MShed digital interface

I worked as part of a team to research and develop an interactive exhibit for the M-Shed museum in Bristol. We wanted the exhibit to help encourage people to connect with one another while learning about the city.

We visited the museum to gather:

  • What works well
  • Use the technology
  • Observe visitors interacting with exhibits

We took a behind the scenes tour of the museum and attended a talk on the future plans for the digital exhibits.

Initial research

We made a list of what things in the museum worked well and why. Like the wide range of interesting content and rich depictions of both old and new Bristol.

However we felt that much of the technical implementation was dated and there are some brilliant topics of Bristol’s culture and history that were only briefly touched upon. 

The topics that seemed to shine to see more of was the history of music, cultural and political movements, and the vibrant art and graffiti scene; graffiti being the least represented.

Thematic analysis

As a group we met to conduct a thematic analysis of our findings from the previous week’s visit to the M-Shed. We did this by setting a timer and allowing each group member to talk without interruption for a set amount of time about their thoughts and ideas. While they did this the other members of the group wrote down anything that stood out as important or interesting onto post-it notes.

Once each person had been given time to speak we stacked all of our note fragments and insights together to begin sorting and grouping them based on similarity.

Using thematic analysis we were able to narrow our focus and come up with codes to ensure that everyone was on the same page. We realised that we needed to focus on:

  • Technologies
  • Space
  • People
  • Context

We realised we were  each interested in showcasing the rich political history of Bristol graffiti, as well as having people be able to interact and contribute their own artworks and opinions. We also wanted to prompt a discussion on how people feel about graffiti as a form of self expression and social change.

With this in mind we started to discuss what technologies we could implement that would fit the museum space, the target audience and how it would fit in the wider context of the rest of the museum.

Body storming

We met with Layla Gaye who taught us about prototyping and Body Storming. This technique gets people away from the (often) solitary habit of designing on a computer and helps get people to communicate with one another. It is great for helping designers to put themselves in the shoes of their target audience and start to experience the various difficulties that they may encounter. Doing this can be a great way to root out potential problems early on in the design process by iteratively creating prototypes that can be easily tweaked or even scrapped if necessary.

As a group we will use these techniques in the future when we begin to prototype our designs for an interactive feature at the M-Shed. By doing this will we be able to look at our project through the eyes of its target audience and see what issues we can work on early in the design process. This will help us to make sure that we are creating something people will want to, and be able to use regardless of age and ability.

Design brief

After conducting research on the M-Shed we came together to create a design brief focused on:

  • A succinct project summary to make sure we are all on the same page
  • Look at the current situation in the M-Shed
  • Think about why our project is needed and what we hope to achieve
  • What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  • Who will our project impact upon?
  • What are the constraints? How will budgets, ethics etc impact our project?
  • How detailed do we want our final prototype to be?
  • What is our project schedule?

We conducted research into popular museums around the world and what interactive features they have. What museums we had personally enjoyed visiting in the past to see if we could incorporate what we had experienced into enhancing our project. We began looking into various technologies that we could imagine utilising while keeping in mind their cost and efficiency. As well as this we then discussed meeting again with all of these questions to re-visit the M-Shed to gather more research, and to see if we could find a space that our project would unobtrusively fit into.

Personas & scenarios

After meeting to discuss our design brief we decided to start focusing on our target audience for the installation; we want to make sure that the museums visitors are at the forefront of our design process going forward. This will be important in ensuring that what we end up creating will be well received, and is something that will actually engage people.

Based on our previous visit to the M-Shed and the observations we made we were able to come up with some proto-persona’s and mind map scenarios. These proto-personas will help give us something to refer to, and help us make sure that we are designing an exhibit that will fulfil visitors needs.



I decided to sit down and flesh out two very different types of visitors for us to use as a guide as we continue our research. One is an older women with her young grandson who is quite typical of the sort of visitors we observed at the M-Shed. The other is a young student at university who is a demographic that we noticed was lacking within the museum, and one that we would like to encourage to visit. We hope that our design will help to bring these two very different people together in a way that they would perhaps never do normally.


Hopefully by being able to provide a digital installation that allows them to create their own content Sanjay, Fiona (and her grandson) could bump into one another and collaborate on an art piece together. Giving them a memento of their art means they will have something to remind them of the time they worked together with someone they may have otherwise never spoken to.

Initial prototype & bodystorm

To implement our final design we spent time researching different technologies and settled upon creating a digital graffiti wall. We then put together a lo-fi prototype so that we could conduct user testing to check that it would be easy to use and have the interactive and educational elements needed.

A paper that I read found that museum visitors tend to prefer interactive exhibits with a tactile interface where they can create personal content. This led us to creating ‘graffiti’ cans.


In order to test our prototype we chose someone unfamiliar with the project to bodystorm using it. With no instruction they instinctively picked up the spray can and started using the attached pen to draw on the graffiti wall. They then pressed the button to send their signature and drawing to the social media account. This interaction was wonderful as it showed our interface felt natural and did not require instructions.

During the bodystorm we realised that the interface worked well but did not feel innovative enough – something that we felt would be important to draw visitors.

Iterated prototype

Following our insights from our initial protoype building and bodystorming we decided to make some changes to our design. We felt that we needed to strengthen the connection between the M-Shed and the graffiti in the city. During our research trip to St. Werburghs we fell in love with the collaborative spirit of the tunnel and realised that being able to represent this within the museum would be perfect. After coming together to discuss how to achieve this we decided to use a live two-way projection to give an immersive experience to visitors. In order to achieve this we decided to create a representational tunnel within the M-Shed.


Prototype testing

Final prototype

For our final prototype we decided to focus on creating a realistic and tactile experience to present our work in the best possible way. To do this we have gathered high quality materials such as real spray cans and tablets for the 360 video experience.

We also created simple prototypes of how the tunnel will look within M-Shed.

As well as this we have also researched the best way to combat our initial issue of people standing in front of the projectors and casting shadows on the wall. The best solution we came across was to use back projection!

When presenting the project to a representative of MShed they felt that this is a project that would work really well within the museum and also during festivals.