PSFK Talks With Sam Aquillano And Derek Cascio From Design Museum Boston

Boston’s Pop-up Design Museum re-imagines the idea of a museum with the goal of furthering the general public’s design literacy.

According to Design Industry Group of Massachusetts, there are over 44,500 designers working in across the state. Sam Aquillano and Derek Cascio of Boston’s Pop-up Design Museum have captured and harnessed this energy, and  re-imagined the idea of a museum with the goal of furthering the general public’s design literacy. Their museum is a non-profit organization that is due to make a big splash in Boston and New England.

PSFK recently talked with Sam and Derek to see how the launch is going.

Where did the idea for the Boston Design Museum come from?

Sam: We worked together for six years in the Boston chapter of the Industrial Design Society of America and we met many designers from numerous disciplines. Our goal now is to make the public aware of the rich design community in Massachusetts and educate them about design. Initially, the idea of a design festival came up, but we also wanted to do it in high traffic areas like malls, so the pop-up concept emerged. We’ve created this distributed model of a museum that’s inclusive of technology and the web.

Derek: The goal is to provide context to all these products and services and show the public, including industry and government leaders ‘this is what design is’. So that people see the process as well as the end product and its impact socially and environmentally.

Your idea has an interesting approach to ‘physicality’. To what extent is what you’re doing a ‘museum’? Is it also something else?

Sam: It comes down to what is a museum in this Web 2.0 social networked world. We’re straddling that line by building a community based on this designmuseum.org of designers and non-designers. For the designers, we’re asking ‘how do you educate someone about what you do?’ and from the public’s perspective, we ask ‘what do you want to know about design?’. Through the online community, we build social capital, and then we display our community’s work by creating criteria and going into the physical space.

Derek: The hook is that it’s not a traditional museum. In a way, we are playing with what ‘the museum’ connotes, and we’re changing its definition, thus how people will understand it in the future.

Sam: And with museums people are expecting an educational experience, which is great for us. If we go into a mall, where thousands of people are interacting with design on a retail level, then we can present design to them from an educational perspective with the goal of getting them to look at the goods they’re buying, the goods they own, the house they’re going to build in a different way. Derek always says, if we can educate people to demand better design from designers, then we’ve succeeded.

What has been the most interesting reaction to your work?

Derek: The most interesting, and also the best reaction is that every single person we’ve talked to wants to help. And that is both surprising, because it’s sometimes hard to motivate people to get involved in these types of extra-curricular things.

Sam: It shows the dollar vote. We’ve had tons of micro-donations through our website and on Ning from the general public. A lot of support came from worth of mouth and we believe that’s a testament that it is a good idea.

What other projects, people or ideas are inspiring you?

Derek: To be honest, a lot of it came from our drive to serve a larger group of people.

Sam: There were also a number of pop-up stores and initiatives that inspired us like Puma City, Designtorget, and Local Motors .

Where do you see the design market going? Do you see it moving towards democratization and accessibility? Or do you think people are more likely to stick with the conventional museums?

Sam: Even the more institutionalized museums are starting to crack in showing more process around their content and contextualizing objects.

Derek: I think there have been a number of inroads trying to make design a more public and approachable endeavor. Corporations are recognizing the dangers of being too insular, and looking for innovation by focusing on the people they are designing for and the sooner that happens, the better off we will be.

Sam: We’re starting to see how design, business, and entrepreneurship can combine together to make really great experiences.

Derek: The lines between different design disciplines are also blurring, so there is more horizontal integration now. Companies are realizing this and there’s an obvious adoption of ‘design thinking’ into business and marketing.

The key to any successful project is good communication. Designers speak a lot of languages and the reason our project will work well is because designers want to learn and collaborate this way.

Design Museum Boston

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