Product Spotlight: Designing Rivers of Rhythm

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This post is the third in a series about the development of The National Museum of African American Music’s digital exhibit: Rivers of Rhythm. The first two posts in the series introduce the client, as well as detail the planning of the application. In this post, User Experience Designer and Front End Developer Jimmy Thorn discusses the process of determining how to best present the musical data within the product.

One of the most challenging tasks we faced while developing this application was determining how to best present the musical data to our users. Design was extremely important to the client – they wanted to create a digital exhibit that both presented accurate information pertinent to the forthcoming museum and was sleek and attractive for the target audience.

Our team had selected Rovi, a robust third party database of artist information to populate the data within the application. We chose Rovi for a variety of reasons – chief of which is how rich their music database is (it is the same database used by applications such as Spotify and AllMusic), and the fact that the client would not have the manually input musical data, which would save considerable time and effort.

We knew that the product would have a lot of repetitive patterns, due to the prevalent artist influencer and influencee information, and thus we started by wireframing the data as a grid. As we began to design the prototype, we realized the grid and block approach worked well for the shapes of data being pulled from Rovi such as album covers and artist headshots. I worked to create a rough design then passed it off to our Art Director, who took it and polished it: emphasizing the larger images, making it cleaner and more professional.

One large design pivot we made occurred after the prototype process. While the client was pitching potential sponsors with the prototype, we had included a fake sponsor page customizable to the particular pitch. Once Belmont committed to fund the full application build, we wanted to better highlight their relationship with NMAAM. We incorporated subtle but prominent references to Belmont and their role in helping Rivers of Rhythm come to life. Overall, the client was extremely happy with the design – and a Rovi associate even said it was one of the most elegant and visually appealing presentations of their data that they had seen! 

Rivers of Rhythm Grid

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