Modern museums are made of ongoing collections, exciting new exhibitions, live talks, and the curious people that visit them. For the most part, these collections are housed indoors, safely stored away from what Mother Nature has to offer, but what about the projects that you occasionally come across on your way to work? They hang out in front of buildings, stand in the middle of parks, lounge on busy streets. If you’ve ever come across them while walking through New York City, it’s most likely that you were a part of an experience made possible by the Public Art Fund.
Public Art Fund brings dynamic contemporary art to a broad audience in New York City by mounting ambitious free exhibitions of international scope and impact that offer the public powerful experiences with art and the urban environment.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work with Tender Creative as the lead experience designer to bring those “public powerful experiences” to the web. Through the redesign and restructuring of the site, our goal was to bring public art awareness to New Yorkers and to provide a resource for them to dive deeper into the back story of these public art pieces.
Reviewing the Landscape
Before venturing off into the land of idea generation, I scouted the original site, digging through all the layers of content, documenting what was where, and making notes of where they could be based on our design objectives.The content on the original site had very little linking happening across relevant pages (above). This resulted in isolated content silos, which restricted visitors from easily navigating to more relevant content. For example, if you were viewing a current exhibition, there would be no easy way for you to look for talks by that artist.
In the proposed site map below, the content silos link across the landscape. The main content of the site was no longer pigeonholed into the projects section (as seen above), they were now experienced across the entire site.
One of the main goals of the Public Art Fund’s new site was to offer its visitors a new lens that brought the outdoor exhibits to the foreground, away from all the city noise. Along with those exhibits came the rich stories behind them. It was also important to maintain a historical record of past exhibitions, which all had their special place throughout NYC. Based on this, I established a set of design principles to follow:
In the proposed home page layouts, the content’s main focus was an upcoming/ongoing exhibit, an artist, and an event. These three sections provided a jumping point into work that was currently relevant. As seen in the site map, these three sections also branched visitors out to various parts of the site.
When selecting “Exhibitions” from the drop down menu above, visitors would be directed to all of the current exhibitions. When viewing exhibitions, there were two views to choose from: image view (below) and a map view.
The map view (below) gave context as to where the exhibits were located with respect to the visitor.
When accessing an individual exhibit, visitors can find out more about the project, specifically:
- Information about the artist
- Background information on the inspiration of the art piece
- Information on the piece itself
- And all other supplemental content, e.g. videos, interviews, events, etc.
To promote a sense of exploration, the exhibit pages were kept very open. Visitors could either scroll down the page or use the sub-navigation on the left hand side to navigate through the different sections on that page. Since the page could get vertically long, the sub-navigation would follow along as visitors scrolled down the page.
In the end, there were about 20+ pages that were laid out and a handful of social strategies that revolved around building each of the Public Art Fund locations scattered throughout NYC. It was also a little over a couple of months since I started and my time as a freelance UX designer was up at Tender. I handed the project over to the designers and developers and that was it.
See the site for yourself: http://www.publicartfund.org/.
The Tender Creative Team
Hannah Yampolsky / Creative Director
Natalie Bergh / Producer
Jordan Winick / Art Director
Christopher Eckel / Senior Designer
Gene Lu / User Experience Designer