As designers, we begin a project by asking “who for?” Needfinding is the art of talking to people and discovering their needs—both those they might explicitly state, and those hidden beneath the surface. It is only in truly understanding people that we can gain meaningful insights to inspire and inform a final, impactful design.

The following observations are from the 2012 ReDesigning Theater summer fellowship.  Over the course of ten weeks, fellows went on needfinding excursions to events and locations ranging from traditional theatrical performances to festivals and street fairs.  The team conducted over fifty needfinding interviews, and through these conversations formed insights and hypotheses that drove their five summer prototypes.

Much of the ReDesigning Theater Program is structured around the results of this needfinding.  In addition, each new class performs its own needfinding excursions and interviews in order to expand on and update the initial 2012 results.

Shotgun Players: Precious Little

Posted on August 22nd, by Nick in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: August 22, 8:00 PM

PRICE POINT: $18 – $25

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Largely older crowd and many LGBT couples (primarily older lesbian couples).

AGE GROUP: Mostly 40+ with a small handful of younger people.

FELLOWSHIP ATTENDEES: Xandra, Nick, Albert, Aviva, Michael and Ellen.



There was a lot of buzz about the show because the Shotgun Players have a reputation for interesting, unique, and localized theatre.


There was one young couple under the age of 30 that we could find…. They were only at the show for a class report!


The show was very abstract and a bit unusual. It documented a lesbian couple– a professor and her graduate student. The professor is trying to have a baby, and after an unsuccessful pregnancy, she finds herself in love with the gorilla at the local zoo. This is an example of theater [Read More] Read More »

AsiaSF in San Francisco

Posted on August 11th, by Nick in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: August 11, 8:00 PM

PRICE POINT: $35 – $50

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Primarily a female audience. Mostly groups celebrating birthdays, bachelorette parties, or other celebratory events. There was also a sizable group of tourists and also some LGBT groups in the audience.

AGE GROUP: Mostly 21-35, with a handful of older adults.




This event has notable word-of-mouth marketing– most guests had heard about the event from their friends, and security explained they have a reservation wait list basically every weekend.
Individuals enjoyed the event because it was social, and the show could be enjoyed as a group. Guests also liked the fact that they could talk during the show.
AsiaSF also embraces the local diversity of San Francisco– it is often voted as one of San Francisco’s must-see adventures. This relates to the general theme of people [Read More] Read More »

Oregon Shakespeare Festival: Ashland, OR

Posted on August 10th, by Xandra in Need Finding. No Comments


DATE AND TIME: August 10-12, 2012


DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Mostly all white, very little racial diversity; most all above age 30 (most even above age 40); some dressed nicely for the theater (i.e. dresses, pants and dress shirts), others dressed in jeans; many middle-aged to elderly people; but also a lot of families with young children (high school and under)

AGE GROUP: Mostly 30-70 years old, plus children




having an easy way to get around (i.e. a car) enables more theater-going
ok to go alone to theater if you’re in the theater world; not ok to go alone if you’re not a theater person (better to go with a partner or friends)
theater destinations (i.e. where you can make a weekend trip out of it) are sometimes more exciting than local theater options
most who go to a theater [Read More] Read More »

Humor Abuse

Posted on August 9th, by Albert in Need Finding, Uncategorized. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: August 9, 2012 (Thursday evenings) at 8 PM in San Francisco at the ACT.

PRICE POINT: $25- $85 on Thursday evenings (ranges to $30-$95 on Saturday evenings).

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Elements of the typical theater crowd– artsy individuals from local theaters, actors, students, etc… There was also a twist of a circus following… We met individuals who were trapeze artists, professional clowns, and more; they had heard about Lorenzo from the Pickle’s family.

AGE GROUP: 20-60 + year olds. Mainly an older demographic age 30-35+. Slightly younger than typical theater crowd (at Les Miserables or other shows).

FELLOWSHIP ATTENDEES: Entire fellowship attended the event: Michael, Aviva, Nick, Xandra, Julia, Albert, and Ellen.

