The DURING component of the BEYOND Art process was ultimately aimed at designing, developing and testing a prototype of our platform ready for the IMPAKT 2019: Speculative Interfaces festival. We had multiple teams working on this process at IMPAKT along with our collaborators at Stichting DEN and the interactive design agency team at van Leeuwen & van Leeuwen. Guided by our partner Anne-Marie Kremer (CultuurOntwerp), we implemented Design Thinking throughout the BEYOND Art process. We used this design thinking throughout our project to build in an iterative approach to the project.
While the deliverables of each stage of the project varied, we attempted to conduct and create a consistent looped methodology that kept us brainstorming, thoroughly researching, in dialogue with our audience and exploring opportunities with our partners. To do this, each phase consisted of: 1. in-depth internal platform research (examining and exploring existing solutions), 2. audience research (through surveys and more importantly collaborative or co-creative working sessions), 3. partner research (through expert meetings with our partners from various sectors) and finally 4. producing iterations of the design and development of our platform.
Our Approach and Methodology
To answer our research question, with the guidance of Anne-Marie Kremer (CultuurOntwerp), we implemented Design Thinking throughout the entirety of the project. Design Thinking is an iterative process in which one seeks to understand the audience, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to create alternative methodologies and solutions that might not be immediately obvious. At the same time, Design Thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It is a mode of thinking, imagining and creating as well as a collection of hands-on methods. Design Thinking is a practice of deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing the solutions.
Design Thinking fundamentally helps us in questioning: questioning the problem, questioning the assumptions, and questioning the implications. Design Thinking is exceptionally beneficial in addressing problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. Design Thinking also involves ongoing experimentation: sketching, prototyping, testing, and testing concepts and ideas.
There are many variants of the Design Thinking process, and they have from three to seven phases, stages, or modes. It is important to note that the five phases, stages, or modes are not always sequential. They do not have to follow any specific order and can often occur in parallel and repeat iteratively. Given that, you should not understand the phases as a hierarchical or step-by-step process. Instead, you should look at it as an overview of the modes or phases that contribute to an innovative project, rather than sequential steps.
For BEYOND Art we employed the following design thinking phases: 1. Empathising, 2. Defining, 3. Ideating, 4. Prototyping and 5. Testing.
We used this design thinking approach in our methodology to build in an iterative approach throughout the project. While the deliverables of each stage of the project varied, we attempted to conduct and create a consistent looped methodology that kept us brainstorming, thoroughly researching, in dialogue with our audience and exploring opportunities with our partners. To do this, each phase consisted of: 1. in-depth internal platform research, 2. audience research (through surveys and more importantly collaborative or co-creative working sessions), 3. partner research (through expert meetings with our partners from various sectors) and finally 4. producing iterations of the design and development of our platform.
To give the reader an idea of how the design thinking methodology instructed our practice, we have included our overall project phases here. Throughout all steps of the project we employed within the iterative approach of: 1. Empathising, 2. Defining, 3. Ideating, 4. Prototyping and 5. Testing.
Step 1: Research
Platform Research: Technological Capabilities, Existing Solutions and Similar Products on the market.
Audience Research: Surveys and work groups with various audiences groups about their experiences with art events with traditional material (brochures, flyers etc.), any apps or platforms they have used and what they could imagine a platform like BEYOND ART adding to their experience.
Partner Research: A combined Expert Meeting with Curators and Directors of Art Organisations in Utrecht and Amsterdam and with department heads from Utrecht University from the Arts and Media Culture faculties.
Deliverables: Wireframes of BEYOND ART
Step 2: 1st Loop
Platform Research: Focussed on solidifying crucial features and seeking out potential collaborators for our design and development, ultimately choosing the studio van Leeuwen & van Leeuwen
Audience Research: Using the same audience groups we discussed their impressions of our work so far, what features we designed they could see using themselves and what was still missing from them.
Partner Research: Using our wireframes and findings from Phase 1 we met with artists, technologists, coders, developers and archivists to gather their experiences, thoughts and ideas on such a platform.
Deliverables: Final Designs for BEYOND ART from van Leeuwen & van Leeuwen
Step 3: 2nd Loop
Platform Research: How to build an easy CMS fit for purpose, how to develop and produce content for the platform and how to release and host the platform.
Audience Research: Workgroups and testing environments with audiences to see how they could use, navigate and explore the content of the platform.
