"Dang. I should've been a scientist."


Research and Insights | Kat Reiser

Teammate | Will Rutter

Teammate |  Nish Srikanth

Chicago hosts many excellent museums, but the Museum of Science + Industry is often regarded as one of the best.


Understand Today

Our team worked with MSI (the Museum of Science and Industry) to understand today’s visitor experience to prepare for a system-wide overhaul of visitor services.

Define Tomorrow

Our research was the first phase in developing an innovation pipeline of critical visitor experience improvements throughout the 2020s and into the 2030s



Who are they, and what do they want?

Our team utulized 5 research methods to identify who MSI's target visitors are, and why they would visit. 10 weeks of design research by the numbers:


Heuristic evaluations

We began by investigating their main digital touchpoints. We referenced Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics while anayzing their digital experience ecosystem.


Usability tests

We asked 12 targeted users to participate in think aloud tests of MSI's website to begin identifying areas for improvement and gaps in communication.


Adults surveyed

MSI is kid-oriented, but adults buy tickets. We surveyed parents and non-parents to understand motivations for purchasing admission.


On-site observation

Our team visited MSI to see who interacted with which exhibit and which installations were collecting dust. This data fed into recommendations for improvement.


In-home interviews

Our team visited the homes of MSI super-fans to see the impact their visits have on the rest of their lives. 


Three personas emerged:


The Nomad

Visiting Chicago for a short period, the Nomad is seeking an experience for their travel group and looking for easy accessibility from where they’re staying.


The Newbie

Having moved to Chicago as an adult, the Newbie is looking for new things to experience in the area while hoping to get a better understanding of the 
different neighborhoods in their new city.


The Native

The Native grew up in Chicago, going to MSI on field trips, so they seek nostalgia. The Native brings along friends or family to share a beloved experience.

Exposure to MSI as a kid impacts adult expectations.

MSI is a classic Chicagoan field trip, with many parents taking their kids to the museum as an educational treat.

The fond childhood memories lead childless adults to visit the museum, looking for nostalgia and something exciting.

The excellent reputation with children leads tourists and new Chicagoans to visit MSI, indoctrinating a new generation of science lovers.

But without children, new Chicagoans have less reason to visit. Capturing this group may require different marketing or programming
to bring them in.


Attracting new Chicagoans is critical. So what makes a great museum exhibit or activity?

Research with museum-goers included sections on what made a great, memorable, and impactful exhibit.

A genuinely special science exhibit includes a measure of “Wahoo!” This might be a hands-on or immersive aspect of the presentation or some other approach to inspiring awe.

An excellent science exhibit leans into the self-correcting, ever-evolving, dynamic nature of science to bring museumgoers information that is new to them.

A good science exhibit needs to faithfully and accurately convey, to an appropriate degree of detail, the current state of the scientific consensus. Failure to meet this need creates confusion among museumgoers and can undermine trust in the scientific establishment.

Applying True, New, Wahoo Framework to MSI's line-up of exhibits


Let's get to Wahoo!

The MSI system is an interconnected one. The staff, visitors, website, tickets, and campus compromise a tight web. This web has one tiny hole, representing one massive opportunity for Wahoo!

Connecting the campus and web experiences provides many possibilities for creating awe-inspiring, hands-on exhibits.

Today, visitors experience no explicit connection exists between the campus and the website. Creating one could further educate visitors about how this century’s new vital industry, the internet, functions. 


By integrating today’s leading industry, connected products, and services, MSI has the potential to be a spark and a lifelong partner in STEM education. 

Want to go to the Museum of Science + Industry together?

Reach out if you want to learn more about my work or simply have a chat over coffee.

Kat Reiser | Made with ❤️  in Chicago | 2021