Thursday, April 12, 2012

Design Museum Collection for iPad app review

The Design Museum Collection's new iPad app could do with a bit more designing and a lot more functionality, writes Indu Chandrasekhar.

The biggest appeal of the new iPad's retina display is that images 'come alive again'. In theory the Design Museum's iPad app, which showcases 59 of the museum's most influential and inspirational objects, should be the perfect beneficiary for this technology. For what could look better on a 3.1m-pixel screen than the clean lines of our best designs?
The Design Museum Collection's app does pay homage to said clean lines, giving each item its own page of explanation, a smattering of photos, and videos from the museum's curator. But all of this does not add up to an iPad app. Instead, it functions like a modern-day Encarta '95.
The items themselves are fantastically varied, featuring everything from Frank Gehry's Wiggle Chair to Shepard Fairey's HOPE posters for the 2008 Barack Obama campaign. An 1851 Singer sewing machine, a Rowenta electric kettle, Min-Kyu Choi's new folding British plug and other beautiful incarnations of mundane, everyday things are in there too, a reminder that usefulness is the most important feature in design.
But aside from functioning as a portable encyclopaedia on design greats, the app does little more. Users can't browse the rest of the museum's collection, and for the moment this is a finite edit. Apps such as ArtFinderallow art enthusiasts to interact with art in real time from within a museum, something this app would be smart to adopt. We are far too used to internet connectivity for a closed shop like this app to be useful.
Ironically, the design of the app could use some help too. The developers seem to have blown the budget on creating its striking and responsive menu, because the items' pages are rather bleak. The objects themselves have lovely still pictures, but dull blocks of text - there isn't even any text wrapping around images - make these pages feel hastily made, and the user comments at the bottom feel like an awkward shoehorn of last-minute interactivity.
For those simply wishing to brush up on their modern design history, this is a comprehensive, wide-ranging app and would surely help any design student with their upcoming exams. But for those wishing to truly interact with modern art using a tool that is itself functional and beautiful, I suggest looking elsewhere.

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