Partner Research: One on One meetings with partners in the cultural and education sector about collaborations and possibilities
Deliverables: Prototype of BEYOND ART
Step 4: 3rd Loop
Platform Research: Developed strategies for testing at the festival, worked on communication of core ideas, research into the topic, themes, contributors and artworks in our festival and adding all of the content to our platform
Audience Research: Surveys for our general audiences and in-depth testing and discussion sessions with student groups from Utrecht University and HKU, which are still on-going, as they have proved to be quite fruitful.
Partner Research: An expert meeting and working group at the festival during our professionals programmes with Utrecht based festivals and domestic/international art professionals and one-on-one meetings with contributors to the festival.
Deliverables: Promotional Material, Audio and Video Content for the Platform
Perspectives and Parallel Tracks
In service of our design thinking methodology we also thought of the project from three distinct perspectives and worked along two parallel streams. Throughout the project we imagined the utility of the platform from the point of view of three perspectives and their unique needs and desires: 1. IMPAKT as in institution, 2. Partner Institutions, and 3. General Audience and Users. To do this we also divided the project into two separate but parallel streams. That is 1. An IMPAKT Platform prototype and 2. A Networked Platform and Methodology for the larger Netherlands arts sector. That is to say, that for the first stream we were designing and developing a digital platform prototype for IMPAKT and our 2019 Festival in October/November and for the second stream we were researching and designing with industry experts and our partners in the field the possibilities of a larger networked intra-institution platform for other art organisations around the Netherlands.
During our platform research we have found that on the market there appears to be four types of categories for projects of this nature: Event/Institution Apps, Basic Custom Solutions, Complete Custom Solutions and Specialised Art Apps.
Event/Institution Apps are Phone and Tablet based applications made for a single site-specific event or institution. Just about every major gallery, museum or festival in the world now has an app of this kind.
MONA App (Museum of Old & New Art)
Basic Custom Solutions
The second type of products available are Basic Custom Solutions, these include services called: Museum Anywhere, Shoutem and My Tours. These solutions are designed for small to middle-sized art institutions, IMPAKT would be in their target market. They are mainly designed to be cost effective solutions that tick the box of having an app. Rather than enriching user experience, engagement and discussion; these solutions provide little customisation for art institutions, and instead focus on ‘quick-fixes’.
The next type of projects claim to provide completely customised art apps for their clients. There are companies like Muzze, and Guru, producing simple but nicely designed user-friendly apps. The features they provide are still quite basic: wall text, maps, and event notifications. However, their main aim is to provide audience metrics for an organisation.
Specialised Art Apps
The final type of applications are specialised art apps that implement unique and engaging technological features that we too intend exploring with BEYOND.
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Other types of apps that we have investigated in our research are existing solutions from similar fields or external fields with similar ultimate goals for their user’s experiences. These include those from our partner organisations or other art institutions in the Netherlands. Like the mobile app of the International Film Festival Rotterdam which provides its visitors with a digitised program of the festival, the ability to purchase tickets and pick their favourite films. Another app we have looked into is the Virtual Reality app by the EYE film museum, which gives their users access to any VR Event scheduled at the museum or the ability to digitally traverse the museum space from their home. On the recommendation of one of our partners we also explored digital platforms in the medical field that also implement our shared approach to a user’s journey with an institution before, during and after their experience with a medical professional or clinic. These apps include ones addressing healthcare management, pathology care, addiction control and pregnancy tracking. The other fields we explored included tourism apps and music app solutions that have influenced and inspired our approach to the networked intra-institution component of BEYOND ART and their features surrounding: time and geographical management, large multi-institution databases, user feedback features, and the potential for user curation.
Over the course of the project we were focussed on conducting in-person partner research with relevant cultural institutions that could possibly use BEYOND ART in the future and experts in the industry that could provide us with invaluable suggestions for the project. Along with some in-depth one-on-one meetings with partners, we held several expert meeting brainstorming sessions. We were joined by the directors or curators of several small-medium sized institutions from Utrecht and Amsterdam and by several heads of different arts programmes from Universities in Utrecht.
Education and Art Institutes
Before the expert meetings we held with Art and Education institutes we asked them to read our proposal material, visit our previous project FOTP, and investigate some our audio visual material. For these meetings we decided to have a more dynamic personal introduction to the project. We developed the following questions as initial prompts for our discussions:
Can you see a platform like this working for your art institute?
Are there any features we haven’t mentioned you think would be beneficial for an app like this for your institution?
