Behavior Design Brings George Seurat's Sketchbooks to Life

Behavior Design Brings George Seurat's Sketchbooks to Life

Behavior Design reunites with The Museum of Modern Art, New York, for their latest exhibition, Georges Seurat: The Drawings, creating an interactive touch-screen kiosk that enables MoMA's visitors to virtually explore Seurat's four surviving sketchbooks.

Directly alongside their conventional showcase (each object opened to a single spread), the sketchbooks can be viewed in their magnificent entirety on two kiosk monitors. Behavior mastered numerous challenges to collect, digitize, and choreograph elements into an intuitive and becoming interface that gracefully reveals Seurat's work and invites users to marvel and explore at will.

Roberta Smith of The New York Times praises the exhibition and its interactive experience, opening her review with delight at Behavior's contribution, stating "The Museum of Modern Art's elegantly plain exhibition of Georges Seurat's drawings begins with an unexpectedly extraordinary moment of computerized art viewing."

Visitors to the exhibition seem to agree-the sketches on each page intimately reveal insight to Seurat's methods that otherwise would remain hidden, accessible perhaps only to art historians and academics.

How Can Technology Add Value to the Experience of Viewing Art?
"These small and delicate treasures have survived time and come together for temporal display...but only to be presented as single, fixated spreads." notes Ralph Lucci, Principal and Creative Director at Behavior Design. "The goal of the kiosk initiative was to grant curious onlookers more access, from cover to cover, sketch after delicate sketch, to truly experience the explorations and evolution of Seurat's thinking."

Technology, in this case, is just a means by which to support a way of "seeing," and the techniques used on the kiosk aim to support the subject matter without overwhelming it. Seurat was himself obsessed with technique, and created form, light, and dimension through abstraction and manipulation of craft and material. His desire was for art to cause others to observe life in a new and different way, seeing past technique but imploring a fresh approach.

Smiles of delight flash across the faces of almost everyone who lays a finger on the kiosk's touch-sensitive screen. Drawn in from the first moment, observers watch the virtual sketchbook animate open, and are then bemused to have the ability to peruse page by page. As they move about, users happily come to understand that these sketchbooks, normally inaccessible objects under glass, are now something deeply experiential and engaging.

Touching and Seeing
As Smith alludes to in the Times, the elegance of Behavior's design is in the details; in the elements left out, in the very invisibility of the interface. Without glaring and obtrusive means, the interface works to provide multiple options and pathways, no matter who the user. Since no two people would embrace the kiosk in the same manner, everything on the screen was made clickable, initiating action at every opportunity; Most users find pressing "previous" and "next" arrows the most natural way to move from spread to spread. Some instinctively select from contextual thumbnails, while others touch the pages themselves as if paging through a virtual book. Novice users gently tap their fingertips and patiently await reaction, while savvy and aggressive users skip ahead and slide their fingers along the screen to test the kiosk's responsiveness. Behavior's challenge was to create a system that supported all of these diverse ways of interacting, without making a heavy interface where sliders and buttons risk upstaging the visceral experience. We also tried to make it fun and engaging on all levels.

"Behavior and MoMA engaged in brainstorming sessions where the teams would play the roles of museum goers, translating different kinds of thinking into different experiences," says Lucci. "We then distilled those experiences down to their bare minimums, to achieve a balance between simplicity and proficiency. The process wasn't just concerned with basic usability-we sought to draw users and onlookers into the work through an inviting and contagious experience that felt natural and easy and preserved the integrity of the subject matter and the sketchbooks as art objects."

Behavior Design also designed and developed a companion website to supplement the show and its themes, featuring a sampling of the sketchbooks, drawings, and other works alongside examples of Seurat's working methodologies and processes.

Behavior Design

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