My Public Art Portal

Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA)
Seattle, WA
ArtsWA's logo plus some screenshots of the website's gallery and search pages.

How Can We Make Art Easier to Find Online?

If you've ever seen a cool statue in the middle of the park or an interesting painting in the lobby of an office complex in Washington state, chances are you've encountered the work of an amazing local artist. But you've also encountered the work of ArtsWA.

The Washington State Arts Commission, or ArtsWA, manages public art throughout Washington State. This public art is catalogued in My Public Art Portal, a part of ArtsWA's site where people can find information and educational resources for each art piece. My team and I were tasked with redesigning My Public Art Portal to make it easy for users to find and and engage with these wonderful works.

Key Facts

Project Manager,
UX Designer
4 People
Team Size
6 Months

Overview + Problem
Visible Art, Obscure Resources

How can we build a meaningful, engaging, and interactive arts collection for the digital age?

The Washington State Arts Commission, or ArtsWA, is an agency of the Washington State Government. Currently, ArtsWA is tasked with maintaining a geographically diverse collection of artwork in public places, schools, and institutions.

I was in close contact with Heide Fernandez-Llamazares, our sponsor, who manages My Public Art Portal, ,the online catalog of art owned and displayed by the state collection. After speaking with her, Ms. Fernandez-Llamazares expressed a wish to improve usability and engagement with the site through design. Our team considered the following questions:

How could we build a meaningful, engaging, and interactive arts collection for the digital age, and what digital framework would best direct the public eye toward the Washington State Arts Commission collection?

Our team of four, known as Artem Design Solutions, sought to redesign the ArtsWA’s My Public Art Portal pages in order to make them more engaging and easier to use for the general public. In the end, we developed a set of annotated wireframes that can be handed off to a front-end developer for further development by ArtsWA.

For most of this project I functioned as the overall project manager, as well as the overall visual/design editor and the specific project manager for Milestone 4, Refinement.

This project was also awarded a grant of $200 from the HCDE Fund for Excellence. It is also part of a two-quarter-long Capstone Project for the Human Centered Design and Engineering Bachelor's Degree at the University of Washington. It was presented at the HCDE Capstone Open House in June of 2018.

The Process
Ideation, Design, Evaluation

The project took place between January – June 2018, and consisted of four major milestones: Ideation, Design, Evaluation, and Refinement Phases.


The goal of the ideation phase was, unsurprisingly, to gather and document ideas for use in our designs. We gathered data and inspiration from several different sources, in order to ascertain two things: what ArtsWA had (or didn’t have) in terms of elements of the site, and what other sites had in comparison. There were four major components to the ideation phase: the “517 Report,” a competitive analysis, a walkthrough of the ArtsWA Site, and the generation of sketches based on our research.


For this phase, our goal was to translate our initial sketches into a medium-fidelity prototype of our proposed site redesign, which we used to test in the subsequent evaluation phase of our project. We mainly worked in Adobe XD for this phase. I was responsible for the For Educators section of the website and the Advanced Search page. I was also responsible for putting the final prototype together. Lastly, the overall look of the design, design templates, relative measurements, etc. were created by me.


After creating our designs, we conducted a usability study to evaluate the effectiveness of our design.

The main goals of our revised design were to facilitate access to artwork and offer an improved search experience for finding individual artworks. Our hypothesis was the following: If the revised website is more discoverable, understandable, and effective in enabling users to achieve these goals, they will be more inclined to return to ArtsWA for future art consumption and art education.

Our usability test was conducted using an interactive prototype, with the intention of locating any potential pain points to increase retention rate among first-time and novice users. From the study, we generated a report, and took note of important data that would be used to inform revisions to our design.

The Solution
The Art of simplicity

A laptop screen showing the Advanced Search page of the My Public Art Portal. It includes a search box, drop-down drawers for additional filter options, and search results
  • Annotated Wireframes
  • Interactive Prototype
  • Showcase Materials
PrototypeProcess book PDF

We created a final set of annotated wireframes, and made a new interactive prototype for use in a showcase presentation. As of the project completion date, ArtsWA planned to move forward with our design recommendations in the upcoming months, and would include our designs in their upcoming site-wide redesign.

The final design revolves around three solutions:


Tiles have a fixed width and variable height that adjust to the proportions of each art piece, improving visual hierarchy and utilizing whitespace when viewed on mobile or desktop.

Data on Demand

Information is divided into categories that can be expanded or hidden, eliminating unnecessary visual clutter and increasing readability.


Search bars are more prominent in the layout. The content and search filters on the advanced search page are easier to use and understand.

Final Thoughts
The World Needs More Art

As an artist, I found the work of ArtsWA really endearing. ArtsWA is nonprofit and encourages the arts in Washington, and I could not have asked for a better entity to work with. Having said that, I do wish that I had done more on the visual side of things, especially since that is usually a specialty of mine. However, for this project my team and I focused more on usability rather than the visual aspects of the website. Perhaps if I had more time, I would try to be more adventurous with my graphic design choices. Even still, I love the way everything turned out, and I’m glad that ArtsWA liked it, too.