SAMPLE SIZE: Approximately 10 interviews (about 2-3 interviews per person). Some interviews were from people who were going to War Horse at the theater next door.


Cost was again brought up as a common factor for why [Read More] Read More »

Bluegrass Night: Amnesia, SF

Posted on July 30th, by Julia in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: July 30, 10 PM

PRICE POINT: Free. Beer is 5-8 dollars for a pint.

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Fairly hip and young. Mostly white.

AGE GROUP: 21-late 30s



Spunk: Cal Shakes

Posted on July 27th, by Julia in Need Finding. No Comments

Off The Grid: Upper Haight, SF

Posted on July 26th, by Julia in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: 7/26/2012, 6:00PM

PRICE POINT: $3-$10 per food item

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: People from all sorts of classes, most seemed to be middle-class. There were people in sweats and people in nicer clothing.

AGE GROUP: Mostly 20-30 year olds, some older folk with children

FELLOWSHIP ATTENDEES: Ellen, Xandra, Albert, Julia, Aviva



People came for the easy access to a wide variety to affordable food

Ability to choose important

The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly
Long lines for particular trucks
People came and go as they pleased –  no time pressure


There were these three girls who loved house parties that were packed, as in so packed that “people had to climb out of the windows to get out”
A man who worked at Google would go to theater “if it was relevant to me, like if there was a story about a boy from New [Read More] Read More »

Gaultier: de Young Museum, SF

Posted on July 26th, by Julia in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: 7/26/2012, 2:30PM

PRICE POINT: $15 admission to Gaultier, but free portions of museum available

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Middle to upper class – nicely dressed people

AGE GROUP: Mostly 30+

FELLOWSHIP ATTENDEES: Ellen, Xandra, Albert, Julia, Aviva



People came to appreciate fashion
Cameras were allowed – many were taking photos


This tourist from Texas only went to the free sections of the de Young – did not want to pay for a ticket
These two women (upper class) were theater enthusiasts who were headed to a Jewish film festival afterwards were extreme users of opera and dance – will follow up
Three Argentinian men – theater in Argentina is much more popular and does not have the same reputation as more snooty like in America. One man also told the other to not portray Argentinian theater as so “bad”, but the other replied that [Read More] Read More »

The Dark Knight Rises: Premier at the Metreon

Posted on July 18th, by Albert in Need Finding, Uncategorized. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: July 18, Midnight


DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Some of the “Comic-Con” crowd but other than that pretty diverse. It seemed like a fairly universal event.

AGE GROUP: Fairly young, mostly 18-35

FELLOWSHIP ATTENDEES: Albert, Xandra, Ellen, and Julia



Large groups of people in lines, though not really milling about. People were either waiting in line for their tickets or in the theater.
Though there was buzz, there weren’t a lot of groups of people talking to eachother


The technology of the movie is important. “We are here to see real IMAX”
“We are camping here to see it on the premier to have a communal even with all these other people.”
“Movies are my life. I will watch any movie that is doing something new in cinema.”


There was a lot of excitement in the air.
This was generally thought of [Read More] Read More »

Union Square and SF Cable Car

Posted on July 11th, by Albert in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: July 11, Afternoon

PRICE POINT: $0. Tourist attractions

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Mostly tourists. American and European.

AGE GROUP: All the way from children to their parents to their grandparents.




People were there because they should be, weren’t necessarily excited about each individual thing.


“This is just something you do when you come to San Francisco.” — talking about the Cable Car
“I want to go to events that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.” — A Swedish tourist discussing why he went to a Bruce Springsteen concert.
A pair of British tourists expressed how theater was in their education and so it’s something that is very regular for them to do each week. These tourists were not, though, attending any theater in San Francisco. According to them that’s not what a [Read More] Read More »

Les Miserables at the Orpheum

Posted on July 11th, by Albert in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: July 11, 8:00 PM

PRICE POINT: $40 – $150

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Largely older and fairly wealthy crowd.

AGE GROUP: Mostly 30+ with some smatterings of younger people.

FELLOWSHIP ATTENDEES: Xandra, Nick, Albert, Aviva, and Ellen.



