Selfie Kiosk
Understanding ways to justify the cost of public art


The 1999 development of Agnes Katz Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh cost the city $4 million dollars at the time. Cloud Gate in Chicago has an annual cleaning budget of $50,000 for buffing and maintenance alone. Public art is part of civic infrastructure and is paid by the resident’s taxes. And although a traffic signal light costs $500,000 to build and install, people never talk about the aesthetic value of traffic lights. It’s also easier to justify the need for a traffic light compared to public art. To investigates the means to measure art's impact on the livability of a city in order to justify the expense of public art, our team began by looking at the shareability of art.
How can we improve the livability of the city by strengthening art viewers’ bonds through the sharing of public art?
Our project goal is to learn more about Pittsburgh locals and visitors’ thoughts and feelings towards public art in order to better understand how and why they share art and the potential bonds they create by sharing. After conducting user research, we decided on the solution of a photo kiosk located near Pittsburgh public art locations. Residents and visitors can take photos of themselves with the art pieces and send it to their personal devices to share with their families and friends.
project name
selfie kiosk
CMU User Centered Research and Evaluation Course
affinity diagram
observe & intercept
think aloud protocol
speed dating
exprience prototyping
user researcher
Celine Chang
Dana Frostig
Erin Fuller
8 weeks

Problem Reframing

walk the wall to consolidate individual research

We found that with regards to public art:
  • People notice art more when they see others looking at art.
  • Even without specific instructions,  some art calls for interaction (e.g. throwing coins in the fountain, sitting on sculptures).
  • Memories and attachment of art can create legacy of the city.

Pain points
  • Information about public art is hard.
  • Public art viewers often don't feel like talking about art because they don't feel knowledgeable.
  • Viewers often want more sensory experience when engaging with an art piece.
  • It's difficult for viewers to share to share the whole art piece/experience due to tech constraints.

  • Ways to increase visibility of information or ways to make information easier to find.
  • Decrease the barrier of speaking about art.
  • Provide an immersive experience.
  • Provide better platforms to view and share public art.
abstraction ladder to dig deep into the root of the problem
how might we...
  • Strengthen a bond between people through public art?
  • Strengthen a bond between people and their communities through public art?
  • Help people form stronger memories around public art?
  • Make it easier to share experiences?
People share pictures because they are social in nature and they want to be more connected. We want to leverage the need for shareable content and find a solution that helps increase the shareability of public art and thus justify its cost.

Think Aloud Protocol

TAP at the museum
To understand the state of how people currently share pictures, we conducted think aloud protocol. We went Carnegie Museum of Art and intercepted art viewers to ask them to choose and to take a picture of any art piece they wanted to share. We first asked them to think out loud as they posted to their preferred social media platform, and then asked them to think out loud as they posted to VSCO.
The more aesthetic and immersive the art the more likely people will be attracted to the art, but how people look in the context of the piece drives the willingness to share.
“I want to be with the art but not with it” [on why taking a picture of art through a mirror]

Observe and Intercept

observe and Intercept at public art locations in Pittsburgh
We went into the field to talk to people and understand their thoughts on public art and specifically sharing public art. Our team observed people around public art locations such as Agnes Katz Plaza and Mellon Park in Pittsburgh and then intercepted them for an interview. Our interviewees included both visitors and local residents and those who appreciated or were indifferent towards public art.
affinity diagram
We used the holtzblatt affinity diagram method to synthesize the observations and findings we gathered. We made over 200 interpretation notes from the interviews and categorized them tournament-style until we came up with two connected categories: Pre looking at the the art:  Factors that influence engagement/sharing” “Post: Engagement/Sharing extends beyond the physical space/moment”
We found that people feel proud to show off the landmarks in their city and when tourists come to the city and make it a point to admire the art. There’s a mutual benefit which exists between people and public art. As public art acts as branding for the city, it can influence people’s view on the city.
"Everyone is a narcissist, they want to take a picture of something that's cool and unlike what's out in the world”
"“I think [Agnes] makes [downtown] that much cooler. I like saying I work downtown because this is a pretty place to go; I really enjoy it.””

User Needs Ideation

walk the wall
Armed with our research artifacts from background research, think aloud protocol, and observe & intercept, we utilized Walk the Wall to uncover a plentitude of user needs.
  • Enough space for a crowd to gather around the art
  • Influencers (like the crazy dancing guy) to draw people’s attention to the art
  • Clean and inviting environment around public art
  • More sensory experience
  • Capture whole art/experience
  • Create bonds between people/community
  • Lower stigma/barrier associated with art
  • Help with taking aesthetically pleasing photos
  • Break from the day; a clear head
  • City’s need: update with a stronger identity
  • Validation (social reputation/ look cool)
crazy 8
From these user needs, we did a crazy 8 session to generate crazy ideas for potential storyboarding.
narrowing down user needs
Out of the 32 ideas, we derived 4 major user needs. The user needs we focused on were:
  • Art that attracts people’s attention
  • Creation of a bond with others/community/city
  • Take an aesthetically pleasing picture
  • Feel more immersed with public art and have multi-sensory experiences

Storyboarding and Speed Dating

sketching storyboards
From the four main user needs we uncovered, we sketched 12 storyboards for speed dating. Each user need had a low-crazy idea, medium-crazy idea and high-crazy idea so we can gain strong actions from our testers.
speed dating
speed dating insights
Our speed dating insights included:
  • change/novelty increases the visibility of public art  
  • people are not only concerned about taking pretty photos, but also having the photos be unusual/unique.
concept ideation
We took these insights to come up with our final idea: a photo kiosk aimed at the public art. People can select a unique background that will appear behind them and the art when they use the kiosk to take photos. User can then enter their email or phone number to have the photos taken on the kiosk sent to their phones. They can then save the photos and upload them to social media or send directly to their friends and families.

Experience Prototyping

rapid prototyping
Once the concept was formed, we rapidly prototyped and brought our idea to life to bring out into the field for testing.  Our prototype is a low fidelity version of a photo kiosk built using foam core, paper and aluminum foil.
experience prototyping in the field
We went to downtown Pittsburgh and set up our kiosk at Agnes Katz Plaza.  We recruited participants as they walked by the plaza. The participants were told to interact with the kiosk as if we were not present and to talk aloud throughout the process.  We performed Wizard of Oz as the participants clicked through the “screens” by making “beep” noises and switching the “screens” according to the users choices.
The participants we tested didn’t seem to have issues with the kiosk usability overall. Our main insight was that even in a familiar environment, novelty or change such as the presence of a kiosk, will attract people’s attention.
“Young people like any selfie opportunity; so you get a group of friends, they’ll stop for sure”
"I pass by this everyday but if there was something new it would catch my eye”


if I had more time....I would...
  • Create a mid-fidelity wireframe so that it stands on its own for testing to see if the kiosk itself will attract viewers.
  • Test for longer time periods to see the engagement throughout the day or even week.
  • Place the kiosk at different public art places  locations to see if the kiosk will increase engagement in less well-known art pieces.
if I could go back in time...I would...
  • Create customer journey map as a team to better understand the current state and preferred state of public art engagement after our product is implemented.