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Reimagining the Gallery in a Digital Era

UX, CX, Tech





Virtual space has become as critical a component of our outreach as our physical galleries and research centre.

Client Profile

The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) is a multifunctional space dedicated to research, education, and exhibition of photography and related media. They are active throughout the cultural fabric of Toronto, and the national and international artistic community. The RIC maintains a collection of over 292,000 image records from the Black Star collection—noted for its historical importance in photojournalism.


Having conducted a rebrand in 2012, the RIC had maintained a website that had become out-of-date, clunky, and difficult to maintain. In addition to the internal challenges of maintaining the website, it was not user-friendly, mobile-optimized, and most importantly it did not reflect the—clean minimal and image-focused RIC brand. The disjointed experience between the contemporary architecture of the RIC—designed and built by Diamond and Schmitt Architects—it did not match the tangible experience of visiting the gallery.

“Not everyone has the chance to travel to the RIC, but we want those who visit our site to get a good feel for what we do, maybe even enough to inspire booking that flight to Toronto.”

—Erin Warner, Marketing and Communications


With such a broad audience and curatorial mandate, it would have been hard to approach without a defined process. Our design process to address this focused on collecting stakeholder interviews. These were essential for understanding the nuanced needs of our multitiered audience. Once synthesized, this research revealed three overlapping needs: global navigation, visibility of exhibition programming, content grouping. It was clear that the RIC needed a vehicle to nurture its new identity and grow its audience.


Our research revealed that the user journey was fragmented, and the mandate of the organization was unclear. This friction of poor user experience and a disjointed brand narrative was having a negative impact on both internal and external stakeholders. A large percentage of consumers form an opinion about a brand based on aesthetics and user experience. The results can be, decrease in returning visitors, low conversion rates, and a lack of brand engagement.

Our user-centered solution focussed on two core areas: aesthetics, and usability. After conducting a landscape audit of design patterns, we narrowed in on our aesthetic framework; generous whitespace, minimal colour, high contrast, and prioritization of visual content. Usability was a longer engagement that required a complete re-evaluation of the architecture. We worked closely with the RIC team to define core areas and pathways for their stakeholders. The finalized architecture would prioritize exhibitions and events over everything else to ensure that new visitors and returning visitors were no more than a single click away from this key content.

Another challenge of running an exhibition space is related to tours and sales. Prior to this project, the RIC had not employed any technology to aid in tour booking, research, and publication sales. We implemented new workflows and tools that allowed the RIC an ability to automate previously manual processes.

“We’ve also been able to automate processes, such as online tour booking forms, an online shop, and more. This has helped us streamline administrative tasks, so that staff is able to use that time elsewhere.”

—Erin Warner, Marketing and Communications


With a new aesthetic to match the on-site experience, a streamlined user experience, and automated services, the RIC was renewed. Once launched, the organizational impact was nearly immediate with staff feeling a deeper connection to the digital equivalent of the RIC. This work has greatly enhanced their ability to grow their audience.

“The site is clean, smart, user-friendly, and the ease of navigation enables us to reach new audiences and better serve existing ones, which helps us expand our reach better than any ad could.”

—Director, Ryerson Image Centre


Increasing revenue by redefining the customer experience


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