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Museum of Vancouver

‘Have You Eaten Yet?': an iPad app for the Museum of Vancouver's 2020 "A Seat at the Table" Exhibition.

Project Type

UX/UI and Interaction Design, Research, Visual Design, Concept Art

Keywords

Interactive Exhibition, User Experience, User Interface Design, Ipad App, Interactive Design, Storytelling, Concept Design, Illustration, Visual Development Art, Digital Art, Vectorial Art

Background

Timeline: Sep 2019 - Dec 2019

A project developed for the Museum of Vancouver, an industry client of the Centre for Digital Media.

Team: Jaclynn Wong, Eugene Chau, Irene Sasaki, Isabel Hughes, Lam Kwan, Vikrant Rajan.

My Roles

UX/UI and Interaction Designer

  • To elaborate qualitative and quantitative research, plan and conduct user tests (paper and digital), and write user test documentation (results, analysis, design insights & inputs).

  • Actively pursue and maintain a constant routine of design iterations, based on design insights acquired from research and user tests.

Concept Artist 

Because of my background of working with visual design, I was responsible for setting the directions and driving the project's concept art development:

  • Ensured the app visual development was cohesive with the design guidelines of the Museum of Vancouver, and also with the other components of the exhibition. 

  • Created appealing art for an interactive map of China, enticing illustrations of local food dishes, and additional iconography and art assets.​

Overview

Since the mid-19th century, Chinese people have been arriving in Canada. In recent years, the Chinese-Canadian demographic has expanded rapidly in British Columbia, with many new waves of Mainland Chinese immigrants coming to British Columbia and practicing their diverse cultural and linguistic traditions.

Our Task

In order to reflect the diversity of today’s Chinese-Canadian community, the Museum of Vancouver presented us with the task of creating an iPad app that showcases 34 regional dialects from China, with the main objective of creating an engaging experience combined with appealing visuals, for museum visitors to sample Chinese dialects spoken in China today.

 

The voice recordings are different ways of speaking the phrase "Have you eaten yet?", a common expression in Chinese language similar to the greeting "How are you?" in English.

Project's Brief

Our Location Within the Exhibit

We were excited when we found out that the iPads containing our application would be situated in three "dimsum-style" tables near the end of the complete exhibition - a location that surely would attract attention from the visitors.

General Audience Segments 

  • Multi-generational families with young children

  • K-12 students and post-secondary students

  • Individuals and groups with interests in B.C. or Canadian history, diasporic histories, cultural studies

Challenges

  • Experience time-restraint: provide a meaningful experience, considering a user may only spend 3 minutes using the app.

  • Balance audio and visual elements: audio is key to showcase linguistic diversity, yet it alone is not enough to make a memorable impact. Our visuals had to be carefully designed to complement the audio and enhance the key takeaways of our app.

  • Visual cohesiveness: be unique and memorable, while maintaining a consistent art style within MOV's design guidelines, and also with the other components of the exhibition.

Key User Takeways

The client made it clear that this was NOT a language learning app.

The whole experience should provide the main user takeaways:

  • Understanding and appreciation of cultural & linguistic diversity.

  • Spatial understanding of where different dialects originate from in China.

  • “Edu-tainment” from engaging and meaningful audio-visuals.

Solution: Visualizing with Food

Our objective was to create a meaningful app that is welcoming and friendly for the museum’s wide range of visitors, and that makes Chinese dialects friendly to both users familiar or unfamiliar with the language.

 

The chosen solution was to visualize with food, as this exhibit installation is called "A Seat at the Table", and the iPad containing our application would be located in "dimsum-style" tables. Food is a huge part of Chinese culture, as well as Chinese Immigrant culture specifically.

Chinese food is incredibly diverse, and being able to showcase unique regional dishes alongside unique regional dialects provides us with the opportunity to present viewers with a grander appreciation of Chinese culture. 

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The Process

Research

It was of utmost importance to avoid misconceptions or misinformation about Chinese food in Western Culture: for example, “Hunanese” General Tso’s chicken, is actually an American invention, and not legitimately Chinese food (though it is Chinese-American). In order to assure credible information, the following actions were taken during our research:

  1. Use of both Western and Eastern reputable sources to verify the accuracy of the chosen dishes, such as CNN travel, Vice, New York Times and China.Org.

  2. Conducted user research and consulted a variety of Chinese-language articles for cross-referencing and accuracy.

  3. Constant communication with the Museum of Vancouver's team, in order to select and appropriate list of dishes in accordance to the exhibit.

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Initial Designs Drafts

The app was designed to be easy and intuitive, the navigation being fluid and natural, as to not overpower the audio recordings and visuals, which should be the center of the experience. 

