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Designing an Audio Experience for Cultural Tourism: The Listen To MI Podcasts

The trailer for the Listen To MI podcasts produced by InvisibleStudio for the House Museums of Milan - video by Icastica

Creating the "Listen To MI" podcasts for the House Museums of Milan was a fascinating project that required careful planning and an innovative approach.

During the initial phase of the project, we conducted extensive research on the cultural needs of Italian and foreign tourists, using both quantitative and qualitative tools.

From a quantitative perspective, we conducted an online survey in collaboration with IULM University of Milan with 553 Italian tourists and 222 foreign tourists, mainly young people, to understand how Milan was perceived and which cultural sites were already known.

From a qualitative perspective, we conducted in-depth interviews with tourists using the "extreme users" methodology typical of Design Thinking. This empathetic approach guided the entire creative process, ensuring that the content was relevant and engaging for our audience.

Based on the analysis of questionnaire responses and interviews, six main themes were developed:

  • Contemporary art

  • Design

  • Music

  • Literature

  • Architecture

  • Fashion

These six themes were identified as particularly significant for Milan and at the same time for the potential audience, working on a perceived link between the city and Fashion, Design, and Music, and strengthening the link with Contemporary Art, Architecture (especially of the twentieth century), and Literature, with an emphasis on the publishing industry and bookstores.

At this stage of the project, 21 guest speakers were identified and invited, each an expert in their respective field:

  • Contemporary Art

    • Vincenzo Trione (art critic for Corriere della Sera, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Tourism, and Markets at IULM University in Milan)

    • Angela Vettese (art historian)

    • Anna Zegna (President of Zegna Foundation)

    • Minjung Kim (contemporary artist)

  • Design

    • Chiara Alessi (design historian)

    • Anty Pansera (design historian)

    • Alessandra Baldereschi (designer)

    • Luca Nichetto (designer)

    • Salvatore Gregorietti (graphic designer)

  • Music

    • Enrico Ruggeri (singer-songwriter)

    • Petra Magoni (jazz singer)

  • Literature

    • Alberto Saibene (writer)

    • Alberto Rollo (writer)

    • Edgarda Ferri (writer)

    • Stefano Bartezzaghi (writer)

  • Architecture

    • Fulvio Irace (architecture historian)

    • Alessia Garibaldi (architect)

  • Fashion

    • Carla Sozzani (founder Corso Como 10)

    • Satoshi Kuwata (fashion designer)

    • François Berthoud (fashion illustrator)

    • Fabio Quaranta (fashion designer)

The choice of guests was primarily based on their ability to express an interesting vision of Milan and to avoid being trivial or predictable choices; in particular, there was an emphasis on people who came from outside Milan or had experiences abroad or with foreigners, in order to offer a more forward-looking angle on the city.

For the structuring of the itineraries, we adopted a thematic approach, organizing them by neighborhoods (Brera, Porta Venezia, Scalo Romana, etc.) and specific themes (Portaluppi, Jazz, etc.). This allowed for the creation of routes that explored various aspects of the city and its cultural offerings in depth. The itineraries were carefully designed, choosing specific museum houses and building a network of connections with other cultural places and neighborhoods around them. This allowed visitors to discover different aspects of Milan, including less-known neighborhoods but rich in cultural offerings.

One of the main objectives was to create long-lasting, timeless, and high-quality content. In this sense, the podcasts were conceived to be always current and interesting, regardless of the trends of the moment.

The idea for the podcast format was born from observing the success of a similar project we had carried out in 2009 in Malta, where interviews with cultural personalities generated compelling stories, which are still listened to today. In particular, we chose to adopt a "stream of consciousness" approach, which proved extremely effective in conveying the essence and spirit of the places in a poetic way.

The production of these podcasts required significant commitment, especially in terms of editing. Indeed, we preferred not to limit ourselves to pre-set questions, allowing the narrators to express themselves freely. This created a dialogue based on emotion, making the podcasts a journey through the personal experiences and perceptions of the narrators.

A crucial element was the creation of the production team. A group of people with diverse skills collaborated on the project, each with a well-defined role. The organization and distribution of roles were fundamental to the success of the project.

For the connecting voices (narrator, signature voice, practical information voice), we selected voices that could capture the audience's attention with a warm and reassuring tone, avoiding overly artificial voices. This approach aimed to offer visitors a unique and engaging experience, a kind of nostalgic and poetic walk through the cultural wonders of Milan.

Translating the content into English represented an additional challenge. We started with a professional translation and then adapted the language to make it more colloquial and in line with the style of the podcasts. This process involved a further step of localization and adaptation by native speakers.

For the English voices, we chose native English speakers living in Milan, with a good knowledge of Italian. This ensured correct pronunciation of Italian words and an authentic understanding of the city. The narrators' familiarity with Milan added a level of depth and context to their stories, making the podcast experience richer and more immersive.

Finally, our goal was not to replace traditional audio guides but to offer a complementary experience based on personal impressions and advice. In this way, the "Listen To MI" podcasts have become an emotional and personal guide to exploring the city.




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