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Exploration of Audio Guides

Exploration of Audio Guides Exposing New Possibilities



CopyrightŠ 2011 by Kathryn Davi-Nolan All rights reserved. This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by the United States of America copyright law. Published by Davi Designs 831.521.774 International Standard Book Number: xxx-x-xxxxxxx-x-x Edition Printed in the United States of America Exploration of Audio Guides, Exploring new possibilities Designed, Illustrated and Edited by Kathryn Davi-Nolan

Contents Introduction 13 Problem 14 Purpose 16 Scope 17 Methodology 20 Research 22 Expert 24 Survey 28 Matrix 36 Drivers 41 Ideation 46 Concept 54 Influence 58 Prototype 60 Final 62 Conclusion 73

Winged Victory

10The Lourve

Paris, France

introduction As a design student and a lover of all forms of art I find myself going to Museums often. I first got exposure to many different kinds of art museums during my year studying abroad in Florence Italy. It was during my visits to the art museums abroad that I first recognized a problem. Most of the time, we would travel in a large group and have our own knowledgeable tour guide who would share the utmost interesting facts about a piece of art work but, when traveling outside of my group it became important for me to use audio guide tour devices. Often times there is so much information about the art pieces within a museum that it’s nearly impossible to know everything about an artwork unless you are an expert in the subject.

problem statement Opportunity to learn within an art museum is great however, information is difficult to access. The placards on the wall do not supply enough information for you to learn about the artist or the specific piece of art. In this case, many people in order to learn, purchase or rent audio guides when they are available. These audio devices can be especially useful when visiting a museum in a foreign speaking country. However, many of the audio guides are heavy, bulky, and awkward. They are the exact opposite of what a museum go-er would like to carry around on their visit to an art museum. This observation helped to refine my problem statement.


It is physically uncomfortable to receive information about the works when trying to learn within a museum and using the audio devices provided.

purpose statement Fixing this issue with the use of electronic museum audio guides with in art museums of the Sf bay area will not only pertain to art students but can enhance the museum experience on a much wider scale. Fixing the problem of comfort among current audio guide technologies could potentially change the way we visit and learn within a museum. This has incredible value as many people are not educated in the arts. This would make knowledge in a way more accessible to the greater public.


scope When tackling the issue at hand, it was important for me to clarify what was inside and outside of my scope in order to help me come to terms with what was in reach of achieving throughout the duration of my project this semester. My scope is as follows: What

Museum personal audio guides


Art Students (includes all enthusiasts)



Art Museums of the San Francisco Bay Area. This includes MOMA, De Young, Legion of Honor, Jewish Contemporary, African Diaspora, and the Asian Art museum. To simplify the amount of physical stress on the human body when visiting, learning and sketching within an art museum.

The Brown Sisters

18Nicholas Nixon

MOMA San Francisco

research methodology Because of the nature of my problem statement, I thought it appropriate to have the majority of my research based on opinion. My research therefore became primarily internet based. My online research included looking in to audio guide reviews of art museums across the world including complaints, suggestions and existing solutions.   Another form of research I utilized was the survey. I found that even though I was finding rich content on the internet, I was a missing the personal connection that made it difficult for me to paint a picture of my intended users. Below are some of my preliminary prospective survey questions: What does the user bring to the museum? Do they use audio guides? In what fashion do they wear the audio guide (around the neck, in hand, on the shoulder)? Do they find audio guides useful?


research I started my preliminary research by observing users of audio guides in the museum atmosphere. I sketched, and took notes on the ways the user was wearing their audio guide as well as snapped inconspicuous pictures of the user in order to further capture body language and posture. On one of my trips to the SF MOMA I decided that it would be beneficial to count the number of users on each floor. I started on the top level and worked my way down to the bottom floor. I was shocked to see how many museum visitors were without guides. Even more shocking were the people who had guides with them were not actually using the devices. I witnessed people carrying them in their bag, in their hand, around their neck, over their shoulder but, only twice did I see the device in action. Down to the last floor, I visually counted the museum guide users. At the museum entrance, I stopped at the information desk to see if I acquire some statistics about the visitor, museum guide ratio. This was were I met my expert Chris Oropeza, a graduate of San Francisco State. Chris was able to answer all of my questions and gave me a new insight aside from my online research. To the right is some of what he shared with me.


SF MOMA museum guides are Usage

Device Specifics

FREE because of a private education grant. On a busy day, 160 audio guides go out during a day where the museum has over 900 visitors. This would mean that only 17% of museum go-ers utilize these free audio devices. SF MOMA audio guides are reconfigured iPod touches. The touch screen displays information on the art work as well as the artist The display has both visual & audio components 4 Languages: English, German, Spanish and French Only part of the tour is translated in to foreign languages because of the high cost of hiring a translator. The system (charging, storing) and initial program is done through Nousguide. Audio content is recorded in house by Art Historians Collateral is used as an anti-theft measure

expert insights

This image shows the SF MOMA audio guide start page interface. The device fits comfortably in hand. The device itself is slightly larger than an iphone or ipod. It has a protective hard plastic case.


