ANALYSIS OF CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF ART
E STUDIO I FALL 2017
contents (cmmd + f):
step one / step two / step three / step four / step five / step six / step seven
10.24.17 | STEP ONE
After observing physical thresholds and the transitions between spaces, it became more clear to me what might be considered a digital threshold. From there, we delved into the process of creating wireframes using the ikea website as an example site and instagram as an example application.
Using what I learned from the lecture, I began to look into the cmoa.org website itself in order to understand how the site was structured. I started to look at a path in regards to learning more about specific exhibitions, but I found that a lot of information required scrolling through the site. As a more detailed approach, I began to wireframe the main home page by scrolling through it and documenting my observations.
After working with the website for a little bit, I decided to explore the respective application. Because I found the application to be more straight-forward and streamlined in terms of design, I decided to focus on it rather than the website.
I decided to use a light copic marker in order to indicate all of the thresholds I found on the application. Most of the thresholds that I observed seemed to link to another page, although there was one that provoked a pop-up window within the application as well. Between each page was a transition in which the previous page would be swiped to the left in order to introduce a new section of the application.
10.26.17 | STEP TWO
As we initially went to the museum as a class, my route for this visit was predetermined by Peter. Because I had been to this museum before (and tend to pass it often on my walk home), I would not have needed a map or application in order to locate it. If it were my first time ever visiting this museum, I would have probably used google maps, as it was the form of navigation that I was most familiar with.
In order to get to the museum, we first left Margaret Morrison and entered the Gates building, where we took the helix down to the fourth floor. Through this part of the walk alone, we had already gone through a few thresholds and liminal spaces including the doorways leading from the E-studio to the hallway, the doors and staircase down to the first floor, and the rotunda of Margaret Morrison. Entering gates caused us to experience thresholds such as the bridge in front of the building, the double doors leading into Gates, and the helix to the fourth floor. Finally, we went through Newell Simon in order to reach Forbes Ave.
Even though we had already gone through three-fourths of our journey, I was still unable to make out the museum from the street. We went around the buildings around Hamburg Hall and onto the sidewalk of Forbes. It was only once we transitioned from the part of the sidewalk over the train tracks to the other side were we then able to see the top of the building.
I was able to note the change in environment of being on-campus to being off-campus by the noise of the street, the temperature (being near an open road versus being in between university affiliated buildings), and the different buildings of businesses on Craig street.
Once we got closer into view, we were able to point out physical alterations of the space that signified our proximity to the museum. One of these was the names of the bus stops in front.
Additionally, I found hints that we were near based on the signage advertising the museum. While passing by the museum-affiliated parking lot, I spotted a red sign linking the parking lot to the museum. I also noted the sign advertising Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which linked this specific museum to the others (and potentially would pique interest of museum-goers to look into the other museums affiliated with the museum of art).
Once we were actually on the property of the museum, it was interesting to analyze the difference between spaces.
The most distinctive change in environment was the physical material under our feet. The private property of the museum was signified by the alteration of tiling where the sidewalk ended. Although I had never even considered this to be a factor before, understanding more about thresholds allowed me to make this distinction.
Not only this, but the shadow and the area under the overhang of the museum also signified a change of environments. Even though having a ceiling above us did not mean we were inside, it paralleled the space of the rotunda outside of Margaret Morrison (not being completely inside, but not being completely outside either). Although the tiling under this area was the same as what was not being covered, the lack of lighting made it seem as though it was an entirely different space.
Even outside of the museum, there were a lot of different environments. I decided to categorize them as the area with the bike racks, the small fountain, and the outside seating area. While they were all in relatively the same location with the same kind of material, they could be distinguished by their functionality, appearance, and furniture. I thought it was interesting that even though the threshold was not being defined by a specific doorway or change in elevation, there were definitely aspects about each of the spaces that allowed the user to interact with it in a different way.
