How to "Go Public"

Public Gaffe a Good Lesson for Public Event Design

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is an institution. It wields a lot of influence in the city, the region and the art world. It also just lived through a gaffe that speaks volumes about how to design for public experiences - permanent like museums, and temporary, like events.

The details of the experience students of color from Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy can be found here. What has come to light, and self-admittedly from the museum’s director Matthew Teitelbaum, is that as a public institution, MFA failed miserably to create a public space. Instead, it created a space meant for a select few (born out in visitor statistics). This situation highlights the experience designer’s dilemma when dealing with civic events: DESIGNING FOR ALL.

If you are dealing in festivals, races, showcases, parades, art installations and all public events in-between, XPL has found that there are two key design considerations which help mitigate any group within the public feeling diminished or alienated. First, audit the guest journey. This means determine how inviting, how welcoming and how engaging (all three) your experience is for a particular group. Each one has their own particular nuances to look at.


Second, walk the experience (virtually or literally) with the eyes of that group. Intentions are fantastic, but unless a good road test shows you’ve hit your mark, it might just be the news cycle and blowback which alerts you to the weaknesses in your design.

As auditors of client event design, XPL understands when and how design should be informed. Remedying a design flaw is INFINITELY more expensive and more costly than solving it in advance. As a design community, let’s push our collective design forward when it comes to public experiences. It is our craft, and therefore, our responsibility to society.