This image shows a close up of the SF MOMA antitheft mechanism. This mechanism also allows the device to bounce freely when worn by the user. The cable attached to the back of the hard plastic case secures the device to the yellow strap.

This image of the strap highlights the relationship between the headphone chord and the yellow strap. Also to be noticed is the discoloration and overall dirty appearance of the strap. The strap is adjustable.


This image demonstrates the lack of care or miss use to the headphones. Although they appear to be plush and comfortable to wear, the exposed wire is a safety hazard.

survey results After getting in contact with my expert, I released two surveys. The first of which was sent out to my Alpha group. This group mainly consisted of a handful of my closest CSU IP Florence study abroad classmates. I chose them to be apart of my Alpha group because I knew that they had similar experiences, practice and frustration with the audio guide devices during our year abroad. Although their answers were unpredictable, their insight helped me to better prepare my second survey of which I released to the public.

Alpha Survey Quotes

I really wanted to sound like a dick and put “I know everything there is to know about art ever” haha. But really, usually I don’t have the $$ to pay for the audio devices. 9/19/2011 5:13 PM I like seeing art and appreciate it, but I don’t care to much about the artist or the details which someone else finds important. 9/16/2011 7:55 PM


A total of 42 people participated in my public survey hosted on The survey was only 9 questions long but allowed for a variety of answers to choose from. I wanted to try and make the surveyor picture themselves in a museum setting. I wanted them to really think about their answers, I even added a mandatory explanation box. These were the questions.

1. Do you visit Art Museums? 2. When visiting art museums do you purchase/borrow/use the provided personal electronic audio guides? 3. If yes, Why do you use audio guides? 4. If No, why don’t you use audio devices? 5. What kind of items do you typically bring with you to an Art museum? 6. What items are most important to have with you while you are walking around an art museum? 7. How often do you use coat check services at an art museum? 8. Who in the above image appears to be most comfortable? 9. Please provide a reason why the person above appears to be most comfortable.

The results were as follows





The public survey yielded some interesting results. The most interesting part and range of answers came in response to the comfort question. 57% of the surveyors said that figure A appeared to be the most comfortable of the five choices present. This may be because figure A is what people are most used to seeing in a museum and so it is acceptable to select figure A as the most comfortable. However, most of the time, the people who selected A as their answer replied to the following question by saying that A was hands free. Figure C also allows the user to be hands free. It is important to note that the surveyors that confirmed that they do not visit art museums responded to the last question in the same manner by selecting figure A.   Taking all data into account, the statistics between figure A and C were more or less even. Surveyors who replied figure C to the issue of comfort seemed to respond with more candid and convincing explanations. 31 surveyors said that they did not use museum audio guides when visiting an art museum. The reasons for why varied. Many said that the devices where heavy, cumbersome, and had headphones with poor sound quality. 20 of those participants responded by saying that the audio tour devices cost money that they don’t want to spend. It some cases this is true but I’ve found that many museums of the SF bay area have audio guides that are

on loan for free. Asking for a valid form of I.D. or an active credit card in order to prevent purposeful or accidental theft of the devices. To be honest I was unaware of the cost of museum audio guides before starting my research. Audio guides are not exactly advertised for use in a museum. This could be easily fixed with informational signage.   It was eye opening to see just how many people use coat check services when visiting an art museum. I myself, never use a coat check for the following reasons: they can sometimes cost money that I don’t want to spend, I don’t trust to leave my valuables in the hands of strangers, and they render my belongings unreachable. Could others feel the same way? A coat check in theory seems to be a wonderful idea. I would rather walk around a museum freely without the limiting weight of a coat, purse, umbrella, camera, water bottle, sketch book, pencil case, or book.

product assessment matrix My product assessment matrix is a collection of pre-existing audio guide technologies that are either in use in museums today or technologies that are similar and therefore easily implemented into the museum atmosphere. Each technology is titled as a solution. There are important pro’s and con’s to each solution which make them all incorrect solutions to my problem statement.


Solution Description

Orpheo Classic

Extranomical Audio Tours

Museum DL Tour

“Orpheo audio guides offer all the classic functionalities of an audio player. The visitor can adjust the volume, pause the messages and resume playing at will. The Orpheo has rechargeable batteries, a high quality loud speaker, and 2 headset jacks for 2 people to share a device; for example, a couple or a parent with their child.The Orpheo works with internal memory in the form of a Compact Flash card up to 4 Gigabytes.The Orpheo is made of tough and durable rainproof plastic with an attached adjustable neck strap. All controls including the volume control and keypad are easily accessible.”

