brand identity design + augmented reality +
3D modeling + animation | adobe illustrator +
aero + after effects | 2023
A queer augmented reality learning experience for art galleries and museums, consisting of an identity and wayfinding system as well as a digital archive. This Summer Undergraduate Research Project was funded by Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts and created with my partner Chenin Rowe under the mentorship of Professor Linh Dao. Winner in the GDUSA Design for Good category.
Beginning the project, our goal was to illuminate queer artists and queer histories in art museums. We also wanted to explore how individuals connect to a piece of art when they view it and how to further this learning. We identified our main problem:
How can we use design to communicate a sense of place that is inclusive to everyone, particularly queer people, and encourages those who aren’t queer to learn more about queer art history?
We decided to create a digital archive of 100 queer artists productive way to include queer histories that are often overlooked and challenge existing power structures. The project categorizes queer artwork by overarching themes of bodies, identity, love, desire, prejudice, protest, and joy. When museum visitors approach a work of art, they are prompted to view the augmented reality experience with their smartphones by scanning an icon. This takes users to an AR experience that expands on a theme of the piece and guides them to our website. The website provides a network of other queer artists working in the same theme as the physical artwork being viewed.
I began by researching the design of existing queer establishments, art exhibitions, and queer activism to inform our visual identity. I was interested in the bold typographic choices of both activist designs and art museums, as well as the established look of the queer organizations.
Based on the visual research, I wanted to create a logo that looked strong, established, and took up space. Simultaneously, we wanted to evoke the queer spirit of transformation, expansive potential, and constant change. Through sketches and experimentation, I worked out a balance between the two.
I chose a variable typeface to speak to the ever-evolving nature of queerness and emphasized this in the logotype by including a range of widths, weights, and rounded terminals. For the logomark, I worked off of the "A" in amorphous, eventually developing a triangular twisting effect. This references the way that the project transports users through a portal-like experience using augmented reality and then zooms in on a specific theme in the artwork. I also wanted to think about lenses, specifically the queer lens that viewers are invited to look through.
To create universal icons of each category, we landed on abstraction as a means to convey the complex nature of the given themes. This approach “queers” the norm for icon design, which is traditionally representational and recognizable. The goal for these icons was to communicate the idea of each category in an all-inclusive way while still leaving room for interpretation.
After sketching and digital exploration, I compiled a set of in-progress icons and tested them on our target users, which was a diverse range of both queer and cis, heterosexual adults. I used this data to decide which icons were the most universally recognizable for each category.
After consulting with curators, we found that museums were hesitant to put up additional physical signage in museums. As a result, we decided to use the virtual space via augmented reality to create a sense of place and expand upon the themes in each artwork. Similar to the icons, I wanted to use abstraction to convey these ideas.
I designed, 3D modeled, and animated 7 AR experiences in total. In the space between the physical and digital world, I aimed to visually expand upon the complex themes at hand and give insight into the nuances of each topics using key-words.
Final brand identity system and icon designs. This identity was applied throughout all of the project deliverables across my team.
The physical wayfinding system, which aims to be as minimal as possible per museum request. This standing sign (1) is put at the start of an exhibition to explain the experience and encourage its use. A small placard (3) is placed under the traditional wall labels (2), which contains the icon and QR code that users scan to begin the experience.
The augmented reality experiences and archive website in action at a museum.
The digital archive website, created by my partner Chenin Rowe.