Draw to Art by Google Creative Lab

Interactive installations can be needlessly complex, putting off the very users they mean to attract. But Draw to Art makes it simple and fun to engage with historic and contemporary art collections

This project was selected as Best in Book in The Annual 2019, CR’s award scheme celebrating the best in creativity 

Draw to Art offers a novel way to explore famous artworks from museum collections. The interactive easel uses machine learning to analyse doodles and serve up visually similar paintings, drawings and sculptures.

The mobile installation was unveiled at Google Cultural Institute’s lab in Paris and has since travelled to several museums and events in Europe and the US. It was designed by Google Creative Lab as part of Google Arts and Culture’s initiative to make art more accessible.

The experience requires little explanation: users make a drawing on the left and similar artworks are served up on the right, making it accessible to museum visitors of all ages. It can be set up and transported easily, and provides a low-cost alternative to bespoke installations.

Users make a drawing on the left side of the interactive easel and the right side matches it with similar works from the museum’s collection
The easel is intuitive and can recognise visual features in doodles – like shapes, lines and perspectives

“Google Arts & Culture asked us to create a way to help people discover the millions of pieces in the collection in a relevant and personal way in any physical space,” says Google Creative Lab.

The team spent the first month of the project testing machine learning models and prototyping user interfaces before finalising the design and working with a product designer to create the interactive easels. “Using machine learning, we trained a deep neural network to recognise visual features in doodles, like shapes, lines and perspectives. We also trained it to recognise the same features in paintings, sketches and sculptures,” the group explains. “The best matches are then presented to the user, who can help teach the neural network by rating matches to help improve the results for everyone.”

While Draw to Art makes use of some clever tech, its brilliance lies in its simplicity. Google Creative Lab has produced an intuitive installation that allows people to discover art using their imagination, offering a more tangible and engaging experience than scrolling through a digital archive.

Client: Google Arts and Culture. Creative Agency: Google Creative Lab