Design for participatory art in the museum
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The project


<Open Studio> is a service that enables visitors in art museums to participate in exhibitions with their creations made in the museum workshop. The service opens up a channel for visitors to showcase their participation outcome, increase their enjoyment in the creative process, inspire other visitors and invite them to take part in the workshop programs. 

The project is a MFA Interaction Design thesis by Jiaojiao Xu in Umeå Institute of Design, 2016. It is sponsored by Brita-Stina Nordenstedt's donation and collaborates with Bildmuseet, Umeå University.

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An inviting experience

Art museums are long considered as "white cubes" with tone of dignity and authority. Information is usually initiated from the side of the museum. Rarely does the audience have a voice. With the phenomenon in mind, the project aims to deliver an open, inclusive and inspiring experience for the audience in an art museum.

The service suggests two signature touchpoints for different types of visitors in an art museum: a 3D booth in workshop area and a virtual exhibition in café. Building on information relevancy and consistency, visitors would flow in between different touchpoints in the service.

two signature touchpoints


Design with time


Interaction would be flavourless if things are only static. The project focuses on <Time> as a classic component to play with that draws the line between the physical artefact and its digital duplication. Lacking of materiality, time is difficult to be experienced in the physical space. However, with the visualisation of degradation kinetics, it could be perceived with a powerful sensation in the digital world.

This is especially relevant in context of art: no matter how much conservation we've done, material will inevitably age and decay in the end. Participants can drop a time capsule when their creation is first 3D scanned. The capsule will be revealed in the virtual exhibition over time until other audience creates a new life for the creation. The dynamic exhibition material would attract, retain and inspire visitors in the museum.


Lifespan of a creation

In 3D booth







1. Initialise

Collect 3D data of the creation








2. Narrate

Set a time capsule by the speed of pigments and material degradation









3. Share

Contribute the creation to the virtual exhibition


In Virtual Exhibition


4. Reveal

See how creations age in the virtual space


5. Reborn

A new time capsule set by other visitors

Degradation kinetics is a time machine that works in both directions. Museum staff can use predictions about pigment fading to restore the past as well as peer into the future.
— Ella Hendriks, senior conservator at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
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Tackle with audience participation


When content is generated by the audience, design considerations move from static solutions to framing the outcome of participation. This notion is crucial in an art context where the standard and relevancy of the outcome will be evaluated in both in visual aesthetics and critical thinking. The project considers the following three aspects in particular:


Motivation of participation

  • A digital archive as a compensation of insufficient storage space for all the physical creations

  • 3D scanning as a tech-enabled incentive for participation
  • Give audience a voice in the museum by displaying the outcome

Outcome curation

  • Utilise the visual aesthetics of 3D scanning to frame the outcome in a coherent collection

  • Play with time as a universal component in all physical creations independent of workshop themes

Service Maintenance

  • 3D data collection distributed to the participants themselves
  • Themes inhereted from workshop programs
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Reflections on the future


As a master thesis concept, the project addresses my personal interest to explore complex system design, to play with multiple design materials, locations and over time. I see the visualisation of time as a very first iteration and I would like to explore it in a more materialised and engaging direction afterwards. Besides, I would love to figure out the bare minimum to implement the concept in real world.

Thank you for your time and have a nice day!