Going off of the point of interaction, there were two pieces outside of the museum that worked in a subtle way to pique the interest of passing bystanders. One of these was a clock which took a picture of what was in front of it every five minutes to be used in an interactive piece just inside of the museum. Because the inside of the museum was only blocked off by glass, the user would be able to get a hint of the interactive exhibit before entering the museum, which might make them more interested in entering.
Before I was informed by another one of my peers, I didn’t know that there was an opening in this piece and that you could technically enter it. Upon closer inspection, I found that the opening to the piece lined up with the lines on the floor (similar to a physical grid). The threshold between the outside area of the museum and the inside of the piece could be determined by the change in temperature, light, sound, etc.
I thought that the threshold between the outside of the museum and the inside of the museum was incredibly interesting in terms of the material used and the practicality of it. I think that allowing the passage of light through the glass walls as well as allowing the user to see through into the interior of the structure was an interesting way of constructing the museum. Additionally, I considered the space between the two glass doors to be a sort of transitional space between the outer and inner structure of the museum.
When we first entered the museum, my eye was drawn first to the information desk and the interactive art piece. I think that it was interesting in how the museum was able to create visual thresholds in that these spaces seemed different to me despite being in the same room. The way that the information desk was located against a wall made it appear to have a wall signified by the window and the change in light. The change in interaction between the information desk and the art piece also signified an apparent threshold as the user moves in the spaces in different ways.
When looking to the left, I found myself facing a small seating area as well as the cafe of the museum. Whereas the seating area could be considered to be in the same sort of area as the interactive piece, the cafe was definitely not.
The way that the tiling changed in terms of material and color when crossing over to the cafe from the righthand side of the museum was incredibly indicative of a threshold. Additionally, the smell of the beverages and baked goods also indicated a threshold in the space. The sign was another indication that there was a change in functionality, if not a more literal one.
Finally, looking to the right was the entrance to the museum as well as a side room for the gift shop. Although these areas were not separated by doors, they could be distinguished by alterations such as a change in lighting or the materials of the walls and floor.
Despite the fact that the doors used for the exit were the same as the entrance, they provided different experiences due to the transparency of the material.
10.30.17 | STEP TWO (ALTERNATE)
Because I chose to take a different route to the museum, I decided to document my process again. I left from my apartment complex at Fifth and Neville. I thought it was interesting how the lighting especially was indicative of a threshold (being the way out of the elevator as well as into the mail room). I also noted the change in material of the doorways as I went out of the building.
Another thing that I considered (that I hadn’t previously) was the different forms of interaction I had to go through to get through each of these thresholds. As the elevator doors open automatically, I did not have to put any effort in to get into the hallway. In order to get into the mail room, I had to push open the door separating me from inside of the room. Although the door leading into the mail room and the door leading out of the building are essentially the same, the outer door was altered to include a lock which changed how users could enter and exit the space.
After that, I looked at the materials of the ground relating them to the different spaces and thresholds around me. The change in elevation of the stairs in the first picture implied a change in threshold, which was confirmed by the change in materials in the second picture (a change from private property to public property).
Intentional or not, I picked up on the same visual cue in front of Seoul Mart. I think that even if it was not entirely purposeful that the sidewalk changed in front of this business, it was still something to look out for. I also thought it was interesting that the wall of the building did not line up with the line in the sidewalk, which we had noted in relation to the outer sculpture of the museum and the tiling in area.
After that, I looked at the intersection by my apartment. Because of the roadwork being done, a man was directing traffic and part of the road was blocked. I thought it was interesting to look at this as a threshold as well.
Going down Craig street, I tried to pay more attention to the materials in front of buildings (as I feel as though I hadn’t paid as much attention to it during my first trip to the museum). Although subtle, there was another change in material in front of the building affiliated with Carnegie Mellon. I thought it was interesting how in some cases, these changes in material were incredibly apparent whereas in cases such as these it was more subtle.
From here on, I was able to see the museum from across the street. As this was not the first time I had analyzed the space, my eye was immediately drawn to the blue and yellow signage indicating the proximity of the museum.
From here, I was able to completely see a majority of the museum property, from the garage to the entrance of the building. The minimal difference in elevation from the street to the sidewalk as well as the change in material could be considered indicative of the threshold, as well as the different visual cues and layout of the space.
