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How can cultural institutions stay relevant to diverse new audiences?



Deep-dive audience insights

Making-sense immersion workshops

Design principles co-creation


How can we ensure that our DEI strategy will help us evolve in the right direction?

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based nonprofit institution that aspires to be a welcoming place of engagement and reflection, and celebrate the diversity of audiences they serve. Recognizing their association with a euro-centric tradition and a culture of exclusivity and privilege, the organization needed to advance an equity lens to community engagement strategies — based on the institution’s DEI Strategic Plan — to both sustain and evolve the organization long term.

What experiences do current and potential visitors from diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds desire from The Huntington?

How can we effectively activate our DEI strategic plan to develop programs, exhibitions, and visitor experiences to reach a broader range of populations?

How can we engage teams across the organization to move our DEI vision forward?

While the institution agreed to focus its audience engagement efforts on young audiences and young families, it was important to develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of these potential audiences, and more importantly to connect this with the population of Los Angeles County.

Through qualitative research, we defined the desired meaningful experiences that current and potential visitors associate with The Huntington. In collaboration with a group of key internal stakeholders, we developed a definition of The Next Huntington Visitor, with models visualizing The Huntington Experience and how it evolves over time.


Finally, we co-created a set of design principles and facilitated workshops to ideate on how to bring the design principles to life. With these tools and insights, Huntington leadership is better able to guide the organization to activate and integrate a consistent vision across all aspects of the institution.  


Empathizing with audiences to create guiding principles for design strategy


A co-creation process to empathize, envision, and engage

We interviewed key stakeholders and analyzed semantics to understand organizational culture, areas of audience engagement strength and growth, approaches to DEI, and collaboration style to develop a full view of the organization’s sensibilities.

Through in-depth interviews with current visitors, and digital ethnographies with first-time visitors, we immersed ourselves in their lives in an empathetic way to relate to their needs and also the type of meaningful experiences they have and/or desire from The Huntington. We aimed to understand not only what they do, but why they do it.

With audience insights in hand, along with data gathered from an online survey with visitors, we collaborated with Huntington teams to “make sense” of what we found and create a framework of understanding.

During immersion phase workshops, we engaged with internal stakeholders to help teams build empathy with audiences, co-create key design principles, and ideate on how to apply these in tangible ways. The design principles became the foundation for an audience engagement strategy as part of The Huntington’s strategic planning process.

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