Closing The Literacy Gap

Time                      March 2016 - May 2016

Collaborator         David Lockard, Ian C Gibson

Creative Field   Museum design, Experience design, UX design


Project Overview

"Closing the literacy gap" is an exhibition design project, which aims to present serious research to a broader, public audience. We try to interrogate content and form, audience and environment, medium and message to create a meaningful and playful exhibit experience. 



A solid education provides the foundation needed for success in many other areas of life. Our current educational system, however, contains major inequities in how it serves a diverse population of students. Those who don’t speak English are at an especially great disadvantage, as many tests and instructional environments assume some level of English proficiency. The research we have selected to work with focuses the work on this group and how the educational institution fails to provide the resources needed for them to thrive.



Primary Audience: Educators

Teachers (prospective and current) who face a rapidly-shifting demographic landscape, but lack formalized tools to address the difficulties faced by their students.


Secondary Audience: The general public

Those who aren’t facing this problem directly, but are either directly or indirectly influenced by its long-term social consequences.


Our primary goal with the exhibit is to develop an awareness among visitors of the problems that exist for minority language students in educational contexts. Presumably, every visitor will enter the exhibit with some experience with educational environments and systems as a student; we hope to complicate these conceptions of what it means to be a student through empathy-building interactive experiences. Visitors will leave with an appreciation of how much more difficult it can be for minority language students relative to native speakers to navigate the institution of education.



The overall visual style mirrors that of a classroom, with the main hubs of interaction being connected desks and chalkboards. Conceptually, the experience is roughly divided conceptually into three parts:

1.   Data visualizations and other media that provide an introduction to the issues at the core of the exhibit;

2.  A series of interactive experiences aimed at developing empathy (including text, video, live chat, a simulated test);

3.  A platform to allow users to explore and contribute possible solutions to the issues examined in the previous two parts.


Environmental Context

The exhibition space was located on the first floor of the NYU e-lab. It was accessible through a door that is adjacent to a transparent roll-up garage door. A large street-level window dominates the space’s right side. 

To better control the visitors’ experience, we left the roll-up door closed and had visitors enter via the fixed door, thereby encountering the exhibits in our pre-defined order. 

UX Architechture


The ‘desk test’ is an installation designed to give visitors a glimpse at the frustrations and difficulties encountered on a regular basis by students lacking a high level of English proficiency. It is a short individual experience, but one that can be enjoyed by onlookers as well as participants.The average time we expect participants to spend on it is 2 minutes.

A visitor will be able to take a short multiple choice test loosely based off of the SAT, but with questions that are timed. Questions will be fairly simple, but the characters of the will fade in very slowly to mimic the reading pace of a minority language student.

Color allette



Blackboard paint, chalk, foamboard, classroom chair.