I found the fountain to be incredibly interesting, as I was unable to analyze it during my last visit (I probably could have, but not in the same way as when it was on). Even though there was a change in material similar to all of the other thresholds, it was different in this material — being water — was a deterrent to me.
10.30.17 | STEP THREE
In order to receive my ticket, I went inside of the museum (passing the threshold of the glass doors) and into the line to the information desk. I would consider the line to be a threshold considering the barrier as well as the difference in function of the space. I thought it was interesting how the line was set up, as it was not a permanent structure.
After getting my ticket, I realized the exhibit I was interested in was right next to the gift shop, so I walked in that direction. The threshold to the gift shop could be defined by the indent in the wall as well as the change in lighting of the store. Additionally, the amount of objects in the space was a lot more cluttered than in the rest of the museum space, which also noted a change in the environment. I thought it was interesting how some of the merchandise of the gift shop crossed the threshold of the gift shop into the hallway as a way to pique the interest of anyone passing by.
Passing through, I was faced with the name of the artist of the exhibit as well as a short blurb regarding his experience and his work. The appearance of this text on the wall signified another threshold. I thought it was interesting how the museum tried to implement interactivity by allowing museum-goers to read more about the artist and his work. However, I considered this to be a flaw in the design of the environment as it detracted from my attention of the wall text.
Walking into the space, I was able to notice the threshold in terms of the material on the floor.
After entering the space, the piece is the first thing that you see. I thought this was interesting, as it went against what I expected of an exhibit. I thought it was especially interesting that it was the only thing in the room, yet it did not even attempt to fill the space. The lighting was incredibly dim in comparison to the hallway, which was another signifier of a threshold. Another signifier was the sound of the piece itself, and the way that it resonated throughout the room.
As I walked into the space, I was able to see the back of the piece, which seemed to have as much viewing space as the front in terms of being inside the exhibit. I thought it was intriguing how the exhibit allowed the museum-goer to enter the space and get a more in depth understanding of the complexity of the piece.
I also noticed that the room was not entirely empty besides the piece, even though it seemed like it at first. The speaker and the lights had a hand in the lighting and sound of the space, and their physical appearance also added to it as well.
After walking through the exhibit specific room, I decided to look outside to see if there were different possible viewing distances for the piece.
I noticed that to the side opposite of the information in regards to the artist, there was a small seating area. Although the space was not being separated by specific walls, identifiable by different tiled materials, or lighting, I considered this to be a separate space by functionality purposes.
Right across from the entrance of the exhibit was a few benches. I decided to read the pamphlet available and watch the piece from the outside. I think that it was interesting to note the feeling of the piece at different distances, and I like how the exhibit afforded that. Although I was still looking at the same piece, I considered myself to be in a different space.
10.30.17 | SECRET EXHIBIT
After checking out the exhibit, I began to walk through the Natural History museum in order to see the “secret exhibit”.
The threshold between the two museums was highlighted by the change in elevation walking through the dark hallway and into the brightly lit room. It was interesting to see how different the material and tone of each of the museums were. Whereas I would consider the art museum to be more modern and sleek, the history museum portion was a lot more ornate and decorative.
After being directed to the third floor, I decided to follow the signs to the elevator. Unfortunately for me, the elevator was out of order and I had to go to the stairs. While I would normally take the stairs anyways, the elevator sign was the first thing that caught my eye after being directed to the right of the “We Are Nature” sign.
It was interesting to consider the stairwell as a threshold, as I had never considered it to be that way before taking this class. Compared to the floor of the ground level and the decorative aspects of the walls, the stairwell was a fairly unsaturated marble texture. The lighting of the windowed ceiling above the stairwell and the effect of the natural lighting in the space also hinted at the idea of the stairwell as a transitional space, even.
On the third floor, I was able to find a sign for a map of the area, which was also indicative of a new area.
