March 8th, 2010

Art Beat iPhone apps

A brief look at the design process for our first iPhone app project.

Last year, a dev team from California approached Tokyo Art Beat and NY Art Beat with a plan to bring TAB and NYAB’s rich art exhibition resource to the iPhone. Needless to say, we were eager to jump on board for what would be our first iPhone app project.

After countless hours of planning, design and code, Art Beat Inc finally released the app.

From the press release:
“Art Beat Inc announces TokyoArtBeat 1.0 and NYArtBeat 1.0, their new cultural event finder apps for iPhone and iPod touch devices. The new applications enable users to easily discover the art & design events happening around them as they move through their cities. No need to plan museum & gallery visits from home anymore: the apps leverage the huge database of 1800 cultural venues in the cities to give instant access to more than 1000 art and design events in total.”

We have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of designing the apps and are thrilled by the early feedback from the launch: more than 500 comments on Twitter and over 10,000 downloads.

The 2 apps are similar in design and UI and are only distinguished by their splash screen (illustration by our own Eiko), the colour of the top navigation bar (pink for Tokyo and deep purple for NYC) and the event content.


As long time iPhone users, we started with the apps we love for inspiration, quickly realizing the most useful and used ones provided great content and tools, while sticking thoughtfully to Apple’s established UI conventions, inventing new ones only out of necessity. We felt that this approach was the best for Art Beat’s many existing features and sophisticated data model.

For the debut version, we concentrated on 3 main areas:
* A Nearby Search to let users quickly know what events are happening around them
* a Most Popular section that inform users on the most popular events of the moment (based on traffic and user bookmarking on the websites)
* Event lists (per media, area) for users that want to dig deeper and find something more to their taste.

With so much information to choose from, we first focused on making sure you are never more than 1-2 taps away from the event data you’re looking for, regardless of which method you use to search.

Next, we designed the event lists and individual event screens. For the lists, we kept each listing compact and informative, with ample-sized images, and typography that are legible (in both English and Japanese) and create a rhythm that allows the eye to rest on the most important details.

The individual event screen opens to a bigger visual, next to a summary of information that will help you make an initial decision about whether you can visit the event. All the other details below do what you expect them to. Tapping the address opens a Google Map of the area. Tapping the phone number dials it.


The post-launch feedback on Twitter has been a blast to read. Several customers said it was their first app purchase, many noted its practicality and simple design, and that it had enabled them to discover events around them they would have never otherwise known about. Some mentioned they’d spent the weekend bouncing from show to show, or that they were going to buy an iPhone just for the app. How gratifying, we can’t wait for our kickbacks from Steve!

Many thanks and a big o-tsukare to Suzanne Ginsburg who set the groundwork for the app’s UI, Chuck Soper and Olivier Thereaux who brought the idea to life, and last but not least, TAB and NYAB’s tireless team of editors who continue to fill it with the best art information in either city.

More about the apps (and screenshots) over on the TABlog.

Paul BaronPaul moved to Tokyo in 2002 to join Honda's R&D group as an interaction designer. In 2003, Paul co-founded to spread awareness of Japanese art and cultural activities.Read more posts by Paul Baron


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