When approaching the tables with the iPads, the Idle screen is the first screen the visitors see, its main objectives being to:

  • Feature the application title (“Have you eaten yet?”).

  • Contextualize the meaning behind the phrase “Have you eaten yet?”.

  • Provide instructions of how to navigate the app.

  • Ask users to put the headphones (located on the table) before starting the experience.

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To start, users can tap anywhere on the Idle screen.

By tapping on the Idle screen, users will be directed to the Map screen, featuring:

 

  • A full map of China, including autonomous regions and places such as Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong. Each region will have an animated location pin.

  • A scrollable list of all available regions.

  • Zoom-in / zoom-out buttons of the map.

  • An "Information" button (leading back to the idle screen) 

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Users can click on the map location pins or on the list's region name in order to proceed to the Region Screen.

When at the Region screen, users will be presented with the following info:

  • A highlight of the region that was clicked on, and the name of the location the dialect comes from.

  • An audio recording of the region's dialect will automatically play. A replay button will be available in case the user wishes to listen the audio again.

  • A polaroid photo of an iconic dish from the region, along with the dish name (will appear after the audio is finished).

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In order to make the experience accessible to all visitors, the app information would be featured in English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese.

Prototypes and User Test

Being an application based on heavy visual development, a huge part of the project's timeline was dedicated to producing all the required art assets. Considering the tight project's time length of 4 months, the premise of waiting for the art in order to conduct user tests was inviable.

 

A routine of design iterations was of utmost importance, so a series of user tests with paper prototypes were conducted in parallel to the art development. It allowed us to rapidly find experience problems, iterate and rapidly make changes.

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An initial digital prototype was also being fleshed out, and it was ready to receive the initial art assets as they they being finished.

The user test routine continued, but now with a digital version. 

These tests provided valuable insights with impact on design decisions, for example the choice to add a short amount of information about the dish, after getting so many comments that people were curious about what the dish was.

The outcome was the addition of a written blurb about unique aspects of the dish, and what ingredients are used in it - as many are specific to the various biomes of the regions. This detail proved to be really well received by users.

Visual Development

Map Artwork

In order to geographically locate each individual dialect within a tangible context, a map had to be developed in order for users to navigate and interact with.

Multiple art concepts were created for the interactive map. Initial artworks had bold, stronger colours and textures.

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But the colour palette, mainly containing red, was too evocative of the recent conflicts in China - so another direction was chosen.

The final artwork ended being more delicate, with a watercolor brushed look, with a subtle pastel color palette, in order to be more cohesive with the visual style of the whole exhibit.

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Dish Artwork

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Final Designs

Following the routine of design iterations and art development, an end version of polished layouts were finally created:

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Idle Screen

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Map Screen

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Region Screen

Usability flow chart

The app navigation is simple and easy, with only 2 main steps for users to access the different regions of the interactive China map: main screen and the region screen. Is the app is left unused for more than 30 seconds, it automatically returns to the initial idle screen.

 

Although it's certainly not expected that all users would to go through all 34 regions, the simple navigation was designed to encourage visitors to explore the most regions as possible, further experiencing the diversity of the Chinese dialects.

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User Journey

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- Arrival / Reception -

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- Onboarding -

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- Experience -

'Have You Eaten Yet?': Final Product

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A Happy Ending: Feedback from Our Client

"We have been SO impressed by the assiduity, flexibility, and high caliber of the MDM student cohort that collaborated with us on developing a series of digital products for the exhibition A Seat at the Table: Chinese Immigration and British Columbia. Their animated maps (...) help us address the key themes of belongings, racism, and resilience in novel and meaningful ways. Their work is contributing significantly to the interpretive program, and as a result it will help visitors gain a greater appreciation of the contributions that Chinese migrants and their descendants have made to the province."

Viviane Gosselin

Director of Collections and Exhibitions

"The added challenge to this year's projects was the requirement to include trilingual content. We were very impressed by the ingenuity and passion the student teams demonstrated through their work -- we were especially impressed by their ability to bring history alive through the many creative solutions (and language skills) they brought to the table."

Denise Fong

Co-Curator, A Seat at the Table exhibition

Check the complete article here.

Room from Growth

At 34 dialects, the app only provided a small sample of the rich and complex Chinese language. There are 56 ethnic minorities and supposedly 297 living languages in China today, according to most linguists.

The app was planned and designed to allow further expansions, with the potential to become a comprehensive dialect soundmap: 

  • The map can be expanded to include other ethnic minorities and languages within China.

  • The possibility of including ethnic Chinese communities in other Asian countries and overseas, with their own unique dialects and flavours to explore: such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.