Gallery Builder: Think like a curator

CREATIVE DIRECTION, UX DESIGN

Backstory

Pearson’s Art program was a tough sell. Most schools didn’t have the budget to buy art textbooks. Marketing suggested sweetening the program with a software freebie. The ask: compile 1,000 art images onto a CD-ROM so teachers could build slideshows.

What I did

For the same budget, I pitched Gallery Builder, a curator simulation that lets teachers and students design, print and fold art galleries. This playful concept exploited the full range of artworks — from a Matisse to a jaguar mask.

gallery_mock3

Process

DISCOVERY

The discovery phase was quick and dirty. First, I mind-melded with marketing to understand the business goals. Stay on budget by using existing materials: Check! Deliver on time: Check!

Then, I sketched a concept based on simple, yet powerful, criteria.

  • Make it cross-curricular. This way, the product could be used in multiple contexts (during art, reading, or math instruction).
  • Provide a compelling reason to explore the artworks. A slideshow tool? Nah. Asking teachers to build a slideshow places the burden on them. I’m not an art teacher. Which artworks should I choose? What should I say about them? Changing the end goal to a paper-craft (a print-and-fold gallery) upped the interest.

Lastly, I conducted a technical audit with a developer. In short order, he imported the art files into a CMS. Now I had a tool to connect artworks in meaningful ways. I hired an editorial team to tag artworks by subject, theme, media, etc. Tagging artworks opened the door to thinking critically about art — like a curator.

gallery_mock4

DESIGN

I created wireframes for key screens and hired a vendor to design and deliver.

gallery1gallery_slideshowgallery_elements

Result

OH YEAH!

  • Gallery Builder jumpstarted sales of Pearson’s previously dormant art program, starting with a $1M sale in GA.
  • Based on my paper concept, author/illustrator Peter Reynolds granted a free license to use character art from his New York Times-bestseller The Dot.
  • Years later, Gallery Builder was added to Pearson’s core reading program (due to cross-curricular hooks). Big mileage for a ‘freebie’ product.