Serpentine GalleriesHow do you design an app you don’t want people to look at?

Over one million visitors every year pass through the Serpentine’s two unique spaces; The Serpentine and The Sackler Galleries, connected by a footbridge in the lush setting of Kensington Gardens.

In 2015, the Serpentine received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies for the creation of a digital engagement programme to support the next generation of Serpentine artists and audiences, with a focus on increasing the interactive experience of their onsite visitors. As part of the Galleries’ ambitious portfolio of initiatives, AllofUs developed a delightful mobile platform to complement the visitor’s experience upon accessing the gallery’s free WiFi.

Immerse

To observe behavior and environmental patterns, the AllofUs team spent several hours between the gallery spaces at different times of the day, seeking insights about how visitors were (and were not) using mobile technologies whilst they passed through the exhibitions.

Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of selfie-taking.

Frame

From the outset, our design challenge was framed around how we might create an experience that enhanced rather than distracted the visitor’s immersion in and interaction with the diverse multimedia exhibitions The Serpentine are known for.

The team focused on designing a stripped-down, natural user experience. By minimising the interface to eliminate any form of traditional navigation, the app became more of a well-informed companion, travels with you around the artwork.

Make, Test, Evolve

The first platform we launched was a web-app to give visitors access to specially-curated content including videos, interviews and editorials, tailor-made to tie into the works and themes on display. Rather than in-depth descriptions, the content is intended to serve as insightful bites of information, to help appreciate the artwork in front of you.

We shortly followed with the second platform; a physical extension of the mobile app that focused on communicating and informing visitors of the Serpentine’s different locations and current events, by bringing a live social feed into the gallery space.

A bespoke solution was developed with a custom-made display system that elegantly blends into the gallery reception areas. Both the app and display system are powered by a tailor-made CMS for the gallery staff to manage themselves.

Collaborations and contributions from artists and curators are now being served through the app, as well as commissions and information about past, present and future exhibitions.

The project has been very well received by visitors and media alike, and has been described by Rose Dempsey, Head of Communications of Serpentine Galleries as “an essential link between Serpentine Galleries and its audience”.