Draw to Art: How Google created its interactive easel

Draw to Art offers a novel way to explore famous artworks with the help of machine-learning. As part of our Annual 2019 coverage, we talk to Xavier Barrade, Creative Lead at Google Creative Lab, about how it was made

The digital entries to our Annual this year took many forms – from apps and interactive voice experiences to a running track that claims to focus the mind. But all of our selected projects combine a clever use of tech with creative thinking – showing how digital technology can be used to surprise, delight and entertain.

A brilliant example of a project that does all three is Draw to Art – an interactive easel created by Google Creative Lab for Google Arts and Culture. The easel uses machine learning to analyse doodles and serve up visually similar paintings, drawings and sculptures – offering a fun way to browse museum collections.

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.  

Xavier Barrade, Creative Lead at Google Creative Lab, says the project was led by an idea rather than a set brief: “Draw to Art is a good example of the type of innovation projects that are part of the remit of Google Creative Lab,” he explains.

“We always start with a challenge for the brand. This time it was, ‘now that Google Arts & Culture has digitised millions of artworks, it can be hard to discover relevant ones – especially if you are not an art expert’. We wanted to create something that made discovering art accessible and creative,” adds Barrade. The team also wanted to explore new developments in AI – and decide to use machine-learning to solve Google Arts & Culture’s search problem.