Jack B Yeats Sketchbooks Tablet Application

  • touchscreen application
  • web application development
  • culture

Communicraft created an android tablet app which would accompany the Jack B Yeats sketchbooks exhibition for National Gallery of Ireland.

The personal sketchbooks of beloved Irish artist Jack B Yeats were put on display for the first time in the National Galley of Ireland in Dublin in 2013. The exhibition brought together and displayed, on carefully selected open pages more than 123 of Yeats’ personal sketches, which the artist created over the years 1897 to 1955. Accompanying these open pages the gallery engaged Communicraft, along with our design partners Design Factory to create an android tablet application which would accompany and enhance the sketchbooks exhibition. The Yeats sketches, were gifted to the National Gallery of Ireland by the artist’s niece Anne Yeats in 1996 and are a wonderful visual record of his experiences of urban and rural life in Ireland and England, and time spent in Europe and New York City in 1904.

Communicraft's challenge was both technical and visual. How to create a simple, intuitive, high quality visual representation of such powerful artworks, but with a subtlety that doesn't cloud the viewers enjoyment of the sketches nor blemish them with user controls or navigation.

Communicraft's challenge was both technical and visual. How to create a simple, intuitive, high quality visual representation of such powerful artworks, but with a subtlety that doesn't cloud the viewers enjoyment of the sketches nor blemish them with user controls or navigation.

It helps greatly that Yeats is a personal favourite of many of the team we assigned to the project. The respect rightly accorded to the artwork by the team resulted in a hugely successful first experiment in the use of digital tools at exhbitions by the National Gallery of Ireland. Technically the challenge too related to respect of the artwork - we wanted to display as many of the pieces in as high resolution as could be achieved, with the smoothest of transitions, in a layout that mimmicked as closely as possible the layout of the sketchbooks themselves.

This is a challenge for a tablet device, which by their nature are limited in terms of "RAM" - the amount of memory available to devices to store the images for immediate recall with zero latency. Through smart coding and a little trial and error we were able to optimise the power of the device and in opening the week the production team proudly escorted their children and significant others around the exhibition in Ireland's National Gallery. They may not have gotten their own artworks displaying in there (not yet at least), but their work made it nonetheless, even if it was in a supporting role!

We first began working with Communicraft on a small project in 2009, and have gradually increased our engagement with them since then on more substantial projects as we recognised their strong technical and creative skill set and reaped the benefits of the insights and advice they offered along the way.

Dr Cian O’Murchu
Projects Director | Tyndall