How to design a unique VR exhibition using ARTSTEPS

Mariam Bagersh
Published in
7 min readMar 1, 2021

How can we create a VR exhibition fast and free?

This was the question we asked ourselves when we first started our project What if: Conceptual Africa. When we began we were worried it would be a monumental task with a huge learning curve. It can feel overwhelming when you want to create something with new technologies that you’ve never used.

Initially, during our search, we came across different platforms but soon realized they were paid services that didn’t fit the “free” category we had defined for ourselves. After that, we started looking at whether we could design and build a VR environment ourselves but found that it would be too time-consuming. Both of these solutions wouldn’t work with our initial goal.

Finally, we found a platform called ArtSteps which had the right format to allow us to create an exhibition and customize it the way we want. We want to show you the steps we took to create a unique user-friendly VR exhibition that stood out from the crowd.

What if: Conceptual Africa

Introducing Artsteps

Virtual reality is defined as a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment that can be explored and interacted with by a person. Artsteps is a platform that allows you to create virtual reality exhibitions for free and has a step-by-step interface that helps you create an exhibition quite easily. You can find a template, plop some objects in and bobs your uncle, you have an exhibition. However, if you want to create a more unique and bespoke experience it requires a little more planning and design.

Defining the limitations

Before starting we asked ourselves; What are the limitations of designing in Artsteps? If we were going to design a digital space we needed to understand, how creative we could be.

1. Environment

Within Artsteps you are limited to an environment that has been predetermined for you. You can build your walls almost like the Sims and you can either have an outdoor exhibition or an indoor exhibition but you are given a block of space and you have to design within that space. If you choose the outdoors you don’t have the option to change the background. This means the block of space you have been provided with is surrounded by a sea and sky. And if you choose indoors you have a limited level of customization available to you by changing wallpaper, ceiling and floor designs.

2.Placing objects

Within the block you’ve been given you can place 3D objects and images. In the outdoor environment you can’t move things out of this space horizontally, but vertically you can place objects very high in the air. If curating for the outdoor environment, you have to consider how the light and surroundings will affect your objects and how they are they are viewed.

If curating for an indoor environment you have to stay within the confines of the room. However you do not have to place the objects (images) on a wall like a traditional gallery, they can float within spaces. Think about how to use this option creatively within a space like this, placing objects over each other or overlapping could be a fun way to create something original.

With the indoor spaces, you will have the option to change the pattern on the floor, ceilings and walls through a tiling method. CAUTION: If you decide to use your own image to design the floor and ceiling it’s worth thinking about how the image can tile seamlessly, otherwise it can look very glitchy like you’ve broken the matrix.

3. Mediums or “Artifacts”

Artsteps allows you to place your own Images, Videos, 3d Objects and Text into the environment on top of the library of media provided on the platform. These can be fun to play with however it's worth noting that the 3D Objects take time to load, so you don’t want to put too many of them around as it will affect the user experience.

When placing an artefact into the space you will have to fill up some metadata, which is information that the end viewer will see when they are going through the exhibition and looking at a specific object, so it’s worth getting this right the first time and you’ll save yourself a lot of time!

Designing a kick-ass space

If you want a step-by-step guide on how to design in this space check this link out. However we are going to think about how to go a step further and make your space stand out.

1. Be immersive!

When designing the space we believe that the most important thing is to make the space as immersive as possible. The viewer really has to have an illusion of being in the space so that they are not distracted by the environment when they are viewing the artworks.

We decided to choose an indoor space because we felt that would give us the largest amount of flexibility and we did not add any doors to the outdoor space so it would feel self-contained. When putting it together we were always looking out for any major signs that would break the illusion.

2. Think like a curator

If you really want to stand out you have to think about the objects you’re presenting and what story you want to tell. You don’t have to overthink this, the point is to have an idea of what will help you highlight the type of work you are presenting as best as possible. We created the branding for the exhibition based on the fact that we knew it was going to be showing work from Ethiopia and Ghana. We wanted it to feel futuristic and distinctly African. We did this by applying a pattern to the ceiling and floor that we felt reflected this.

3. Create an experience

There are two ways to use this platform; through the app on your phone or on the computer. If you are on the computer you click where you would like to go in the space with a cursor and it takes you there. Whereas with the phone app you click on the image by moving your phone and point at a specific point and linger on that point until the camera moves.

Give people enough space
Make sure that when you are building the walls, you create enough space for people to navigate through the space. Even though it’s virtual it can be annoying and tiresome to constantly be blocked by walls. You have to make sure the VR element of the experience is fun and not annoying/ gimmicky.

Guided tours
You have to remember that there will be different types of users, on different platforms and they will not have the same level of tech-savvy. So remember to create a guided tour as well.

This is the best solution for someone who just wants to be led through an exhibition as opposed to navigating through the space themselves. You can add guide points with information and pick the angles, which will give your viewer the chance to have a curated experience.

By identifying the limitations we were able to be more creative and take our designs one step further. We created an immersive exhibition with Artworks from different digital artists who were able to share the links with their friends and family and share their work in a new and exciting way.

We got there through a lot of experimentation, but we hope this will help you to create an exciting exhibition of your own! If you use our guide to creating a unique VR exhibition please let us know in the comments.

If you found this helpful and inspiring we’d really appreciate it if you can give us a clap or a share.



Mariam Bagersh

Life hacker, Researcher and Designer. An everything dabbler and nomad of all realms Design, Culture and Tech.