Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum recently enlisted the ingenuity of MFA Products of Design students via a 10-hour collaborative hackathon at the department’s studio. Students were tasked with orchestrating visitor engagement with the Pen—a new interactive tool that enables museum goers to collect digital information during a visit—and were asked to devise ways to ensure the Pen’s return at the end of a visit.
Following a departmental lecture by museum director Caroline Baumann, MFA Products of Design Chair Allan Chochinov commented that he and the students became intrigued with the issue of pen stewardship as a design problem. The scope of the day’s brainstorming included user interaction with the pen throughout a museum visit: students addressed details such as how pens will be distributed to guests, digital activation of the pen and how the pen should be returned. “We’re battling human psychology,” said first-year student Souvik Paul. “People will want to take the pen and we have to figure out how to prevent that.”
Faculty members Abby Covert and Jason Severs facilitated the hackathon, with Cooper-Hewitt’s director of digital and emerging media Sebastian Chan presenting the parameters of the assignment and providing feedback along the way.
The day culminated in presentations of final ideas for Cooper-Hewitt staff, including Baumann. Among the solutions presented: a specially designed receptacle for the pen at the museum exit, a commemorative token given in exchange for the pen’s return, and individuals stationed at the exit to personally collect the pen. “Having visitors return the Pen to an actual person adds a level of customer experience appropriate to a national design museum. It also means less likelihood of theft,” said Chochinov.
Photos courtesy of MFA Products of Design.