We heard several key evocative statements from our primary user, a young 20-something professional, which were echoed by others. This user reflected on the changes in his life, stating that “my job is my world now” and stressed the importance of his time by adding that at a museum “it is much better to know and go through a few pieces; it is too overwhelming otherwise.” A young women also brought up the lifestyle restrictions, mentioning that she wishes they “would stay open later” because the current times coincide with her working hours.

Through multiple 1:1 interviews with art museum patrons, young professionals, and SFMOMA members we discovered insights into these users core motivations. A general theme we found is that people want to maximize their social time due to their busy work schedules. Maximizing social time involves participating in events that make them feel mature, which can be denoted either by the elegance of an event, exclusivity of invitations, or other value additions. Additionally, they are looking for a transition to bridge their current social life with that of a successful professional, but insist on its convenience to their hours and location. Our insights informed our core purpose statement as the following: In a world where young professionals become more integrated into the working world, they struggle to find a balanced social life in which they feel like they are maximizing the value of their time and still having fun in an age-appropriate environment.

From our needfinding and qualitative research, we developed a solution: condensed curated/themed exhibits that can be rented out to functions at popular social venues such as bars or restaurants. Patrons could have food or drink pairings that are associated with the art, and a museum representative will be present to provide information about the art and how it influenced both the current setting, the food/drink pairings, as well as played an important part in art history. The cohesive experience, in which the space, the art, the food, and the music all could contribute to the atmosphere or ambiance of the event and make the whole endeavor larger than the sum of its parts. In total this would provide an immersive educational and social experience that fits into the user’s current lifestyle.


We explored two prototypes. The first was a dinner party with food pairings based on the art. The chef and curator described how the food had been inspired by the art, and the patrons were able to enjoy the experience as non-active viewers. The second was a 1920’s Paris themed cocktails party in SF. At this event, the drinks were inspired by selected works of art and the 20-something professionals were able to mingle and walk around the room, exploring both the art as well as establishing new friendships. Through these prototypes, we explored the parameter spaces of educational value and social structure. We realized that the theme is important to making the event seem “official” to users as well as allowing them to feel comfortable approaching and experiencing the art in a more intimate setting.

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The greatest challenge we faced was how to balance the style of the event with the accessibility. In our initial prototype, we received feedback from users that the event seemed too fancy, unaffordable or too exclusive for active participation of our target audience. We felt that there were several causes for this:

  1. The restaurant, we had prototyped against was too expensive;
  2. In restaurants, you come with a set group of people that you are interested in solely interacting with, so it seems invasive for someone to interrupt your conversation to talk to you about paintings; 
  3. The lack of movement prevented people from feeling engaged with the art. With these takeaways, we pursued a new type of social event, with a cocktail party with a very open flow floor plan, allowed for mingling, and included a brief introduction of the art and how it inspired the featured drinks.

If we had additional time, we would want to investigate exactly how much information individuals would like about the art and the delivery format. Would they interact with the art more or less if there were descriptions next to the paintings on the wall? Would pamphlets provide them with more fodder for conversation with others? How else might art be paired with activities in their daily lives to enhance both experiences?

Overall, our team firmly believed that the SFMOMA has a significant opportunity to address a real need in young professionals’ lives by integrating the art and staff knowledge into experiences that are meaningful and approachable to these individuals. The most important thing is that the SFMOMA should not expect to completely remove itself from the community during the renovation, but rather share the inspiration that art provides through experiences and settings that continue to promote its mission.

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