts

Starting the class with a review and reflection of how our experience went at the Eastern State Penitentiary. We all brought up parts of the exhibit that we enjoyed and felt connected to. I was personally glad to see that the interactive and the film parts where common preferences among the class.

As we transitioned to our groups and what we are prototyping we were told to start collecting data for ourselves later on towards the end of the semester to present it in a powerpoint. By taking photos and data we will have an easier time explaining and showing all the work we have done at the end of the class. After we were told about this we jumped right into a little prototype show and tell with the work the different groups have been working on these few weeks. Turns out we have about 4 prototypes at this time and we took the time to look at each one of them and break them open to further dive into how we could prepare them for this Friday’s prototyping at City Hall. Which is good to have as well as the following week’s prototyping session in the Eastern State Penitentiary.


I am part of the proposal group and when we talked about what we were going with it I was glad to hear someone from the other group mention how our proposal feels disjointed with the other group is prototyping. Because it is, so we are going to be correcting it as well as being aware of the purpose of our prototyping and the class as a whole for the semester. We are here to do the leg work for the spring semester and the highschoolers. The question of “Which prototypes work best and will benefit the spring semester the most” seems to be the best goal to focus on for that.

Bringing the discussion over our prototypes to a close another good statement came to the surface, “One question at a time.” Which works well when you have to consider the goal of each prototype and what information you want to gain with it. For the dream catcher we have created two prompts for this Friday and it seems the other prototypes are coming along well after getting a good hour of work into them today so this Friday should be interesting and informative one, especially for the prototypes that haven’t really gotten tested outside of the class.


Lessons from an on-site case study

1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

This week our class took a field trip to Eastern State Penitentiary. Sr. Vice President Sean Kelley and Manager of Research and Public Programming Annie Anderson talked to us about how this historic prison museum is engaging visitors in issues surrounding mass incarceration. Because we museum studies students so often hear about ESP as a shining example of an institution that advocates for social justice issues, this blog post gives a [very brief] overview of ESP’s approaches.

MISSION: Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site interprets the legacy of American criminal justice reform, from the nation’s founding through to the present day, within the long- abandoned cellblocks of the nation’s most historic prison.

Most Americans never have an opportunity to visit a prison. Instead, we imagine them based on what we’ve seen and heard. Historical prisons have great potential to re-shape visitors’ perspectives of these environments and the historical and contemporary issues associated with them. Beyond impacting individuals’ perceptions of incarceration, prison museums like Eastern State can take advantage of American society’s collective view of what it means to go to prison; of what it’s like there; of what it’s like to be out. The media, the news, etc. shapes the entire cultural perception of incarceration, and cultural perception directly impacts former inmates’ ability to successfully reintegrate into society. And so it’s largely up to public-facing tourist sites like Eastern State to re-shape this “public memory”.

How does Eastern State Penitentiary engage people in thinking about criminal justicereform? These are just a few of the ways:

1. Through thoughtful and thoroughly prototyped exhibitions.

eastern state

Visitors give feedback on potential exhibit content until ESP knows what works.

eastern state graph

After prototyping a 3D infographic on a smaller scale, ESP settled on this larger than life version to convey the monumental societal impact of mass-incarceration.

2. Through artists’ installations.

eastern state 3

Jesse Krimes’ Apokaluptein16389067:II is an installation made from landscapes the artist painted on bedsheets and then mailed home while in federal prison.

3. Through storytelling: by those formerly incarcerated and by an audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi.

eastern state 4

Visitors connect to the site through the stories of prisoners and guards.

Many other institutions are turning toward Eastern State for advice about how to address difficult issues, and there is so much we as students can learn from them. Still, the staff there were candid during our field trip about the many challenges that remain: for example, how to bring in a more diverse audience, particularly those directly affected by incarceration who live near the museum. We appreciated their willingness to hear our opinions about these things and we look forward to seeing how the museum evolves alongside its audience.

