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Seven Stories

The Big Question for our Students:

How can you engage 7-12 year olds in the Seven Stories visitor experience so that they are encouraged to:

  • Visit (and revisit Seven Stories);
  • Buy a book;
  • And be inspired to read for pleasure or do a creative activity (such as writing, drawing, creating a YouTube video etc.) as a result of what they have done or seen?

The Design Opportunity:

Research has shown that developing a love of reading is important for children’s life chances. There is evidence that reading for pleasure can benefit children and young people beyond the classroom and into their adult life, in turn enriching the world around us.

Seven Stories, the National Centre for Childrens Books, aims to engage children in reading for pleasure through their collection of original artwork and manuscripts. The team had recognised that they were consistently engaging with families with children under 7 years old, with a successful programme of event targeting under 4s during term time. However, there were far fewer visitors in the 7-12 year old age bracket, apart from those visiting with a school.

Seven Stories asked Northumbria University's Design for Industry students to think of new ways to reach this audience and engage them in reading for pleasure.

Project Scope:

In small groups, students designed an offer that would help Seven Stories to engage with this target audience. They could consider any and all types of design objects, including: an exhibition; an event or series of events; marketing; new partnerships; activities; books; digital platforms etc.

Phase One - What we did and how we did it:

The students first visited Seven Stories to be briefed on the project and understand the current visitor experience. Over the coming weeks, they spoke with staff, parents, teachers and children to try and understand:

  • What are children interested in between the ages of 7 and 12?
  • What are they reading?
  • How are they encouraged to read?
  • What type of engagement would parents value?
  • How can an activity or event prompt engagement with literature?
  • How do other museums/visitor centres engage with this audience?

Students undertook a period of design research, using methods such as observations, service safaris, interviews and questionnaires, to understand their customers’ and clients’ needs and demands. They used insights gathered in this stage to inform some initial concepts that they presented to staff at Seven Stories. The critique of these ideas then gave them directions to focus on during further ideation and development.

At the end of this phase, students presented their design concepts to a 12-strong panel of directors and managers at Seven Stories. They create a 5-minute PowerPoint presentation that described supported by accompanying physical material (such as marketing material, books, prototype app etc.) that helped to explain their idea and the experience and value it would provide.

Phase Two - What we did and how we did it:

Seven Stories chose elements from all of the projects that they wanted to see developed further. Smaller teams were put together to progress these concepts into fully-realised offers with experience prototypes. Students created customer journey maps, models and videos to show how they Seven Stories could engage 7-12 year olds.

The Result:

Seven Stories were incredibly impressed with the quality and innovativeness of the student’s ideas, and have begun work to incorporate them into their upcoming exhibitions. One of the ideas was a story-starter wall- a wall of illustrations that children could look at as inspiration for creating a story. 

Course info

UCAS Code W240

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2023 or September 2024

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