December 20, 2010  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Tech
MoMA AB EX NY iPad App: From the Team

Photo: Jason Brownrigg

With the recent launch of the MoMA AB EX NY app for the iPad, and the new update just released with additional content, we thought we’d take a moment to talk with various members of the team involved. First up, we have Deep Focus, who designed and programmed the app. We spoke with CEO Ian Schafer; lead developer Jason Garrett; group creative director Ken Kraemer; associate art director Dave Kroner; and senior interaction designer Dave Irons.

How did you approach the design process for this project?

Ian: From a utility perspective we wanted to re-imagine the way people would typically experience an exhibit from afar, namely, the “coffee table book.” In that regard, we wanted to take a typically linear experience and interpret it for a new way of content consumption, one that is more gestural and dynamic than two-dimensional. “What happens when I do this?” needed to replace “What’s on the next page?”

Jason: We wanted to make this app as much about the art as possible. That’s why we created a simple [user interface] that could allow the user to enjoy the art without any unnecessary distractions.

Photo: Jason Brownrigg

What aspects of the exhibit inspired you?

Ken: The works themselves were our source of inspiration. The power of these pieces, for me, is how they catalyze all kinds of thinking, rationalization processes, and curiosity every time I look at them. The mind’s desire to understand and create meaning can’t be subdued in this context. That inspired us to create an application that allowed a few ways to experience the artworks—in a browsable collection, alone on the screen, with some description, and of course, up close and personal.

Ian: The conversational aspects of the art made us want to create something that was inherently shareable. Something that would spark conversation, not just deliver an insular experience. The local (NYC) nature of the creation of the work added an element of discovery—and, ultimately, navigation—that placed the work into yet another context.

Photo: Jason Brownrigg

What made designing the app exciting and/or challenging?

Dave Kroner: What’s great about designing for the iPad is how much can be accomplished with gestures and directly interacting with the content. Unlike a computer, the iPad has a much more natural interface that allows you to become more immersed within the experience. With this app, you don’t need a magnifying glass to see the detail of the work. You can simply zoom in and immediately see the art in a new way.

Dave Irons: The iPad is a new device. With a new platform comes a new set of platform conventions, which are still somewhat in a state of flux. Ensuring that the app was intuitive, given rapidly evolving user experience expectations, was both challenging and exciting.

How is this app a great resource for use before or after a visit to the exhibit?

Dave Irons: The art term glossary and accompanying videos are a great addition to the museum experience. It’s nice to learn about the techniques the artists used as you are viewing their work. Also, it’s impossible to physically rearrange the exhibit chronologically or by artist, but with just the tap of your finger, the app allows you view the exhibit in a new way.

Any last thoughts?

Dave Irons: I believe we’ve represented the Abstract Expressionist exhibit in the best way possible, making it a first-class experience for the user. We didn’t try to replicate the museum experience. That would have been impossible. Instead, we focused on creating a tool that celebrates both the visual impact of the artwork and the importance of the movement.