Broad Street Ministries partnership

Tori Edwards
1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

Last Monday our prototyping class met with our partners at Broad Street Ministries (BSM) to talk through some ideas we developed for creating an installation addressing poverty in Philadelphia. Since this is such a sensitive subject, first, we needed to ensure that all of our methods are positive and respectful to people experiencing homelessness and financial difficulties. Because this installation will most likely be located around BSM, where their guests can see it, this posed an interesting dichotomy of who is our
target audience. BSM expressed that they want the installation to reach people who leisurely walk down Broad Street and pass these people in need everyday. They want a sustainable program that will myth-bust preconceived notions about homelessness and drug addiction, tell the stories of their guests, create empathy in their community and drive people to take action and help in any way they can. Wether that is being a volunteer, sponsor or donor everyone can play a part in changing the system and this also needs to come across in the installation.

An example of one project we developed is the experience Jenga. We created a Jenga game where each piece has an essential life necessity. For instance, food, family, friends support, health care, education and a home, just to name a few. As you start to play the game and pull away pieces, you start to strip away the foundation that makes life stable for everyone. This is meant to exemplify that these life necessities are fragile for all humans and we can all end up in a difficult life situation if we loose these essential pieces. This game has proven to be a good conversation starter, but, we are still missing the humanizing elements of telling the stories of people going through these hardships.

Now, our prototyping class and our high school partners are brainstorming and building prototypes of installations that humanize people experiencing hardship, using artistic expression and storytelling. We are also thinking of ways to make their stories relatable to our target audience, through positive language in interactive prompts, where visitors can share their own stories and empathize with these people on a deeper level. Although everything is a work in progress at the moment, we know that we need to educate and motivate the people of Philadelphia to be more knowledgable and proactive in changing our poverty crisis.

Prototyping at DesignPhiladelphia

Katherine Heit
1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

This week was Spark-Fuel-Ignite’s event as part of the larger DesignPhiladelphia. This was a fun event that got us thinking about how to quickly prototype something and make changes accordingly.

To start things off, we brought over the cardboard city we all made a couple weeks ago so everyone who stopped by could add what they think makes a safe city. There were practical things built, like a hospital and housing. Safe was interpreted a little more loosely for the new Philadelphia School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that was also built. But the point was to think about your city and think creatively and be able to build it right then, at which everyone was very good. During building was also the time to try the prototypes we made last week. The Jenga-style game got the most use, which made the players think about what their basic needs in life are and then what happens when it becomes out of balance.

The other side of our event was using the Makey Makey to turn anything conductible into a game or activity. Don’t know what a Makey Makey is? Check out this video from the creators. We used this to turn fruit and veggies into a piano keyboard. We made a four person Dance Dance Revolution game and a five person Tetris. The last thing we did was build a mini guitar out of cardboard and wire and played Guitar Hero on it. This was a great way to get a lot of people involved and use our brains to turn a single player game into a four or five person game.

Prototyping teamwork

Olivia Turner
1st year grad student, Art + Design Education
University of the Arts

We began our meeting this week with another entertaining ice breaker, where we shared our favorite smells with everyone. It may seem like a boring question but the answers were actually quite enlightening! After we learned a little bit more about each other, the grad students and high school students broke up into two smaller groups to begin the prototyping process. With the question of how we will be helping Broad Street Ministry (BSM) narrowed down further, we set to work with brainstorming myth-busting ideas and tactics in a variety of forms. While the process of getting started may have been a little slow, people began sharing ideas and the collaborative process began.

The group I was in began constructing different interactive games based off of the popular game, Jenga. While at first we set out to just make one version of the Jenga game, as we talked about what would be best we realized that people had different ideas of how a Jenga game could be transformed for our purposes. So, we created a couple different versions. It was truly a vision of teamwork as everyone brought something unique to the building of our prototypes.

Next week is an event called DesignPhiladelphia that features events across the city, so we will have an opportunity to have people outside of our class interact with our prototypes. We will also be able to share our prototypes with the other group, as we ran out of time this week to share our awesome ideas.

