Ironhack’s Final Project with Socle : “arts+spaces project”

Clément Baron
6 min readSep 27, 2020

For our final project at Ironhack I had the opportunity to work with the Start-up Socle, based in Paris for two weeks to accomplish a UX / UI consulting mission.

What is Socle ?

Socle’s main goal is to promote a private person’s art collections or artist works to cultural institutions to facilitate loaning of pieces of art.
They also developed a platform where curators can select the oeuvres they want from Socle’s database to read their characteristics and build their own collection.
In addition, Socle digitalizes and 3D models pieces of arts to make better representation of each so that the visitor can inspect each work.
Recently Socle launched the “art+spaces” project.

The art+spaces project (pronounced /aːt ænd ‘speisiz/)

This project saw the light of the day in april 2020 and consists of creating immersive experiences for cultural institutions such as museums, smaller galleries or even communication agencies. They build up art into virtual galleries that their client’s website users can visit. The goals of such creation depend on the client and can be various. For instance, it can go from getting more subscribers to the social media’s account of the client to make the visitor want to visit the physical exhibitions and thus buy a ticket.

The two immersive experiences I worked on

Lonely

Lonely is a virtual experience originally created by the start-up SpacedInLost but produced by Socle. It was released in early April 2020 as a lockdown exhibition which means that it doesn’t physically exist. It consists of a contemporary art exhibition where the visitor can walk around three bright rooms where paintings, photographs, sculptures and installations are displayed and surrounded by a gloomy and experimental soundtrack.

Feelings Are Facts

This experience is based on the work of Olafur Eliasson and Ma Yansong for the Beijing Contemporary Museum in 2010. The original installation consists of a room full of colored lights and mist in which visitors are submerged. After this, Socle took up the challenge of recreating it virtually. This is a considerable task since it is about arousing the feeling of orientation loss so that the visitor can only count on its hearing to find their way.

Research

For this project, my first step was to research data about the general topic : immersive media.

Automobile, Heavy Industries, Real Estate and Training are the main fields driving the Immersive Media market.

70–75% of People Aged 16–44 are aware of Augmented Reality

The industry has captured interest of investors over the last few years — Globally Immersive Media industry has attracted over USD 7.5 Billions funding during 2013–17.

Currently, USA is the leading market with as much as ~1/3rd market share of the Global Immersive Media market.

Le Louvre received 10,5 million visitors on the virtual tour platform during the lockdown.

Usability tests

Then, I did usability tests with ten testers from the two experiences (as is). I gathered a large variety of interesting feedback. From which I strived to bring solutions.

In the Lonely-experience the main pain-points the testers faced regarded the caption of each artwork that was too large for the small-sized content. The captions also had no background to contrast with the text so testers had hard times sometimes to read over some colors.

Regarding controls they were simply not explained at all and many of my testers did not know how to move and were stuck from the beginning.

Also, few testers wanted to have more information about the artist and their work. It would have been nice to find these additional information somewhere with the external links.

In Lonely, when the visitor approaches an artwork and looks at it an audio description starts playing but the audio area is wide and sometimes they didn’t know where the sound came from. I had to figure out a way to let the visitor manage the start of the audio.
Added to this we can face an accessibility issue in the way that there are no subtitles. It would help to add them not only for people with hearing disability but also because of the ambient soundtrack that sometimes makes the descriptions hard to hear.

Persona

Socle already has few personas for their targets but here is the main archetype of people I interviewed for the tests to make a clear understanding of the main needs for the product.

Problem statement

“The visitor needs a way to enjoy the interactive experience and to understand it by themselves because otherwise he will be less inclined to visit the physical collection.

We will know if we succeeded by measuring the amount of gathered subscriptions to newsletters, if we collect positive feedback from surveys and if the number of sold tickets for exhibition increases.”

Moodboard

Arts, Digital Interaction, Historic, Sober and Contemporary are the five attributes that I strived to represent in this moodboard.

Style Tile

In my design suggestion I decided to keep the main colors of Socle which are black and white but I must add a third color to create a contrast and thus highlight visual elements.

The fonts I decided to use are Raleway already used in the first version of Lonely and Garamond which is the font of the brand Socle. Raleway is more stylistic while remaining sober so it suits well for titles and bigger elements.
Garamond is more neutral so a little bit more readable for texts and smaller elements.

First attempt

This is the first tutorial screen I created where the visitor basically learns the controls and how to manage the audio description.
Unfortunately, after pondering with Socle we came to the conclusion that this screen is too heavy and can discourage the visitor from the start because of the cognitive overload, so I had to redesign to split this screen into several tutorial assets teaching the visitor while visiting the exhibition.

Prototype

This is the prototype of the desktop version of the exhibition Lonely with my interface integrated.

Mobile version

Here are some screens from the mobile version of the exhibition “Feelings Are Facts” where I added a tutorial for controls, a resizing of the dialogues and a description of the experience at the end with a possibility to restart it or to leave.

Desirability test

After creating my design, I built my assets on screenshots of the experiences to show people what it would look like once integrated and I did a desirability test to ask 20 people which 5 attributes among a list of 40 would suit my design the best.
Most of them seemed to be hyped since it mainly provoked excitment (Contemporary, Imaginative, Young, Trendy, etc..) but also technical and sincere.

Learnings and Next Steps

It was a pleasure and a great experience to work with Socle for two weeks. I love their concept and the value of the start-up.
The main learning was how to cope with an immersive experience interface since it’s pretty much like working on videogame interface. It was my first time working on that kind of UI and I liked it even though it was challenging not to be able to “prototype” it like screens of an app or a website.

The next steps I thought about for this project would be :

Short term → Send a satisfaction survey to visitors after they visited the virtual exhibitions.

Middle term → Think about a virtual tour guide feature.

Long term → Think about VR experience and it’s UI

Thank you for reading ;)

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