I went into the bird hall, where I was able to find the “secret” exhibit. The first threshold I went through was the doorway (is it called a door way if there is no door? probably not) that had the signage for the hall. I thought it was interesting how the name of the section appeared, as it did not seem consistent with the rest of the museum.
Immediately, there was a change in material and color of the walls, which made it appear to be even darker and more ominous than the more majestic outer areas. Additionally, there was a change in tiling that I could notice by how my footsteps sounded in the hall, although that might have been due to the height of the roof.
Finally, going through the hall, I began to see the secret exhibit. Because I had heard of it before, I was expecting a small door, but I was confused to see the first door that was labeled “please use other door”. At first, I thought it was a secret exhibit in the sense that no one wanted to open that door, but then I realized that a little ways past, there was actually a real door to the specific exhibit.
I think that I would consider people to be inside the environment of the exhibit once they open the door (although it could be argued to be once you are able to hear the noises coming out from behind the door).
There were thresholds to the exhibit in terms of the door, the visual materials, the digital materials, and the door itself.
Considering that the outer area of the exhibit was blocked by a door, I thought that the secret exhibit would be a room you could walk into. However, I was surprised to see a holographic image of a bird staring back at me. I thought it was interesting how they did not try to cover up the mechanisms of the exhibit or hide how the image was being displayed.
I would consider leaving the environment to be walking down the hall to the point where you would not be able to hear the sound of the birds.
I think that something I would consider to be problematic about this exhibit is that it is so hard to notice, although I guess that makes it seem more enticing as a whole.
10.31.17 | STEP FOUR
Analysis of Website
For this step of the process, I decided to trace a path throughout both the website and the application in order to better understand the digital threshold. I started on the home page and decided I wanted to learn more about the exhibit I visited earlier in this project.
I then created wireframes documenting each page in full and highlighting the different links that I clicked (which did not show up as well due to the clutter on all of the pages).
I started by entering the digital environment with cmoa.org, which I had explored previously in the project.
In using the home page, I immediately felt overwhelmed by the amount of information and subsections that seemed visible from said information. I was confused on the standard for color coding on the page, as some of the color blocks for the dates were inconsistent with each other.
In many of the sections, I was confused on what parts were thresholds and which weren’t. There was an indication through change of color of text when hovered, but I think that it was hard to figure it out on first glance. If I was just using the website as opposed to analyzing it, I don’t think I would have paid any attention to what was on the home page besides the main event and the navigation bars.
Although this bothered me a little bit, it did not bother me enough to look for reasoning behind it (as I’d like to think it was not completely unintentional). As I was looking for the work of Ian Cheng, I decided to explore the section labeled “Art”.
The first thing that I noticed was the difference in appearance of thresholds on this page. While the thresholds appeared as text on the left hand side of the page, they appeared as images on the right. Because I had explored the page earlier, I knew that the header text under the pictures on the right hand side were links. With this knowledge, I attempted at clicking the text respective to the images under the “All Exhibitions” button, which did not end up being connected to anything.
Luckily, because the piece I had looked at was in a way its own exhibit, I did not have much trouble seeing it from this page. I worry that if I were to fine some lesser known or focused on piece of art, I would not be able to find it in the “All Exhibitions” tab. Because I was able to find my piece immediately, I was inclined to click on it before considering any of the other pieces being highlighted. Consistent with the first home page, I found myself two overwhelmed to want to explore the page more.
With most drop down menus I have interacted with in the past, clicking on any part of the menu would cause more options to drop down. However, with the one on this page, clicking on the text separate from the arrow indication caused me to be redirected back to the page labeled “Art”. I found this to be frustrating because I had to go back to the previous page in order to properly interact with the drop down menu in the way that I had planned on.
I thought that clicking the thumbnail would bring up a more detailed page with the image and a description, but instead, it took over the entire screen. I thought that this was a bit unintuitive, as I was expecting to be able to read about the piece as I looked at it (similar to a museum experience).
I tried going back in order to click on the icon indication information, but I found that although it would light up as if it were a link when clicked on, it only needed for the user to hover over it in order to display the information desired.