There was a lot of buzz outside and around the theater, it was opening night.
People around the theater knew the show for the most part (especially the songs).


There were two young girls with a sign asking for tickets because they LOVED Les Miserables.
“I’ve only seen Les Mis once, but I’ve listened to the album a million times.”


Very traditional style theater, quiet except for songs. It received a standing ovation.
People seemed to be familiar with the songs. They had “previewed” the show in an enjoyable way.

High Sierra Music Festival

Posted on July 6th, by Albert in Need Finding, Uncategorized. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: July 6-8, all day

PRICE POINT: $100-$200 depending on length of ticket.

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Largely white. Generally a “hippy” crowd.

AGE GROUP: Very large age range. From college kids to young parents with their children to baby boomers.




There was a very strong focus with being outside and being in touch with nature while going to a live concert event.
People were very excited to be at High Sierra just to meet a lot of new people, and they were being very social compared to many events (meaning that they were socializing outside of their groups).


“I’d love to see theater that’s outside and social like this, where I could just walk into each performance.”
“I didn’t come to High Sierra knowing any of the bands. I just came because I know there is always something worth [Read More] Read More »

Camping Trip in the Wilderness by Mt. Shasta (a Regional “Burn”)

Posted on July 4th, by Julia in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: July 4th-8th

PRICE POINT: Free (except sharing gas and food costs within carpools).

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Almost all white. One black female. A few multiracial. Casual camping wear; long flowing hippie skirts, head scarves, and bandanas tied around chests; at night exotic costumes like fuzzy boots, fur vests, and cowgirl hats.

AGE GROUP: Mostly age 22-32; a fair amount over 32 and up to age 65 or so; a few children; on July 4th many more age 30-45.


SAMPLE SIZE: July 4th: approx. 200; July 5th-8th: approx. 40 (mostly younger demographic after July 4th)


Desire for connection to community, especially in a spiritual sense (but hate it when “spirituality” is forced or fake).
Desire for different “stations” for different moods/activities, creating different groupings rather than one large collective — so you can choose the activity in which you want to [Read More] Read More »

Portland Farmer’s Market: Portland State University

Posted on June 30th, by Julia in Need Finding. No Comments

DATE AND TIME: June 30, 2012. 12-1pm.

PRICE POINT: Free to attend. Free samples at many stands. Foods (cooked and raw) available for purchase at a variety of prices.

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Mostly white, some black, small amount of other.

AGE GROUP: Every age group: families, young couples and friends, elderly.




People like trying free samples — this encourages them to buy different things than they’re used to, and they like trying things they’ve never tried (or even seen) before.
People like being able to wander between stations and choose their own paths/destinations.
People tend to not be offended when friends want to eat at a different stall than they do (they just split up briefly).


One girl (age 23) prefers going to farmer’s markets alone because then she doesn’t feel pressured to go to stalls that other people want to [Read More] Read More »

The W San Francisco: Model Walk-Off (DJ Donovan & Mélange Productions, Inc.)

Posted on June 30th, by Julia in Need Finding. No Comments

Date and Time: June 30, 2012. 10 PM- 2 AM. Model walk-off at 12:30 AM.

PRICE POINT: For women, it cost either $10 or free to enter the venue (depending on guest list access). For men, it cost either $10 or $30 to enter the venue (depending on guest list access). Drinks ranged from $8 (beer) – $15 (cocktails).

DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION: Diverse, multicultural, strong Asian population, well dressed, posh, and fashionable.

AGE GROUP: 21- 35 +

FELLOWSHIP ATTENDEES: Julia Hathaway, Ellen Le, Aviva Palmer, Michael Sturtz, Albert Huber, and Nick Navarro

SAMPLE SIZE: 15+ individuals.


Common perception that theatre is an activity for couples or individuals with significant others. There is a common perception that you do not attend theatre by yourself. People have a strong association with dates and theatre.

Potential singles intervention to attract singles or groups of guys/girls.

Branding matters: some people attended the event [Read More] Read More »