Working Together: Our Cardboard City

Ciara Cryst
1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

A couple of weeks ago we began learning about our community partner, Broad Street Ministry (BSM), and their devotion to radical hospitality. Anyone passing by can see the sign that declares, “You belong here no matter what!” The staff members and volunteers work hard to make sure that every guest feels that they are in a safe and welcoming space.
This week, the grad students made our own effort to welcome new collaborators to the group. Some of our high school collaborators returned this Friday for a second year with the program. We began with a lively game of Scar Wars where everyone shared the story of how they got a scar. We certainly have a group of wonderful story-tellers! Once the ice was broken, we set about brainstorming about what makes a city safe and welcoming.
We took our brainstorm to the shop and began working together to assemble a cardboard city right away, a physical expression of our ideas. Most of what we came up with tended to focus on the sharing of space and resources. Someone came up with beautiful bike racks that are accompanied by a helmet share, so no everyone can ride safely. There was a hot-spring powered greenhouse, an art museum, a place where people can freely create street art without fear of breaking the law, a farm, a community
center and more.
We began by thinking about what sorts of spaces are needed to make a community where everyone feels comfortable and valued. Next week, we’ll dive deeper into our collaboration with BSM and begin the process of prototyping together.

Philadelphia Assembled

Adrienne Testa
1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

Philadelphia Assembled is a temporary exhibition in the Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition tells many stories, but the theme is about social issues that are being experienced in Philadelphia and the programs, organizations and people who are working hard to shed light on these issues and devise creative solutions.

One exhibition element of Philadelphia Assembled is titled “Without My Record I Am Free to Be…” This project was a collaboration of three community organizations– Village of Arts and Humanities, People’s Paper Co-Op and Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity. These organizations hosted clinics where people with criminal records tore up their records and transformed them into new sheets of handmade paper. On the new handmade paper, these individuals described who they are without their records. The art and notes were accompanied by polaroid photos of the participants. This was a very powerful way to tell the story of people who face great challenges finding employment because of their criminal records.


The “Without My Record I Am Free to Be…” exhibit helped reinforce the idea of “community” that we have been discussing in class. Communities are healthier when people work together and collaborate creatively to bring about positive change. Often, organizations with similar missions don’t reach out to each other to work as one. Our best work in museums is done when we can provide something for the community that it needs, instead of creating solutions to problems that don’t exist.

Soon, we’ll start our work with Broad Street Ministry. We’ll discover what challenges they face, and work collaboratively to come up with creative and meaningful solutions to those challenges. Hopefully we’ll be able to collaborate as effectively as the organizers of “Without My Record I Am Free to Be…” have and create something as beautiful, moving and important.

Developing a partnership

Laura Fabens-Lassen
2nd year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

We had our first group meeting with Broad Street Ministry (BSM) today. We learned
about the services the organization provides, and took a tour of the facilities. Most of the
group had already volunteered with BSM and were familiar with the services they
provide. Additionally, we learned about the projects the staff proposes we work to

1. Work with BSM congregation at the community garden located at 5th and Mercy in
the Whitman neighborhood of South Philadelphia. This project will focus on
informing the community about the work of BSM. As well as assist in alleviating
neighborhood tensions that exist with BSM and neighbors due to the areas rapid
2. Work with BSM staff to dispel misconceptions surrounding poverty in Philadelphia. This includes, but is not limited to homelessness and issues which exacerbate poverty such as addiction and lack of mental health services.

We begin work with the high school students next week and have reduced these two
projects to broader “topics” for the purposes of prototyping. This week we’ll continue
working on ways to discuss the work of BSM with the Spark-Fuel-Ignite! group. In
particular, we’ll discuss ways to get students discussing poverty in their own
communities, and their assumptions surrounding Philadelphia’s homeless population.

Graphics critique

J. W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School

This week the Graphics team presented our current status in the development of our exhibit. We presented selected layouts, color themes, fonts, title treatment, and adjectives we wanted to relate to our exhibit. After a while of discussion, we came to the conclusion that our exhibit is more related to social sciences so our title treatment should show the aspect of humanity and community in it. We also discussed possible marketing ideas to get the word out about SFI! such as creating a Facebook page, school announcements and flyers, hand-outs (stickers, origami, etc) and other possible ideas.

