Project summary

The goal of the project is to understand the current practices and experiences with Smithsonian Archives of American Art (AAA) by the users like art historians, curators, students and other researchers

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Project details


Smithsonian Archives of American Art


Figma, Cisco Webex, Principle


  • • Leading the project visual & interaction design
  • • Conducting 10 Contextual Interviews
  • • Ideating through Affinity Maps & Storyboarding
  • • High-fidelity Wireframing with Micro-Interactions
Project Focus
  • Understand the Archives' researchers' practices and experiences                                                                                                                                       
  • Ideate, create, and validate design concepts and prototypes to support the Archives' researchers
  • Improve the overall discovery and findability of the Archives' resources
Contextual Interviews

We did 20 semi-structured interviews to obtain information about the context of use, wherein users were first asked a set of standard questions and then observed and questioned while they work in their own environments.

Our user group included 4 art curators, 4 art history students, 6 art historians, 2 library directors, 3 art professors and 1 artist.

Affinity Mapping

After every interview, we interpreted the interview with the team 24 to 48 hours after the interview. We transformed the findings, questions, and insights into notes that were all later printed on sticky notes. For these interviews, we generated more than 1600 notes. Through bottom-up analysis, starting with the yellow sticky notes we grouped and labeled them into 3 levels (yellow sticky notes under blue labels, blue under pink and pink under greens). In the end, when following the labels, it tells a story about the users in context with the consolidated interview interpretations.

Sample Affinity Mapping
Consolidated Identity Model

For every interview, we created an identity model to identify the user's core motivations. After all the interviews were conducted, we consolidated all models into one.

High level findings

From the affinity maps & identity models, 13 high-level findings emerged. These findings helped us understand the work cycle and experience of AAA resource users.

High level Findings
Storyboard & Visioning

Our lists of issues and hot ideas helped us brainstorm design ideas, which we turned into visions & storyboarding. Our visions and storyboards went hand-in-hand and illustrated aspects of our scope. Four product concepts resulted from these sessions which depicted how our users would use and interact with the improved search interface we were designing for their tasks, activities, and everyday lives.

Sample Storyboard
Low Fidelity Prototypes

We brought the visions and storyboards to life in our low-fidelity prototype by illustrating details of our product concept on paper.                            

Low-fidelity Prototypes

Hi-Fidelity Prototypes

Once we completed our low-fidelity user evaluations, we used the feedback we received to iterate our low-fidelity prototype and created our high-fidelity prototype using Figma by making the existing style guide less cluttered and clean and used Principle to added micro-interactions. You can watch the high-fidelity mockup walkthrough video below :

Challenges and Learnings
There were a lot of instances where our ideas clashed with the existing services of the website. We took extra measures and collected additional data that helped us convey our concepts and designs to our clients at the Smithsonian Institution in a data-driven way to overcome these challenges.

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