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Richmond is one of the most booming US cities for contemporary art. Our client, the ICA at VCU, asked us to help those in the Richmond area engage with contemporary art on a deeper level. Our team discovered that interaction is vital to increase visitor engagement. This inspired us to create The Forest, an augmented reality experience for ICA visitors to connect with contemporary art and increase visitor engagment. 


Sep. 2019 - Nov. 2019 

(2 months)


Allison (myself)

Lauryn Goodlett

Sophie Whitfield

Chandler Webb


Project manager

UX researcher

Concept development

Client relationship manager


Figma, Photoshop, Invision



Visitors feel bored and disconnected to the same exhibits at the ICA

Visitors loose interest in the ICA after viewing the same few exhibits. The art looses it's novelty and becomes too familiar.

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To create a mobile AR experience that inspires visitors to view art in a new way and connect with the Richmond community on a deeper level.

We learned that interaction and the ability to share and view other's thoughts were vital for visitors to feel motivated to engage. We created a solution to help Richmond residents utilize contemporary art as a mean to express themselves while generating dynamic content for others.

My contribution

As a researcher, I developed insights that shaped our understanding of people's interaction with contemporary art. For example, I researched current AR trends in art spaces, and surveyed people about their feelings and experiences with the ICA, then formed insights from those surveys.

As the project manager, I coordinated our tasks and facilitated conversations by asking critical questions that encouraged discussions. I also played a crucial role in the ideation and defining phase. 

As the client relationship manager, I acted as a liaison between my team and the ICA. I communicated with the ICA multiple times a week to discuss constraints, feasibility, and their feedback for our design ideas.


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To learn how visitors engage with art, we individually visited a few museums in Richmond and conducted informational research through social media, stakeholder websites, etc. In our findings we discovered that:

  • When AR is used in these museums, time spent museum increased by 105%

  • 77% of people engaged with AR experience in these museums

  • There are no guides that informs visitors on how they should engage with art

  • People are more interested in art when they see others are interested

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We looked at data from the Perez Museum and the Science Museum of Oklahoma

Pain points and opportunities of the current state

To better understand the current state, we observed visitors at the ICA. Our goals were to gain insights into how visitors interacted with the art.

Then, we conducted an online survey asking Richmonders about their current thoughts and feelings.

about the ICA and the exhibits.

After that, we conducted an Affinity Diagramming session that led us to identify three major areas where we saw potential opportunities: enhancing the desire to engage, offering a space to discuss tough and deep topics surrounding contemporary art, and strengthening the community bond through those discussions.

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Google survey sent to Richmonders about their ICA experiences.

Through affinity clustering I found that:

  • People do not visit the ICA because they do not really understand it's purpose

  • People would be more willing to engage with the ICA if there were an interactive experience

  • Contemporary art at the ICA is often provocative, and people want a space to discuss those tough topics surrounding the art

  • There is a desire to connect with the community around those same topics

We were then able to determine three main features to include in our solution:


An interactive, engaging experience

A space that allows for discussion about the topics surrounding contemporary art

A way to connect with the community


I used the findings from affinity mapping to construct a provisional persona, Jessica, to help me understand how I can help her/our users achieve their goal using certain features in our concept.

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Challenges: She is curious about what others think about contemporary art, but isnt sure how to get involved in that conversation. She feels disengaged in art museums.


After defining our target user, we felt ready to explore how we can enable them to engage with the ICA and discuss the topics surrounding the art with the Richmond community. We first conducted crazy 8s, to flesh out any and all ideas. 

We then developed an idea and concept, which we concept tested with our peers and professor numerous times. After listening to feedback, I then drew storyboards to demonstrate how the user interacts with each touch point to create an engaging experience with the ICA.


One major piece of feedback that we received from the ICA that forced us to pivot, was that nothing we created could "step on the toes of the artist's work". While we wanted our concept to enhance the space of the ICA, we needed to make sure it did not interfere with any artist's intentions. This encouraged us to shift the scope of our concept, and make some design changes. For example: all touch points would have to take place outside of the art exhibits.

Final concept

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User journey map

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User test

I primarily worked on user testing our concept. We setup a walk through with stations that represented each of our key touch points in the user journey. I gave users 3 separate tasks to complete: 1) Approach the ICA and view the guidelines for the interaction 2) Add your thoughts on the exhibit to The Forest 3) send a postcard. I observed user's behavior with each step, and then asked questions about their thoughts and feelings while completing each step.

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From synthesizing my findings from user testing, I was able to identify 2 major insights: 1) users had trouble understanding the interaction guide when entering the ICA 2) users said they felt compelled to visit the ICA if this experience was available. After making the necessary changes based on user feedback, my team and I felt confident to move forward in our design process, and create the visual dientity for our concept. 

UI design

Since the ICA was our client, we kept their primary colors and typography, but added hints of our own aesthetic. We wanted the design to convey excitement, curiosity, and engagement. 

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Final outcome

Build excitment 

As a visitor approaches the ICA, they are prompted by signage to engage in an interactive experience. This builds excitement and anticipation upon entering the museum space. 

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Scan to engage

At the end of each exhibit, users are prompted to scan circles on the floor of the lobby area of the ICA with their cameras. When scanning these circles, The Forest appears.

Explore The Forest

By clicking on the trees, users can view comments and discussions left by previous visitors. This allows for a safe space to share thoughts on the the provoking, contemportary art in the ICA.

Engage with the community

Users add their own comments to the trees, or add a comment to an already exsiting discussion.

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Share the experience

Send a postcard to connect with your community, and continue to discussion outside of the ICA. Those that recieve the postcard can also view The Forest by scanning a QR code on the postcard.

Feedback & reflection

We presented our concept to board members and directors of the ICA, as well as our classmates. Our concept was highly well received, and we felt happy with the results. In the future, the ICA plans to implement some scope of our concept.