How I empowered young adults to contribute to the design of a new museum

  • Codesign with young adults 15-30
  • Workshop facilitation
  • Journey mapping visitor experience
  • Persona development
  • Research design (surveys, interviews)

Timing: Jan 2017 – May 2018

A group of young people sitting on the floor listening to someone speak
MOD. CoLab

The Challenge

MOD. was a new museum being built in South Australia driven by a desire to engage young adults aged 15 – 25 in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. MOD. wanted to do this through the creation of Australia’s leading future-focused museum – a place where young adults could come and be inspired, could socialise and hang out. With 18-month until the launch, the MOD. team needed a way to empower young people to be part of the design process to make sure MOD. met their expectations.

My role and approach

I initiated and established MOD. CoLab, a monthly, informal, co-design workshop that invited young adults to get involved in the planning of MOD. and its exhibitions and events. Each month, we used a range of different human centered design activities to identify the problems we wanted to solve and work through design challenges. I facilitated workshops to understand the needs and drivers of young people and then converted these insights into easily actionable recommendations for the MOD. team. These took the form of seven visitor personas representing our key segments, a set of design principles, visitor journey map and a number of insights that informed the design of exhibition content. Young adults involved in MOD. CoLab were re-engaged to test exhibition content prior to launch.

I blogged about key insights here.

Impact and value

MOD. launched with significant positive media coverage and visitor volumes exceeding our expectations. The largest segment visiting MOD. is our core target of young adults 15 – 25 and feedback in the first month after launch was overwhelmingly positive with approx. 97% of young people both rating their visit highly and saying they would recommend MOD. to a friend. In addition, the insights gained from the young adults we designed and tested with have significantly shaped key elements of our launch exhibition including way-finding, the delivery of content and information about the exhibit, event programming and gallery designs.

Lonely Planet even covered the work that I did in an interview with our Director, Kirstin Alford.

What I learnt

I learnt that young people really prioritise function over form. They wanted a visitor experience that is both unexpected but still easy for them to navigate. As I wrote in a blog post about the insights we learnt – the most surprising one for me was an overarching desire to not be made to feel conspicuous and this really shaped my thinking on the type of place MOD. would need to be.

In terms of the MOD.CoLab process, there are several things I would change about this project if I had my time again. I would probably recruit a group that followed the design process through from beginning to end, rather than working with a new group each month. Young adults take a bit of time to warm up, especially when dealing with something as ambiguous as MOD. was in the early stages and I think more time and more effort on building a relationship would have further empowered them to have more of a voice. I would also have run longer sessions to allow us to delve deeper into the process and include more opportunities for young adults to lead the prototyping rather than just test ideas.

A journey map showing different coloured sticky notes stuck to a wall
Journey mapping workshop
A journey map depicting the visitor experience
MOD. Visitor Journey Map – insights for the MOD. team


A single page displaying a picture of a girl and insights about an audience segment
Explorer visitor persona
Socialiser visitor persona
Images of 4 different colour cards with icons and descriptions on them 'Talk to a MOD. staff member', "Download and app on my mobile phone' etc
Card sorting exercise preparation