We received a great amount of useful feedback that helped speed up our process in solidifying all designs. I am glad to say that our exhibit will be something you can look forward to seeing at the Science Festival next month!

Visual identity

J. W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School

The graphics team was put in the charge of designing the aesthetic and vibe of this year’s exhibition about home. Personally, the goal developed by the development team–leaving with a deeper understanding for others–is thoughtful and almost spiritual. It’s very inspiring and gives the graphics team a better understanding of what the rest of the team wants, because after all, we’re all working toward the same goal!

The graphics team criticizes different color and font palettes to better understand and pin-point what would work best for SFI’s message. It’s been very interesting constructing and analyzing how people could interpret an entire message through a simple visual construction, and we intend on conversing what the development team has set as our core message. I know, as a team, we will all make an impactful and powerful exhibition.

Development crit

J. W. Hallahan Catholic Girls High School

Last week, SFI met together for a critique review for our common theme of the exhibition. This was an important day for me as part of the development team, especially as we cover the content portion of our project. As we gathered all our scattered massive thoughts, we were able to condense our main points into a powerpoint and presented in front of the rest of the team.

Our theme for the exhibition is “Discovering and celebrating ourselves through our common connections with others.” We often feel quite divided as there’s such diversity among people and communities. This being said, our mission is to have participants walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for ourselves and for others.

Happily, we were able to receive great feedback from our peers and leaders. This spurred on new ideas for the design, as well as narrow down specific ways to accomplish our goals. We plan for our exhibit to be quite interactive, having people who may not know each other find common ground. Going forth, we will continue to work together in shaping our thoughts to make the exhibit the best it can be.

Second start

Alexander and Tyrone
Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber

For the Space Team in SFI!, we’ve been discussing new ideas about how we can take  advantage of the current space we have at the Science Festival. So far, we know that the current space we have is at least 9 by 10 feet, which is not a lot of space. We wanted to make the space given to us creative by using the ideas that we’ve gathered as a team.

Over the year, we had some great ideas. Some were excellent and some needed a little back-up. However some of those ideas were selected and expanded  to make the best one yet. A few of those were the map and game idea. That’s when we decided to combine both and make a big carpet in the floor acting as a map. That way we are playing a game in Philadelphia and at home. Another idea was combing all of the different communities in Philly and adding that somehow to the finished project or the game. Because we recently started, and there are spatial challenges, there is not much developed yet, but we hope to do a lot more soon enough!

Testing, testing, testing

Sarah Rosenkrans
1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

This weekend was very busy for us. We finished designing our prototypes on Friday, Saturday we tested at a block party with Mighty Writer, Sunday we tested at the Franklin Institute, and this coming Tuesday we will be testing at the Scottish Rite Towers. It has been very busy, but so far we have gotten a lot of great feedback on how we can improve our prototypes. I was only able to make the event at the Franklin Institute, so that is what I will be covering in this post.

We had five prototypes set up on Sunday: one where visitors created their own patch, one where they were asked to write a letter, one where they assigned a color to their family, one where they wrote down a title of a song that reminded them about their family, and one where they played a board game.

My group’s was a giant game board. Every time a player landed on a space they were asked to recall a specific memory about their family and the post it onto one of the boards. The way we built ours, we couldn’t really change anything there, but we did find a couple of things to try out later. It became obvious pretty early on that it was mostly young kids who were attracted to the prototype, mostly we think because of the neon colors. This was really good except for a couple of the questions (such as “who was your first crush?”) didn’t really apply to a lot of them, so we will have to change that in the future. We also made our game board a tall rectangle and many of the kids could not physically reach the finish line. In the future we hope to make it either a circle, half-circle, or line, so that everyone can reach all of the spaces.

I observed a couple of things about the other groups as well. On the one about songs, they originally had music playing, which attracted people, but then they couldn’t think of a song to write down because of the background music. They then took the music away, but had a harder time attracting people to the prototype. The write a letter and assign a color prototypes were also having a hard time attracting people until someone went to stand behind the tables they were placed on. I guess visitor just wanted to be reassured that that they could interact with our things.

