Top 20 Principles for The Future of Museum and Gallery Design

The Future of Museum and Gallery Design must….

  1. Be inclusive – museum designers must place visitors at the centre of everything they do.
  2. Be collaborative – the best museum and gallery design will draw on expertise from design and from research and find new ways to merge design knowledge with museum knowledge.
  3. Be non-hierarchical – true collaboration means teamwork and the museum sector needs new ways of doing museum design which remove hierarchies and truly value the expertise of both professionals and the public.
  4. Develop new strategies for participation and co-curation – we need a greater understanding of how different modes of museum making can work effectively in different contexts.
  5. Be multi-sensory – museum experiences must engage the whole human being, body and mind.
  6. Prioritise social interaction – museum designers must develop and share new methods for enabling and supporting interactions amongst groups of visitors and amongst strangers – this is essential to their social role.
  7. Be action-orientated – museum designers must develop and share new prototypes for enabling diverse activities within the physical museum experience, recognising that museums are made through use as much as they are through design.
  8. Trust museum visitors to construct their own narratives and recognise the role of the museum maker as one of creating opportunities to access new ways of knowing – the exhibition narrative is not the same as the visitor experience.
  9. Take account of the local – museum makers must understand the local environment and respond to local user’s interests and needs.
  10. Be embedded in its environment – museums must find new ways of blurring the boundaries between the space and experience of the museum and the space and experience of everyday life.
  11. Find new and ethical ways of working which take account of the role of museums as socially responsible organisations and agents of social change
  12. Be real – museum makers must avoid or subvert the tendency in museums to build iconic objects and symbols and instead prioritise real people, real lives and use built forms to provide welcome and stimulate curiosity.
  13. Be human – museum design must avoid or evolve its tendency towards the spectacular and instead create meaningful content and experiences at a human scale.
  14. Be underpinned by high quality research – museum makers must find ways to make use of, direct, and consolidate the growing body of museum design research.
  15. Reach beyond narrow definitions of design – museum design and design thinking can make a positive and significant contribution to organisational change and sectoral change.
  16. Inspire – we need case studies of excellent practice to inspire us all and open up new possibilities for the cultural sector.
  17. Cross boundaries – we understand more about the museum as a medium the more we explore and experiment beyond the well-established models.
  18. Be strategic, visible, connected and organised – museum design is fragmented and the museum, design and research professionals involved in the development of museum design practice and research need to work together and share ideas in order to move the field forward.
  19. Be varied – we want a diverse museum landscape where difference is celebrated and divergent perspectives are explored and debated as a route to fostering understanding and tolerance.
  20. Be transformative – design has a key role to play in the democratisation of museums – it can drive as well as enact change. Let’s make it matter!


Our Top 20 Principles were drafted by participants in The Future of Museum and Gallery Design conference, November 2015. Thank you to everyone involved!!