How are you planning or already using mobile digital technology at your art institute?
How can you imagine mobile digital technology to enhance the audience experience, in the art projects you yourself organize?
How can you imagine mobile digital technology to enhance the audience information exchange between you (organizer, curator, artist) and the audience, in the art projects you yourself organize?
How can you imagine mobile digital technology to enhance the audience information exchange between the audience, in the art projects you yourself organize (in a way that also is valuable for you as an organizer)?
Can you think of anyway to encourage our audiences to download and use an app like this? (Museumkaart or similar service, or incentives: free tickets, prizes etc.)
Can you see any problems for an app like this in your own institution?
How can you see education institutions using this type of technology to collaborate with art institutions and vice versa?
What do you think are the prospects of using a platform like this to share and distribute your own work as academics? And what about sharing the work of your students through an app like this?
Is there anything you are working on or are familiar with that relates to this idea you can share with us?
For art institutions that are less content driven, i.e. a music festival, theatre festival etc. how can you imagine mobile digital technology enabling collaboration between these institutions and academic and education organisations?
Some of the main takeaways from these meetings were:
The Education Sector were very excited by the possibility for student involvement, internships, research project, research resource, potential for publishing opportunities, collaboration with education curriculums (University Utrecht and also expressed by HKU).
They saw the Potential for Research Funding within University Sector in both academic research and entrepreneurial funds
We got great Input from the Art Institutes, with ideas and challenging our assumptions. The Big Question that arose from them were regarding time and management. And concurrently a question of consistency and quality control as there becomes multiple institutes involved.
The Big Question that remained on the table for us is how to incentivise the downloading of the app. The main challenge as we discussed it is to keep people engaged and not to delete it after a visit.
Some other questions that emerged were:
How do we realise interaction between users and avoid people submerged with their phones?
An ambition of the project is to invite people afterwards to get more detailed info. Do people prefer reading this on a laptop instead of a phone? Should it therefore be a combination of an app and a website?
How much do we want to interact with existing platforms like Facebook?
Before our Expert Meetings with experts in interactive design and development we asked our partners to do some preparatory work that included doing and considering the following:
Research our previous Future of the Past Project: http://fotp.impakt.nl/
The App/Platform examples that we developed in our platform research
Related Apps/Platforms that they are aware of in the cultural sector that we haven’t mentioned
Apps/Platforms in other sectors that connect to our idea
Projects they had worked on that relate to BEYOND and any experiences they think would be valuable to share with us
Any insights they might have into the features we propose and any features we haven’t mentioned that they think we should include
Any problems or setbacks they might imagine us experiencing, or any words of warning for a project of this nature we should be aware of
Ideas they have about how a networked platform for art institutions as diverse as museums, galleries and festivals could be connected
Ideas for how we could encourage or incentivise users to download, use and engage with an app like this
As a group we would proceed from a general discussion as group about the expert’s questions about the project, share app/platform examples, share relevant and valuable project experiences, share insights regarding the BEYOND ART features we suggested, share problems or setbacks that they were aware of, share ideas for a networked platform for diverse institutions and share ideas for encouraging app downloads.
The Expert Meeting was a really beneficial process for us and we think serves as an effective model moving forwards for partner research with similar projects. Additionally, we would like to take this format forward to meeting with larger institutions to gauge their response to our idea, learn from their experiences and explore the potential for collaboration.
For our audience research we mainly focussed on conducting research with IMPAKT audience members and aim to take this same methodology to research with other organisations audiences as we move forward with partnering in the project. We believe we have developed quite an effective and reproducible methodology for audience research for the BEYOND platform that can be shared with our partners for the future of this project and others similar to this.
For our audience research, we have conducted two main investigations, one audience surveys and the other more in-depth audience workgroup and brainstorming sessions.
To take you through both components here briefly: The survey was designed to be both a prelude to the workshops and a general research into IMPAKT’s audience’s experiences with digital technology, their present engagement with IMPAKT and other art institutions use of traditional guides, texts and guided tours and their experience with apps for art institutions. We broke this into separate sections to quantify these findings.
For the workgroup sessions we worked with groups of 2-6 people to explore these ideas in more detail to creatively brainstorm the features with them, really highlighting the need and benefits of design thinking and co-creation with a project of this nature. Just as a quick note here, we really wanted consistent feedback with this process so we worked with these same audience members throughout the project to continue to get their insights and again emphasise and test this potential of co-creation. In these sessions we informally discussed the participants use of cultural apps, digital technology in general, how they use information at exhibitions, what works presently, what doesn’t why they would download an app such as this and what would encourage them to keep it and continue engaging with it…
Functionalities discussed in the workshops:
Live voting & QnA
Bluetooth & geo location
Linking for Social Media Accounts
Using the platform as a means of collating upcoming cultural events from across platforms (facebook, Eventbrite etc.)