Over all, the event at the Franklin Institute was a success! We received lots of good feedback and know how to make our designs better in the future!

Attracting an audience

Holly Mutascio
1st year graduate student
Museum Exhibition Planning + Design University of the Arts

Last Friday, we brought our prototypes over to Art Sanctuary with the hopes of meeting people from South of South and engaging with them through our designs. Prior to this night, we revised our prototypes based on feedback and observations we received from our Design Philly reception. Some of us even came up with new ideas to test. My group worked on changing the prompts to our talkback “family tree.” We also created a large map of the South of South neighborhood where people could indicate with color-coded stickers where they live, work, go to school, and spend their free time. We also provided them with post-it notes to write down their memories of these places.

We started off the evening inside Art Sanctuary’s gallery (surrounded by breath-taking artwork by Danny Simmons!). A couple of guests trickled in and they seemed to be drawn to the map. We quickly learned that one of our guests lived somewhere just outside of the boundaries of the map. We had based the boundaries of our map off of came from the South of South Neighborhood Association’s website, but we realized that the spirit of a neighborhood defies what is charted on a map. South of South extends beyond where we originally thought, and this is something we need to consider in the next iteration of our prototypes and in where we need to focus our outreach in the future.

As the evening progressed, we did not have many guests stopping by. One of our professors, Dana Schloss, came up with an excellent idea to move the prototypes outside, on the sidewalk, and on a patio in the back of Art Sanctuary. She also cut up some paper grocery bags, taped them onto a sandwich board, and created a sign inviting passersby to check out the event. One of my group members, Laura, also had a great idea to further color code the directions for a map to not only clarify what we were asking, but also to make the exhibit pop and hopefully attract people’s attention. Despite these efforts, we did not have any more guests that evening. Even though we only had as many guests as we could count of one hand, we still gained some feedback on our map prototype and we certainly learned a lot about how difficult it can be to attract an audience!

Instant iteration

Sam Nemazie
1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

The week of October 10th-14th, SFI worked with Design Philly and showcased our prototypes. There was a large crowd drawn of design enthusiasts to try out our prototypes. We had many different activities and prompts to do while interacting with our prototypes. One of the prompts that visitors were asked to contemplate on was “How would you explain this prototype to a family member?” The prompts were then written on sticky notes and placed nearby the prototyping pieces. We later used the sticky notes to change our prototypes to make them more user friendly.

One of the prototypes we changed was a “piñata” prototype. Originally our prototype was supposed to hang and visitors were asked to pull a string on the prototype to release a fact about family traditions. Because of the feedback from the event, we changed our prototype to be sitting on a table and you have to shake the piece to release a fact. We also added a hole at the top and asked visitors to add their own family traditions. Due to these add ons, visitors moderate the box and have a give and take relationship with the piece to share information about themselves and learn more about others.


Design Philadephia

Sarah Aman
2nd year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

Last Thursday we had our first public prototyping session as part of the SFI exhibition for Design Philadelphia. We displayed our cardboard creations and tested our ideas in the gallery with fellow students and visitors. It was exciting to see the progress everyone had made from last Friday and interact with prototypes from other groups. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun, and we mingled with the visitors to the gallery as they experienced our work. It was great to have our in-progress prototypes displayed next to the final exhibition from last year’s SFI program, which provided context for the prototyping process. It gave everyone an idea of what we were working toward and how these cardboard and duct-tape contraptions would evolve into a polished exhibition – eventually!

Our group had a relatively straightforward concept that was based on the idea of voting booths. We gave a prompt – “What does family mean to you?” – and provided notecards, markers, and tape for visitors to leave their responses on the walls of the cardboard booth. We got a good range of responses, though nearly all of which were on the ‘warm and fuzzy’ end of the spectrum such as “people who love and support you no matter what” or “food, fun, and laughter”. In our previous discussions we had hoped that the relative privacy of the booth would encourage people who perhaps didn’t have quite as ‘warm and fuzzy’ a concept of family to leave their responses as well. However, we soon realized that the way we set up the booth was still exposed and didn’t provide the privacy we were aiming for. This informed our thought process for the next iteration of our prototype, which will be on display at Art Sanctuary this Friday!

