Luci Creative remains focused on the development and design of engaging, educational, and entertaining visitor experiences. For museums and other cultural destinations, and for corporations and branded experiences, our team believes deeply in the importance of well designed and welcoming public spaces.
Our team understands that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the design of these places – and the process of designing them – may likely be forever altered. The extent of these changes, for now, no one yet knows. But we are looking towards the months and years ahead, to consider how these changes will affect and improve our work so that we can continue serving you, and your visitors, in the changed world.
The owners and operators of facilities where people spend their leisure time, such as museums and malls, are making plans and establishing new procedures so that they’ll be prepared to reopen when it’s acceptable. Luci Creative is actively engaged with our clients in discussing these plans and in revising design work in progress so that it conforms to updated needs and standards. We are also in frequent communication with our industry partners and friends to exchange ideas about new and innovative best practices.
This report outlines some of the changes and improvements we’ve made to our work process and design thinking. Like you, we’re learning more each day, and we’ll continue to update and enhance our services.
Luci Creative’s commitment to serving clients through a truly collaborative partnership remains stronger than ever. Our best work comes from engaging with you, through dialogue, brainstorming, research, and listening. We’ve developed new tools and strategies to ensure that, whether we’re together or apart, we’re sharing ideas and developing a strong rapport that is both enjoyable and on the path to a successful project.
Like many others, we now rely on remote modes of communication via the Internet. However, we have been learning from the transition and recognizing that remote communication comes with its own challenges and opportunities. It is not always easy or possible to transfer in-person design activities to digital media. At the same time, without the limitation of distance, we have found new ways to communicate more frequently with our partners.
During phases of research and discovery, we now leverage more forms of remote research, from customized online questionnaires, to moderated participant observations. This includes developing online tools where research can be disseminated and discussed, from temporary websites where we assemble reference imagery and journey maps, to project-specific blog sites where clients can review research across topic posts and provide feedback with us and their peers.
For design workshops and charrettes, we have converted our in office project rooms filled with post-its, photos, sketches, material samples, and models into virtual project rooms with online spaces and whiteboards that we share with clients. This includes digital tools for constructing storyboards, stakeholder maps, customer/visitor personas, and 3D models. It also includes spaces for assembling style and mood boards. In some instances, this allows our partners to see and participate in daily design activities that physical separation once prevented.
For meetings and presentations, we naturally use a variety of live meeting tools like Zoom, but we have also been working on ways to maximize the use of these tools for collaboration and discussion, while minimizing the physical toll that long durations of screen time can take on participants. This includes developing ways to make meetings smaller and shorter to enable more opportunities for people to express their ideas.
At the same time, we have expanded the depth of our communication by supplementing live meetings with design activities that allow our teams and clients to work asynchronously on discrete aspects of a design process. This heightened level of facilitated creative work has meant that we also spend more time structuring the creative process in smaller, more effective increments so that remote work feels as productive and rewarding as in-person communication.
For the design of visitor experiences in museums, malls, libraries, and other interior public spaces, Luci Creative is implementing new practices as part of our development process. Some of these steps and considerations have always been part of our design exercises, but we’re expanding upon them to meet the new needs of public facilities and visitor concerns.
Even before delving into design solutions, it’s important to give some thought to the mindset that guests may have when venturing into your facility. It’s reasonable to assume that many visitors will be apprehensive about exploring experiential spaces. When they do come, they might carry certain fears and anxieties about touching things or being in close proximity to others. In an April 2020 article, cultural researcher Colleen Dillenschneider asked people what would make you feel safe and comfortable going to a museum again. Answers stretched between “availability of a Coronavirus vaccine” to “knowing facility cleaning procedures.” Having limits on attendance crowds and available hand sanitizer were also on the list.
All of our projects begin by learning about the client’s current and prospective audience. This process includes questionnaires and workshops with your team and stakeholders, and with your visitors, when possible. Our pre-design work now includes questionnaires specifically about visitation concerns, facility cleanliness, and COVID-19.
