The Challenge

Create a digital strategy to help patrons explore the Royal Academy’s vast resources.

The Outcome

A rich, immersive site that caters to multiple audiences on multiple platforms.

Great art requires great openness, a space large enough to contain all the tragedy and comedy of the human experience.

The limestone walls and Palladian arches of the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) hold such a space. The institution’s building in Mayfair contains galleries where a wanderer can appreciate the everyday miracle of a Caravaggio or amble through the former home of Academicians, a group led by some of the most eminent artists in the world, from Anish Kapoor to Sir Norman Foster. This revered site has also been home to the Summer Exhibition for 246 years, an event open to submissions from any living artist.

As the RA approached its 250th anniversary, the institution came to IDEO to help create a digital strategy that would open new doors to these resources, reveal hidden avenues to new experiences, and offer broad vistas of the collection.

After rounds of research with artists, staff members, and visitors, our designers immediately started building and testing. They ran workshops to refine digital tools, watched as patrons scribbled notes about things they wanted to know more about, and built pop-up design studios in RA’s galleries where they could generate insights on the fly.

Our hope is that visitors will discover not only the things they came looking for, but also a whole load of things that they weren’t.

Will Dallimore, RA Director of Communications

The result is a rich, immersive site for different audiences. Art lovers can view stunning images of the works, artists can learn more about RA schools, and RA staff can share surprising stories about some of the most prized pieces.

Based around human needs rather than organizational structure, the new digital space allows audiences to wander freely in this immense storehouse of inspiration and awe. And perhaps most important, the RA organization has benefitted from a human-centered paradigm shift that will enable the institution to forge boldly into its next quarter millennium.

Royal Academy Photo Core77 001