Constructing memories

Laura Frick
1st year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts

On Monday of last week we primarily focused on developing materials to get the word out about our event at Art Sanctuary on October 21st. We worked on both print and electronic invitations to reach a broader audience. We also brainstormed a title, and decided on Your South of South. We thought this title would spark personal memories for our guests, therefore prepping them with material to share at the event!

On Friday we had our second meeting with the high schoolers. We got into our groups, and talked about our thoughts on the concept of family. With these thoughts in mind, we developed prototypes for our events on the 13th and 21st that would elicit meaningful responses from attendees. We came up with three great ideas, and everyone had a great time doing it!

Our group is prototyping a three-dimensional tree made from cardboard, paint, foam, paper and lots of glitter! We are asking visitors to write down their favorite family memories, and what the word family means to them on pre-cut leaves, and then to post those responses on the tree. We feel a multitude of these responses will give us a more rounded view of different family experiences within Philadelphia. We are also predicting that this prototype is an activity that all ages can enjoy, and that its aesthetic value will draw in many users. We are hoping the structure of the tree is robust enough that it can withstand a lot of visitor interaction! We are excited to see how these prototypes go over at the Design Philadelphia Open House on the 21st, and how they develop in the coming weeks!

Early prototyping lessons

Carly Hossler
1st year grad student, Museum Communication
University of the Arts

The intention of our prototype was to give students the opportunity to respond to a prompt about memory in an anonymous way. We created this poster with multiple “answer bubbles” to allow students and/or facility members to respond to the prompt “What is your favorite UARTS memory?”. We wanted to see that by having this sign easily accessible to students if this would be a good way to collect memories from members of the community once we begin our actual project. We thought this may be a good way to collect memories so that if we tried this for real with the South of South community, people would not feel pressured to answer by our presence.

Unfortunately, this idea did not go as planned. As I checked up on our large poster throughout the week, we seemed to be collecting more drawings of butts, poop and negative comments than actual memory related comments. I definitely learned that maybe (no offense to undergrads but..) leaving it unattended on a college campus wasn’t the best idea. Something I would change would be having this poster present at a community event and having someone constantly standing next to it to keep people from drawing butts on it.


Common interests, shared spaces, and communal activities

Over the next year, the SFI! team will submit blog posts sharing their thoughts on process, challenges, and excitement working with the South of South neighborhood in Philadelphia (west of Broad Street, north of Washington Avenue). Lead by Erin Bernard and Dana Schloss, the SFI! crew will focus on building community connections and prototyping in and with the neighborhood.

Sophie Strachan
2nd year grad student, Museum Exhibition Planning + Design
University of the Arts
In preparation for the upcoming prototyping events in the South of South neighborhood, our class has been having conversations about community, and our role in this project as designers and communicators. Our first day of class we all shared our ideas about what community means and it was interesting to find that there are so many ways to define it. A few ways communities are brought together is through common interests, shared spaces, and communal activities.
We had a RIG (Rapid Idea Generation) session with Dana Schloss in which we used an assortment of junk to articulate ideas to solve a particular problem. We came up with some really fun interactives! One interactive experience that my group thought of was a game in which the visitor controlled a blimp that had to maneuver through a maze to complete a secret mission during WWII. To illustrate this idea to the rest of the class we used a ball with an old cell phone taped to it to represent the blimp and an upside down teacup as the controller.
Our understanding of this semesters project has been developing, and soon we will meet with potential community partners to discuss it and more importantly to learn more about them. On October 21st, Arts Sanctuary will be hosting our first prototyping event in the neighborhood. At this event we hope to work closely with the high school students and the neighbors to start generating ideas, building things, and having great conversations.

Sharing ideas using “junk” encourages ideas without getting stuck in the details.