Designers, architects, and engineers are being given a great opportunity right now, where we’re being pushed to reframe our thinking about how individuals interact with each other and with tangible objects in built spaces. While the Internet is flush with articles about the future of spatial design, much of it is still speculation, as our industry continues to observe and to learn from each other. In the same way that Universal Design principles evolved out of a new way of looking at people’s differing abilities and learning styles, concerns and protocols related to COVID-19 are giving shape to creative design solutions.
Visitor circulation through immersive spaces may change from freechoice flow to single direction pathways. Well designed wayfinding and signage will be necessary to convey these pathways while also informing visitors about other new rules, such as a requirement for masks. Floor plans may need to avoid any “pinch points” or areas where crowds can collect. Perhaps dense exhibition content will be a thing of the past, where elements and information will now be spread out to encourage social distancing. Hand sanitizer stations are likely to become mandated, and integrated into the design of spaces. The selection of colors and materials can lend itself to promoting an aesthetic of cleanliness. The solutions are truly limitless.
Our job, as creative designers, is to understand your vision, your facility, and your audience, and to develop engaging experiences. In the “new normal,” we’re also prepared to understand your audience’s concerns and any organizational or government mandated requirements for the design and construction of new built spaces. The best solutions will come from this understanding and from open discussions with you.
Multimedia and digital technology offer a number of solutions and challenges for improving visitor experiences. We recognize that your guests may be apprehensive about pushing buttons and using traditional touchscreen monitors. For both passive and interactive media elements, hands-free technologies provide safe ways for visitors to activate and engage with your content. Things such as proximity detectors and foot-activated switches are simple solutions. Gesture and facial recognition technologies are proven and successful in some situations. And there are also tools, such as capacitive styluses and personal smartphones that can be used to interact with media exhibits without direct contact.
Although technology is not a panacea, it is successful when balanced with other content delivery methods and good design strategies, and built into the fabric of the full experience. Luci Creative’s media partners are on the cutting edge of these technologies, and are also developing post-pandemic best practices regarding intuitive visitor use, AV hardware selection, durability, and cost effectiveness. On all projects, we will work with these experts to determine the best solutions for your visitors and your facility.
There is a plethora of innovative interior building materials that are designed to resist or kill harmful microbes. Many of these are used in hospitals, laboratories, and schools based on years of research and Evidence-based Design (EBD). Some of these materials work through natural antimicrobial properties, such as copper, and others function from polymer-type coatings, such as textiles. There are even antimicrobial agents that can be added to paint.
Another factor to consider in material and finishes selection is that hard surfaces (i.e. glass, ceramics, metals) are often easier to clean – and keep clean! – than fabrics and fibrous materials. Part of our design team’s responsibility is to use these materials in creative ways, so that rather than looking like a sterile clinic, exhibits and visitor experience space appear comforting, warm, and welcoming.
As part of Luci Creative’s process for selecting materials and finishes for exhibits and interior spaces, we will be looking more deeply at product data regarding surface cleaning, germ-resistance, and durability. We’ll also be working closely with our clients to better understand their cleaning protocols so that we can include applicable requirements in our design specifications.
One of the success stories born from the recent closure of public spaces is in the quantity and quality of educational and entertaining online content being produced. Both cultural institutions and corporations have risen to the occasion to provide material “virtually” to assist with homeschooling and family leisure time – for all ages – while also working to keep their organizations relevant and in the public eye.
History museums are providing “virtual tours,” art museums are offering free online courses, and science centers are creating fun videos of DIY at home experiments. Even Disney World is on the bandwagon, sharing recipes of its most famous theme park foods. Not too shockingly, social media hits have increased nearly 70% since pre-COVID numbers, and Internet streaming traffic has grown between 30-40%. Experts predict these numbers will rise, even after the world opens up again. Just as Luci Creative has always worked with our clients to think about visitor experiences and content delivery outside of the physical space, our design process includes the discussion and potential development of media-based experiences through visitor-owned devices. This includes content delivered through either smartphones while onsite, or via personal computers, tablets, and smartphones at home.
Our team continues to learn and to develop innovative solutions to the currently emerging challenges in creating visitor experiences. Each step that Luci Creative takes in this evolution allows us to improve the work we perform for you and for your visitors.
We remain optimistic that as stay-at-home orders are slowly lifted and people venture back out in the world, they will be eager for unique, engaging, and authentic experiences in well designed spaces.