Evolving an organisation’s culture through design

I’ll show you how a small team can have high impact and transform products and services into experiences our visitors expect and love us for. Drawing on examples across user experience design, service design and customer experience design I’ll illustrate how while developing products we are gradually changing the culture of the organisation into one that is constantly evolving through risk taking, experimenting and working at pace.

Lucie Paterson – Evolving an organisation’s culture through design

Lucie has worked at many museums; and while she gave agency a go when she moved to Melbourne, she missed the ability to effect change over time… so she’s now at ACMI. In 2015 ACMI got a new CEO and a new vision to completely redo the museum by 2019, which has just been approved and fully funded.

Lucie is part of a very small team. Everyone is responsible for the user experience for ACMI visitors. In the modern world where the moving image is in everyone’s pocket; and art is moving from content to experience; what value can ACMI provide? The old world of providing background information about artists doesn’t really cut it.

They were facing some issues.

  • There was not enough holistic, cross-team collaboration.
  • They had low brand recognition, 48% of visitors were “unintentional” visitors.
  • They did not leave the house to come to ACMI, they just came across it and visited. Even then they may not think of having visited ACMI, just that they’d seen an exhibition at Federation Square.
  • Internally there was a low appetite for risk – people were not comfortable with experimentation and failure.
  • Matching the pace of internal change to the pace of external change is hard (exhibitions generally take 2-3 years to plan and execute)
  • Lack of transparency in comms and decision making
  • Current “design” team sits in marketing and they are strictly visual designers, not UX.
  • The required change is ongoing, never finished – and that doesn’t match the project model people are familiar with.

There’s no silver bullet or magic wand for big transformation. But there is design. As designers, we break down large-scale change into a series of discrete but interconnected acts that together, over time, lead up to new behaviors and opportunities. – Diana Rhoten, IDEO

Museums are exciting spaces to test and experiment. They are both physical and digital; and people often spend a couple of hours when they visit.

So what have ACMI been doing? They treat each exhibit as an opportunity to try new tech.

  • Scorsese – they put extra content onto an app on your phone, which could be viewed on site or at home. 58% of visitors in the first month used the audio guide (usual rate would be 20%).
  • Terror Nullius – a 55 minute work, but they noticed a lot of people were leaving immediately. It was an onboarding problem, so they added a countdown to when each run started (too soon to measure results).
  • They followed a hunch that people would like extra content to consume before and after visits. So they put up lots of information for an Oscar Wilde exhibit, and 20% of people read every last bit.
  • Rebranded and relaunched a clearer website, prioritising the majority use cases instead of being an exhaustive list on the homepage (focus on the 80% and don’t sweat the rest).
  • They attempted to create a tablet-based ticket sales system, but it just couldn’t be done… so they just built another ticket desk at the second entrance. Not what they imagined but it worked!
  • Wonderland included NFC treasure maps; and post-visit content to continue the experience.

This is the result of about two years of work. It required user testing prototypes with visitors; working across all areas of the museum. They apply the same UX design approach when designing internal systems and processes. Simple things like introducing Slack and Trello have really helped break down silos.


  • Visitors love to help – recruit them for testing
  • Empathy and patience with staff goes a long way
  • Change is hard!
  • UX design is a great way to help make transformation happen

What’s next?

Building on their successes they are working with more teams across the museum, to spread UX design thinking. They’re building up a UX playbook to help people do it themselves.

But most of all… they’re ready to get started on the user-first rebuild of ACMI.

@luciepaterson | slides