I recently lived in Portland, Oregon for six months. Being there for such a short (but also somewhat long) time, I was able to immerse myself in the culture there. I haven’t had the chance to watch Portlandia since I’ve been home, but I hear it’s scarily accurate. Now, I can’t say I was a true Portlander, but I would consider myself slightly more advanced than a tourist in that city/state now. My last weekend in Portland, I Googled all the “Top Ten Things to Do” “Best Bucketlist Activities” etc to see if I had missed anything extremely important.
Turns out, I had done just about everything I could (and more) than the average blog list online suggested. So I started to go through those activities again to reminisce — exploring the West coastline, eating donuts of all sizes, kayaking the major rivers, hiking Mount Hood, drinking beer at countless breweries, visiting Astoria, the Rose Gardens in Washington Park, Powell’s book store, Bagdad movie theater, etc — and see if I needed to revisit anything. Amongst my favorites, the Lan Su Chinese Gardens had to be in my top couple of choices. I’m a total museum junkie (science, art, history, aviation, anything really) and I find in this day and age, museums stand out in my mind when I can vividly remember their experience design. UX/UI/XD has become a popular terminology these days in the industrial design world — it is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, journeys, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions (thanks Wikipedia).
What I’ve seen the UX/UI/XD field lacking in, is their advancement in museum design. More often than not, people are very visual learners. When presented with dense, and generally boring, material in museums, people tend to skip over the text portions and focus entirely on the visual aids. Yes, I am one of those weirdos who loves to read everything as I go through. I’ve found it takes me more than one time to really enjoy a museum. The Detroit Institute of Arts has been my most visited at about +20 visits (and I still tend to get lost). So when I see a museum do something spectacularly well in the UX/UI/XD area, I can’t help but geek over everything. Now, in Lan Su’s case, the design is extremely simple. However, it was amazingly accurate and easy to navigate. It created a unique perspective as you walk through the gardens. I’ve spread pictures throughout so you can see what I’m talking about. I mean, you won’t be able to really experience it unless you’re physically present (see what I did there). But if you are ever in Portland, I highly recommend you take time out of your day to visit this gem. And anytime you’re in a museum soon, pay attention to the experience and design of the place as a whole. It will dramatically change your mindset.