Uniform creates interactive donations box for Dundee arts centre

Creative agency Uniform has designed an interactive donations box for Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre, based on research that suggests increasing visitor engagement could boost donation revenue at free venues.

Creative agency Uniform has designed an interactive donations box for Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre, based on research that suggests increasing visitor engagement could boost donation revenue at free venues.

The Pixel ArtCade machine is made up of three giant, illuminated pixels. When visitors insert money, the pixels change colour, shifting one step along the RGB colour wheel. Visitors who create a triadic colour combination (a mix of colours evenly spaced on the colour wheel) unlock a secret game.

The concept is based on a study carried out by local game design company Denki on whether video game theory and design could be used to improve donations.

Denki began by comparing DCA’s visitor donations to similar venues to determine if figures were below average, but discovered the amount received was “pretty typical”. The company then interviewed a number of people about donating to free venues and found that most didn’t see it as a priority.

“If the lights are on, the doors are open and there aren’t any reports of imminent closure…then their assumption is that free-entry organisations are already adequately funded…so they don’t feel especially compelled to give further,” says Denki’s managing director Colin Anderson.

Despite it being easy to donate via a box at the venue’s entrance, visitors were choosing not to, and Denki concluded that this was due to a lack of engagement, rather than a lack of convenience.

“We had to create something that not only asked for donations but gave something back. The most successful route was to create something that was playful…physical and tangible,” explains Anderson.

Denki appointed Uniform to create the installation and the agency worked with Professor Jon Rogers, chair of creative technology at the University of Dundee, and Patrick Stevenson-Keating at London-based studio PSK, on its build and design.

Pete Thomas, Futures Director at Uniform, says there were several constraints to the project – mainly a lack of sound. “It was important for both ticket desk and galleries teams tha the machine didn’t make any noise in operation, so the interaction is very simple.

“When money is dropped into it, a laser is broken, the pixel changes colour and message box flashes up a ‘thank you’ for in the same colour for a few seconds. The pixels will stay on this new colour until a new player changes them,” he explains.

The machine also had to appeal to both adults and children and be durable enough to withstand “late night revellers,” says Thomas.

As well as housing a shop, print studio, restaurant and research hub, DCA is home to an art gallery and cinema and regularly hosts multimedia and screen based art, which Thomas says inspired the studio’s decision to create an RGB light installation. “It was important that we created reflected the scope of activities at DCA,” he says.

The project is one of a series supported by the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture Organisations in Scotland, an initiative funded by Nesta, Creative Scotland and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Lorna Edwards, programme manager for Nesta, says the fund has financed 10 schemes that utilise technology to increase revenue to arts and cultural organisations.

In London, Barger Osgerby and Universal Design Studio recently created a ‘Fundraiser Desk‘ for London’s Science Museum, which visitors had to pass through on entering the venue. The project increased donations by 80 percent and received a gold award at DBA’s Design Effectiveness Awards last week.

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