A clear and functional platform for experiencing contemporary art.

Role

User experience
Front-end development

Project info

Commissioned by RMIT School of Art to commemorate their 2018 Honours and Masters Graduate Exhibitions.

A contemporary way to catalogue and experience art.

Contemporary art practice today is both experiential and visceral. Responding to the times, RMIT's School of Art realised that the paradigm of print catalogues had come to an end, and needed a better solution to showcasing the outputs of the art program to the world. I was approached to design and build a platform to respond to the expanded practices of art today. The platform would act as both a digital exhibition catalogue and promotional tool for the school and students. My design approach was informed by the following questions:

1. How might a site act simultaneously as an exhibition catalogue but also an archive of previous exhibitions?
2. How might a design system provide the best viewing experience for hundreds of artworks?

(fig. 1) Andrew Goddard, Immaterial Structures, 2018. LED lights, MDF, loud speakers; dimensions variable. RMIT University Graduation Exhibition Opening Night installation view. Photo: Keelan O’Hehir
RMIT School of Art, 2016 print exhibition catalogue.

The white cube

The set up was to reference the so-called 'white cube' aesthetic which emerged from groups like De Stijl and the Bauhaus in the 1920s. With its emphasis on colour and light, the approached enabled artists to exhibit their works against white walls and minimise distraction for audiences. For many exhibitions today, this paradigm still holds true. Given this context, organising the user interface to reflect the 'white cube' gave art enthusiast a good chance of immediately understanding the experience and view the work the way they have come to expect.

Maintaining clean simplicity whilst showcasing each artist equally.

One of the challenges of organising large amounts of content emerged on the splash and about pages. The concern from all the stakeholders was how not to privilege one student's work over another. The solution was to program the site to randomly display a different image for each new visitor and upon each revisit.

The site was coded to be fluid and respond to devices of all sizes for an optimal experience.
Home page displays a different artist upon each visit.

Optimising search experiences through progressive disclosure

With over 60 graduates each year, the content of the site would rapidly grow with each release. Usability and searchability would eventually become an issue for users and for administering the site. The solution was to implement progressive disclosure through an index. This provided a way to archive the work of artists by time and gave users the opportunity to delve deeper without experiencing cognitive load. I also implemented a robust search feature to allow users to search by name, title, year, type of work and keywords.

Reflection

RMIT Art launched in November 2018 to coincide with Honours and Masters Graduate Exhibitions. Now in its second release, the initiative has helped RMIT's School of Art provide industry exposure to over 140 graduates and reach a broader contemporary art audience. Visit: rmitart.com