Reflection of Website
In general, I think that the website would be used by someone before entering the museum. I feel that there is no sense of hybridization in that I would be too overwhelmed and confused to use the website while exploring the museum. In a sense, I felt as though experiencing the website was similar to a museum in that there was no set way of going about it, although I definitely felt more frustrated in this digital space than in the physical space.
Analysis of Application
As for the application, I definitely found myself confused when attempting to find specific pages, but I appreciated the fact that it allowed the user to enter a hybrid environment within the physical and digital experience if so inclined.
After deciding on a path (similar to step one), I also created wireframes each of the pages and highlighted which thresholds connected me to the next page.
As I had already downloaded the application previously, I did not document my experience in doing so. However, I feel that this would be a deterrent to me if I were to consider downloading the application while experiencing the physical environment of the museum.
What I found to be immediately jarring was the change in tone between the website and the application. Upon further inspection, I think that this design decision has to do with the fact that the application is meant to be used as part of a hybrid experience within the museum, whereas the website is meant for an entirely different context. Considering that a lot of the interior of the physical space is very muted and unsaturated, the application followed that sort of norm.
I decided to go off of my original wireframes, and clicked on the “Explore Art and Specimens” section. I thought it was interesting how the entire button/visual section was a threshold, as opposed to just the text (inconsistent with the website).
I found it confusing how the lighter grey text seemed to be details of the sections listed, but were not consistent with each other in the sense that some of them were the associated museum whereas others were dates. I thought it was interesting that the application was designed so that there were a lot of empty sections that were formatted as if there could be more content added in the future. Although it went with the idea that the application could be changed in order to parallel/mirror the physical experience, I found it to be distracting in this context. I clicked on “Collection Highlights” from here.
I thought it was interesting how the way that the image on this page was formatted at the bottom of the section was inconsistent with the home page. It seemed as though it was meant to take up space, yet this sort of consideration did not seem to be expressed in the earlier page.
I thought it was interesting how the options on this page made it seem more clear to me that this application was meant to be used in a sort of hybrid environment, however I did not get that sense from the previous threshold header: “Collection Highlights”. From here, I decided to “Explore the Tours”.
I found it interesting how this page paralleled the “Explore Art and Specimens” page — which I had to scroll back through my medium post in order to remember the context of the page.
I suppose that the way a user might go through this part of the digital environment would be based on where they were in the physical space and what specific exhibitions/pieces they found themselves interested in. However, as I was not at the museum at the time of this digital exploration, I decided to click on “Impressionism at CMOA”.
This page was formatted similarly to the previous one, but with the additions of numbers and volume icons. I was curious as to why the numbers were so large as it did not seem like the most important information in the section, but I guess it might have to do with how the pieces are labelled in the physical space.
I thought that clicking on the icons would cause a different interaction, but the entire section (number, title, details, icon) was treated as one singular threshold.
I thought it was incredibly inconsistent in that this was the only page to have a footer. Although I don’t know how a footer could have been implemented in the previous pages, I think that it would be more successful if the application had been more consistent in this specific part. I also thought it was interesting how the image was not formatted so that it would be full bleed, although all of the other images in the application followed that format. Additionally, I found the visual hierarchy of the page to be unintuitive and it made me less inclined to immerse myself in the information.
Reflection of Application
I think that if the application was only meant to be used as a hybrid experience with the physical environment, that should be made more clear at the beginning of the experience. As I had used the application without the experience of being in the museum and trying to follow along with the flow of the physical environment, I was confused as to how each of the sections related to each other and the reasonings behind the inconsistencies within the application.
11.2.17 | STEP FIVE
After conducting research on both the physical and digital experiences linked with the Carnegie Museum of Art, I was able to identify problem areas and pain points that I wanted to focus in on.
