AYA 017 How To Bootstrap A Museum With Sam Aquillano

Sam Aquillano is an Industrial Designer and Founder of The Design Museum Foundation.  Sam Aquillano is an Industrial Designer and Founder of The Design Museum Foundation.

“My advice to any entrepreneur is to get a co-founder and open up to your friends and family about what you’re about to do.” – Sam Aquillano

What does it take to launch a museum from scratch? If you’re like me you believe that you need to find a cool building in a great location and get a bunch of donors. That’s what Sam Aquillano and his business partner Derek Casio thought at first but when they looked closer and that model they decided to pivot and think differently. Using their expertise in creating events and looking at the business models of New York City pop-up shops they focused on a new concept for a museum and launched the Design Museum Foundation.


Sam Aquillano is Founder and Executive Director of Design Museum Foundation, a national network of local design museums. What started as Design Museum Boston, now includes Design Museum Portland in Oregon, and is growing across the country. Their mission is to educate the world about the importance of design in our lives. Design is everywhere, so the museum has no permanent address — instead, Sam and his team turn the museum inside out and turn entire cities into locally-focused, nomadic design museums.

Sam earned a BFA in Industrial Design from Rochester Institute of Technology and went on to design consumer electronics at Bose Corporation, as well as to teach design at Wentworth Institute of Technology, MassArt, and Babson College — where he recently earned his MBA.

With a passion for design, creativity, and learning, Sam creates a long-term vision for the museum. He leads a dedicated team while managing key programs and strategic operations. In 2013 Sam and his team were named one of BostInno’s 50 on Fire.

Sam routinely speaks at conferences, keynotes, and workshops about design, entrepreneurship, innovation, branding, placemaking, and business strategy. Recent speaking engagements include IBM SmartCamp, Future M, TEDxBoston, TEDxFenway, Portland Monthly’s Bright Lights, MIT Hacking Arts, and Harvard iLab.

What is Design Museum Boston?

We’re a new kind of museum focused on educating the world about design. We’re based in Boston, but we don’t have our own gallery space. We’re a distributed museum with exhibits & events all over town.

What is a nomadic museum?

We turn the museum inside out, turning the entire city into the museum. We put exhibitions and events in places where people already go: retail space, public space—even outside.

What will I learn at Design Museum Boston?

From architecture to video game design, furniture to fashion, products to graphics, design is more than an industry: it’s a process and way of thinking that solves complex problems.

Do I need to be a designer to visit the museum?

Absolutely not! Design is for everyone! We offer the most accessible, inclusive way to engage with design and designers. Our exhibitions and events are open to all.


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