Isabella Gardner was a remarkable woman with a daring vision. After decades of traveling she carefully installed her eclectic collection according to her personal aesthetic and rationale in her palace, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Visiting her palace is like wandering through the mind of Isabella.

The brief: “Create a ‘brand’-new website that is visitor focused. One that is mobile-friendly and behaves ‘as a partner’ to the on-site experience. Allow the Museum to create (and update) interesting and engaging content. Storytelling that will attract a range of users and provide a unique lens into the Museum and everything ‘the Gardner’ does. We want this new site to be a useful and engaging resource for our audiences”.


One of the most important principles for designing is that we worked goal oriented:

  1. Make information and resources quickly and easily accessible on the website.
  2. Prepare visitors for a great in-person experience that meets their needs and expectations.
  3. Reveal the uniqueness of the collection, experience, and history, with sustainable, ongoing content creation.

Next to that we embraced some basic principles: visitor journey focused, meet expectations of the visitors – basic information is only one click away -, responsive and adaptive. And of course, aligning with the new brand: ‘inviting’, ‘sensuous’ and a ‘little daring’.

We adopted an integrated way of working to align brand, visitors needs and content in the best possible way.


One of the main challenge was to cater the needs of the largest current audience (potential museum visitors) while also allowing ISGM to develop and deploy content in line with their museum-wide audience development goals (to attract and engage more local visitors and participants who are younger (Millennials, ages 18-34) and racially diverse). Another challenge was to create a new website that shows a comprehensive overview of the Museum, and all its offers.

A third challenge was to create broad support and digital awareness within the whole organization of the Museum.


One of the tools was true collaboration. Fabrique, an Amsterdam based design agency, is a seven hour flight to Boston. The Museum is well-known for its Artist-in-Residence Program, giving artists an active role in the reshaping and rethinking of the Museum. In this spirit, we decided to schedule a ‘designers-in-residence’ week during the design phase of the project. Our Creative Director and UX designer stayed in the Resident’s apartment and ran daily design sprints with the Museum’s digital team and staff.

Fabrique and the Museum closely collaborated towards a concept design for the website, keeping the goals top of mind.

And by working in agile ways and testing the designs thoroughly with visitors, we achieved a truly visitor centered website.


The website was launched recently. So it is too early for ‘real’ results e.g. more traffic. First reactions are very positive, both internally and externally. We have matched the three goals:

  1. Make information and resources quickly and easily accessible: We tested the navigational structure and content with real Museum visitors and went through several iterations.
  2. Prepare visitors for a great in-person experience: An inviting 45 second trailer movie tells first time visitors who Isabella was, and what the Museum offers. The ‘Story pages’ align a visit with visitors’ expectations.
  3. Reveal the uniqueness of the Museum with sustainable, ongoing content creation: We made the website flexible, measurable and easy to update.