I noticed that the tone of the application seemed dated — not only in the sense that it hasn’t been updated in a long time — in terms of style. While I had originally considered this to be fitting in terms of relating to a museum, I do not think that it makes sense for this specific museum considering the contemporary aspect of the physical space. Because of this, I feel as though perusing the application as it is while being in the museum itself seems like two separate experiences. I think that altering the tone of the application to match the modern yet minimalistic style of the museum will help to hybridize the experience as a whole. As a way of achieving this, I plan on taking the colors already implemented in the website and somehow allowing them to appear in the physical space as indicators for the user to follow through with the application would allow for a more seamless hybrid experience.
Based on my personal exploration of the museum in previous visits, I decided that I wanted to look into the idea of way-finding. I think that repurposing the application so that it follows this purpose would make it more useful to the general public, and could also be a means of connecting the application and museum itself to the color-blocked style of the website.
While I had trouble with how I wanted to format everything, I decided that I would get the point across with a simple application screen mock up.
Additionally, as someone who tends to be somewhat of a “completion-ist”, I often find myself retracing my steps in museums in order to make sure that I have gone through all of the exhibits. Because of this, I often feel unsatisfied when I leave museums as I am almost always worried that I may have missed something. As the museum is incredibly spacious and sometimes difficult to navigate, I think that setting up some form of updated list or even checklist of all of the exhibits that a user could interact with would be beneficial for their overall experience.
11.5.17 | STEP SIX
Through analyzing my experience going to the Carnegie Museum of Art and the exhibit in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as well as my interactions with both the CMOA website and application, I was able to come to conclusions about the physical and digital space that I would have missed on a surface level examination.
1. Environments can be defined in many different ways.
Thresholds in the physical environment can come in many different forms, whereas they are much more limited in the digital environment. While walking through the physical museum space, I was able to notice indications of thresholds such as door ways, stairwells, change in light, change in smell, change in material, opening/closing in of the walls, and sound. However, the way that the application as well as the website was set up did not make way for multiple types of thresholds.
Similarly, the liminal spaces in between these different environments can be considered in the same way. While there is more room for consideration in terms of liminal spaces in the physical world, liminal spaces in the digital world don’t carry the same presence. This has to do with the assumption that things happening digitally should be as fast and efficient as possible (with a few exceptions) as mentioned previously in this post.
2. The way environments are perceived are dependent on the user and how they interact with the space.
As people of different backgrounds and experiences, we tend to look at things differently. This applies to environments and thresholds as well. Where one person might find a room to be fascinating, another may be easily bored and want to move on. Understanding this fact and adapting to the most perspective allows for an environment to be compatible and considerate of the largest amount of views. Not only do we perceive environments differently, but we also interact with them differently based on the fact.
3. Gaps between the physical and digital space can cause a disconnect with the user’s experience.
Finally, what prompted my idea for a solution was the issue of a lack of consistent purpose and visual appearance of the application, website, and physical space linked to the Carnegie Museum of Art.
11.7.17 | STEP SEVEN
I think that this project was crucial in beginning to understand the standard definitions of thresholds and to start to analyze how these affect the user experience.
I think that being able to recognize these changes in environments while being able to understand the potential reasoning behind these decisions was incredibly beneficial. Throughout the process of this project, I was able to become more aware and mindful of the thresholds of physical and digital space. With this knowledge, I feel more confident in designing for these sorts of spaces.
In terms of planning and monitoring performance, I think that having everything laid out in steps was incredibly helpful in allowing me to allot my time efficiently.
I don’t particularly consider my process in this assignment to be entirely efficient, considering how much time I spent on each step, but I think that it was important in learning about both environments and my own process as a person. However, because I put so much time and effort into this project, I think that my design turned out better than what I originally expected. I think that it was very exemplative of the concepts that I grasped.
Throughout the process, I found myself to be motivated by the fact that I was able to come up with original ideas and analysis pretty easily. With each step, I found that I had a lot to say, even though I thought I would not be able to in the beginning.
I found that being able to consider things that led to inquisitive discussion with my peers was incredibly satisfying. I think that the knowledge that I could continue to learn things from both my peers and professors from the work that I created was enough motivation to continue to sustain effort.
Ironically, I think that this step of the process was what I felt the least motivated for (probably because in my mind, I feel like this project ended with the presentation).