“Our Yosemite Audio Tour complete with over an hour of interesting facts and an in-depth knowledge of the journey to, and the history of Yosemite, the audio tour is sure to improve the overall experience of non-English speaking tourists. With a headset provided by Extranomical Tours this option costs nothing extra as we are dedicated to bringing the best service to you, the customer!”

Audio tour from your smart Phone

- Head Phones OR ear to device listening - Volume Control - Buttons - ABS/Magnum plastic shock and fire-resistant - Water-proof

-Compact -Head Phones are provided -FREE (-refundable deposit) -Multiple languages

-Already comfortable with device -Own Head Phones -Cuts down on the amount of devices with you on your visit

- Bulky - B&W display - Visually boring

-Small display -For use with head phones only

-Limited to iPhone -Service? -Rate charges -download before visiting museum?









Blue tooth


Mobile Application: Rick Steves

Hands free device used with a cell phone

Personal audio that communicates with one speaker so that the whole group can hear through their devices without having the speaker yell or interrupt people passing by.

download-able mobile APP for iPhone or Android.


-Hands free -Light weight/ minimal -Personal device

-Requires a personal tour guide -Limits noise of a large group

-APP for iPhone and Android -For personal use -Can be selective about tours


-One ear hearing -Hands free(many tour applications for cell phone require touch commands. Not completely hands free. -not everyone has them -wide range of quality - Can be very expensive

-Requires a personal tour guide -HEAVY -Will most likely NOT be used in smaller groups -Cant be selective on tour

-APP for smart phones -APP needs to be downloaded before use -APP needs network connection in order to download -Costs up to $5.00 an APP






design  drivers Features





Product must be easy to use, require minimal contact, be light weight, allow the user to hear/gain information easily, must not be cumbersome, should be minimal in size, product may be wireless. It will allow users to move freely among the art work, it will allow user to access materials they might bring with them to a museum such as sketchbook, pens, pencils, phone, camera, and other valuables. Art students/ enthusiasts who visit Art museums in the SF bay area however it is not limited to the target user group Product may have a life span from 2 to 20 years depending on technology used and the solution implemented. The product may be in the form of an audio device, or strap, or a personal application to mobile phone. It may redefine the museum experience or aid existing museum audio tour technology. The product may utilize audio, digital, and touch technology, it may utilize wireless technology. This product will inform people about works in the museum, will help with immersion in the arts. GPS, wireless technology, parabola sound, strap design may be utilized


Visual Language


The product must be, if nothing else, comfortable. It should be light weight and easily stored. The surface of the product should be easily cleanable. It must be available to users of any age and size within reasonable variables. The product should be ageless in appearance. It should be desired for use by both men and women. Its design should be simple and minimal. It should be navigated with ease. The user should know what each component is for and what it does.

De Young Museum

44San Francisco

ideation  When starting to ideate possible solutions to my problem statement, it became difficult to think of ideas outside of the realm of audio guide devices. For inspiration I read and reread my problem statement. The audio devices are only one detail of my statement but the core argument is about discomfort. I began to ask self what would make me feel comfortable. Is it an issue of weight? Is it an issue of number? Is it an issue of pressure around the ears or neck? Is it with the audio guide itself? The following are some of the stronger solutions I came up with.


solutions + audio guide These possible solutions would utilize existing audio guide technologies that can be currently found in art museums.


Utility strap would house audio guide as well as other materials such as pens and pencils for sketching.

Silicon nonslip case design would prevent bouncing movements when device is in use.

iPhone App (wikipedia drawn) would be a public app to collect information on all and any art work with opportunity for further learning. Clip on case design would eliminate the need for a strap of any kind. Therefore decreasing stress on the neck.

solutions - audio guide These possible solutions would exist along side of current audio guides as alternative options to personal audio tour guide listening. these ideas would best be described as one that work around audio guides.


Developing a non profit that does personal tours would introduce museum visitors to experts.

Making it mandatory for visitors to check personal items would create an overall more relaxed environment in art museum atmosphere.

Museum share, similar to ride share, could be a way to go see an exhibit with someone you might not necessarily know. The goal being combined knowledge.

Touch screen displays next to museum art would give the user an opportunity to read more or learn more without having to carry any kind of informational device.

solutions + innovation These are possible solutions that would be considered to be completely left field design. They are perhaps the more creative of solutions since they exist without the use of an audio guide device. The thinking behind all of these solutions is comfort in receiving information.


Audio Hot Spot is an idea that would allow the user to stand in a designated area and receive audio content. There really isn’t any existing technology that would allow for this product to be created besides directional speakers. This solution might also have a screen display component.

Soft Screen Scroll would allow the user to combine the use of an audio guide with the idea of a sketch book.

