Contempo Museum App 

The Contempo Museum App is an iPad application aimed at providing museum visitors with an understanding of the Principles of Design. Featuring ten artworks from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection, three Principles of Design are highlighted in each artwork using animation and motion graphics. Also included is a short explanation on how that particular Principle is being used within that particular artwork. Because the user “sees” the Principle alive in the artwork, they can start to understand the concept behind it and can then carry that information forward as they look at other artworks. Visit to explore the project more.


The Problem

Have you ever been in a museum or come across a work of art that has made you ask, “Why is THAT art?” And then you listen to an audio tour, or a friend tells you a little bit about it, and suddenly you start to see the work in a whole new light

That is the power of information when it comes to looking at art. Unfortunately, most people don’t have someone walking beside them explaining every artwork they see, and only 10% of visitors take the audio tour when visiting a museum. So what happens when most people see an artwork that they don’t understand? What do they do?

They don’t look at….

It has been documented over and over again that when people are faced with artwork they do not understand, they just walk by it.
— Austin Clarkson and Douglas Worts, The Animated Muse: An Interpretive Program for Creative Viewing

The Solution

The Contempo Museum App is an iPad application aimed at introducing museum visitors to the Principles of Design. 

Why the Principle of Design? They are universal guidelines that help the mind and the eye make sense of what it is seeing, they also gives a context for approaching and unraveling art, and lastly, every good artist and designer takes them into consideration when creating, so they are extremely important to know.

In a survey of 215 people, only 20% had taken a class where they learned about the Principles of Design, so most people do not have the basic understanding of these formal aesthetic codes. The Contempo Museum App will offer a visual representation of such codes and the viewer can then apply this knowledge to other artworks.



Market Research

I began my research by looking at museum statistics to better understand people’s habits and behaviors when looking at art. I also looked into tablet statistics and the way tablets are used in museums. I interviewed and sent out surveys to learn about people’s knowledge of the Principles of Design.





There are approximately 850 million visits each year to American museums, more than the attendance for all major league sporting events and theme parks combined. Americans from all ranges of income and education visit museums. 

The primary target audience is museum visitors that are there for entertainment reasons, social interaction and as a leisure activity while traveling.



Data Organization







Early on, I needed to explore how the Principles of Design would overlay the artworks, as well as decide the layout of the app. I started on paper and quickly realized that because the app was so dependent on interactions, I would need coded prototypes to test with. I first developed a high-fidelity prototype with a horizontal layout, namely to test how the interactions would play out over the artworks. After testing with users, it became clear that a vertical layout would work better for the project.



Visual Design


Logo Iterations

Final Logo Design


The Contempo Museum App is not dumbing down the process of looking at art. Instead it is teaching viewers to really engage with the artwork and that is exciting.
— Kara Q. Smith, Editor at Art Practical; Assistant Curator at di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art


Visit to explore the project more.