Notifications of upcoming events etc.
Ideas and discussions that emerged in the workshops:
1) Personal curation
Tag items as ´favourites´:
Curate your own content as a user
Make your own collection of inspirational things etc.
To share with others
Collect examples, Like in Pinterest.
Love the idea of combining collections of art heritage, museums and new media at IMPAKT
2) Thematic curation
Ways to combine content of partners within the platform
Thematic approach to link content
3) Curation by ‘specialists’
People like to follow people they trust/like/are interested in. Like listening to the playlist of an artist with songs that inspired him/her etc.
4) Personalised timetable
They see it as a very important mechanism for presenting / structuring content
Create your own timetable
Connect info via this personalised timetable
5) Information / knowledge level
After the event there might be time / willingness to either go deeper into a subject, or to get an introduction on a something new you have just discovered
Love the potential for Academic Research but also easy and relevant news and pop-cultural references for fields they are unfamiliar with
6) Customer loyalty (Why download and keep an app?)
Offer specials (presales, discounts etc)
App can be an alternative for a regular newsletter
More interesting when part of a Platform of partners and more continuity / follow up in programming etc.
Design and Development
The design and development of the BEYOND Art platform were the result of close collaboration with IMPAKT, Stichting DEN and the interactive design agency team at van Leeuwen & van Leeuwen during the project. The founders Henrik van Leeuwen & Kresten van Leeuwen worked closely with Arjon Dunnewind, IMPAKT General Director and Nick Polson, the BEYOND Project Leader and the whole IMPAKT team in designing the new mobile platform.
Using the initial research we conducted, the IMPAKT team internally produced a user-experience flowchart, hand drawn wireframes and digital mockups of those wireframes.
Here is a look at those initial ideas:
From there, we solicited the team and van Leeuwen & van Leeuwen to take our initial sketches and ideations to produce their own vision of the overall aesthetic for the BEYOND ART project.
Here are their initial design proposals for the project:
After much discussion together we developed a new styling that we thought would be ultimately suitable to the prototype and for other partners in the future to use.
From here, van Leeuwen & van Leeuwen developed our first final prototype of BEYOND ART.
BEYOND ART is a web platform and app that can be used by festivals and art institutions to take their audiences further into the contents of the programmes they are organising. We designed and developed a flexible infrastructure that is suitable for many different scenarios. Via a custom developed Content Management System festivals and art institutions can create and structure their own BEYOND platform. Each festival and art institution can independently create their own festival app and platform. The first events have been already added into the overall BEYOND ART platform and more should follow as soon as possible. BEYOND ART is created as an addition to the existing platform of festivals and art institutions. BEYOND ART offers extra insights and new connection to the artworks with specially developed content such as behind the scenes information, interviews, expert chats and tours. The platform has been designed and developed as a hybrid platform suitable for use as a responsive website, but can also be visited as an Android and iOS app. When used as an app additional options can be made available such as a QR scanner or notifications. Users of the BEYOND ART platform can organise and share favourites of the different festivals and art institutions they visit.
Here is a look at our final designs of the platform interface the back-end CMS:
Throughout the process of BEYOND ART we also produced a significant amount of content to present the potential of the platform.
Along with adding all of the content that already existed on our IMPAKT website and within the 2019 festival booklet we created unique content to be added to BEYOND ART that ultimately was divided into the final features of our prototype: key questions, research, behind the scenes videos, guided tours, expert chats, and other inspiring media.
Curators, artists and other experts offer our audiences audio or video tours through an art event.
Our audiences can view in-depth discussions between two or more experts as they discuss the subject matter of the art event they are visiting. They can see where their views differ, where they agree and discover what emerges from their dialogue.
In this feature our audiences can see videos with the responses of artists, speakers and other experts to a set of key questions. They can compare the various responses to one question and deepen their understanding.
Behind the Scenes
Here the audience can get a glimpse behind the scenes of the festival or event they are visiting and get to know the artists on a more personal level.
We provide our audiences with inspiring research connected to the artists, work and themes that helps guide them to discover more about their favourite work.