Audio pen could be a small device attached to a pen. The headphone jack would be located at the top of the pen/pencil thus combining two items that one might bring with them or use in an art museum.

Audio Watch would allow the user to wear a device around their wrist that would provide informational displays when needed. The watch would be in a restful position when not in use.

concept  selection Out of my top ideations I decided that some sort of utility sash would be the best idea to move forward with for many reasons. Although I gravitated to other concepts at first, the sash was the only one that I felt was in scope for me to achieve. It was extremely important for me to have something tangible after all the work I’ve done this semester. I wanted to be able to see and hold the thing I designed to solve my problem statement. A strap redesign is something that I felt I would be able to complete. To the right are some early concept sketches

Possible Product Names


Mue-Band Corde (sash in French) Utilita (utility in Italian)

These concept sketches are based on the information collected from the public survey. More specifically the question that had users select what was most important to have with them while exploring a museum. Things that were considered were personal belongings, head phone chords, pencils/pens as well as other valuables.

Jewish Contemporary Museum of Art

56San Francisco

influence map This influence map is a collection of images of things that are influential to me both in and out of the context of the project. This map more or less has influences on the outside, The middle is my final product. When thinking about straps and strap redesign, I started researching bags, wallets, purses and back packs. Some things that bridged those ideas were most interesting like the idea of fanny packs and money belts that people use when they’re traveling to avoid pick pockets. On the right side of the map are things that are more personally influential like nature as well as materials i find to be fitting for my project.



preliminary prototype/s   It was important for me to construct early prototypes in order to figure just how to make a strap. I had sewn and used a sewing machine before but I needed to figure out the best way to work with the material. Constructed out of muslin, my preliminary prototypes included pocket design. I wanted to make sure that the user had a place to put their things such as pencils or a pencil sharpener but this prototype had to also house an audio guide and head phone chords. Some major design issues arose when I realized that I didn’t know how the Utilita sash should close. I didn’t like how my prototype appeared like something out of a pageant. There had to be a more sophisticated way to create a closure.



final  prototype   My final prototype is constructed out of twill. I at first had wanted to use oil cloth or a material with a waxed coating but as I learned more about the material I found it had certain limitation that were not in the scope of my user. An art student/ art lover needs to be able to wash this product. I discovered that the waxed fabric that i found could not be washed or the coating would dissolve. My next choice was twill as it is washable as well as thick enough to hold some sort of rigid shape.



prototype features The Utilita prototype has some new features than the preliminary prototypes that were constructed out of muslin. It was one of my design drivers that this product could be used by anyone. I found opportunity to do so in the closure design. Sitting at that waist is a snap buckle that allow the user to tighten or loosen the sash in this area. This seemed to be the best option since waist size varies from person to person. This would allow the user to customize Utilita to fit them to their comfort levels. the strap also features a permanent pencil holder that can hold up to five pencils or pens.



Museum audio guides are housed at the top of the strap closest to the users chest. This allow the audio guide to rest securely as well as be easily accessible to the user. The pocket for the audio guide features an accordian like fold that is designed for size variation of audio guides. The pocket closes using velcro. This is also were excess audio chord can be stored and allows the user to take the audio guide in and out freely.



With consideration in cleaning and care, I decided to design the Utlilita strap pockets to be removable. Both the lower pocket and the audio guide pocket are removable. This allows the user to be in control of what they bring with them to the museum. If the user doesn’t need the smaller pocket it can be removed and stored making the entire product less heavy and therefore more comfortable. These then can be removed and washed separately from the whole.



From my survey results I discovered that most people do not use a coat check when visiting an art museum. They would rather carry their things around with them even though it may be uncomfortable to hold so many things. I began asking people why they don’t use coat checks. Most of the answers I received were due to fear of theft. I decided to design a low profile pocket into my strap design. This is so people can store important items such as credit cards, cash, and I.D’s but also things such as museum tickets. This pocket is on the under side of the sash and is unseen from the front area.




Conclusion Overall, I think that my solution has been highly successful. When I presented it to my peers and professor, I received great positive feed back. They loved it! And even asked to have one for their own. They commented on its possible wide range of uses and its ability to be personalized.   That being said, even though the project was executed at high quality, there are some things to be improved and resolved. The design could be slightly altered. For example, it would be nice if the pockets were lined. This would make the Utilita sash even more professional looking. Also, the elastic that hold the pencils in place turned out to be a little tight. It would be beneficial if the elastic would allow a wider size range of pencil. This would make it so that the user could bring a larger object such as a sharpie. There are many future opportunities for this project. Because the pockets of the Utilita strap are removeable, they could be personalized based on size and or color. There is huge opportunity on the back side of the strap. It is as of now, plain, there is no detail. Perhaps this could be an area of personal expression.

Utilita - Exploration of Audio Guides  

Utilita, An exploration of Audio Guides, Exposing New Possibilities

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