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Case: Night of the Arts

A communal art piece - on smartphones and the biggest digital screens of Helsinki!

Case: Mobile App for The Night of the Arts
Client: Helsinki Festival
Tasks: Implementation for iPhone/Windows Phone/Android, service and UX design, server implementation

Background & goals

The Night of the Arts is a city festival organised by Helsinki Festival. It is held annually on one night in August and consists of several small events, most of which are located around the city centre.

In 2014, anyone could organise their own event at the festival. Therefore it was known that there would be even more buzz than in previous years. This was also part of the reason why Helsinki Festival wanted to build a special mobile experience around Night of the Arts that would serve as a cool marketing stretch and also a handy way for the audience to check what was going on at the festival at any given time.

In recent years, event apps have become increasingly popular. Unfortunately however, they don’t often offer much more than an alternative to a paper brochure. With this app, we wanted something different. The Night of the Arts deserved an app that was bold and fresh—something that could only be done in the mobile environment, but was not limited to it.

After careful consideration, we decided that besides being a typical brochure/timetable, the app should first and foremost be these three things:

Communal – Because the event itself was more communal than ever, it was logical that the app too would reflect this idea.

Surprising – The app needed to utilise the mobile platforms in a clever way and induce a sense of awe in its audience.

An experience – We wanted the audience to feel like they were part of something bigger. The experience had to be a spectacle that would invite the users to participate in it.

 
 
The Solution
 
 

Our solution was to build a Living Art Map. The idea was as follows: the audience would download the Night of the Arts application to their phones and see what events were on offer or starting nearby. Just by having the app turned on, they would also automatically send data of their movement. We would gather this data in real time an visualise it on the map. The ever-updating image would the re-distributed to the phones of all users – and to the biggest digital screens in Helsinki for everyone to behold.

The result was a visually striking communal art piece. Participating was dead simple: one would only have to download the app and not turn it off.

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After developing the idea further for a little while we started working – and in no time the festival night was at hand. We did not want to draw the map away from the audience, which is why we created our very own event at the festival and named it the MapLab.

MapLab was our “art laboratory”, where the visitors could see how the map was created on the spot – and even contribute to the outlook together with the white-coated art laborants of Taiste.

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Throughout the night, numerous variations of the outlooks were born. The audience was especially astounded when they saw their own vision come alive on the public digital screens. Above you can see some of the different versions of the art map.

 
 
The Digital Screens
 
 

The art map was shown on the digital screens of trams and metros—and on top of everything, on Narinkkatori’s The Wall, the biggest digital screen in Finland. On these screens, the map was updated every ten minutes. With help from the festival visitors, the MapLab team created imaginative visualisations of the collected data points, so no image during the night was alike.

The digital screens and MapLab ensured that the app was hard to avoid, whether you participated in the festival or not. The aesthetically stunning map served as a striking and unique outdoor ad for the app, Taiste and Helsinki Festival alike.

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The fact that the app was in active for just one night created huge pressure for our tech team. There was no room for fatal bugs, otherwise it would be game over. In the end, our biggest challenges were related to the external feeds, since the large amount of users occasionally slowed them down. There were many close calls, but luckily at the end of the day everything went extremely well.

The app was a success in numbers, too: over 8000 users was a remarkable achievement for an app that was only in use for one night. This was partly due to successful marketing: the Living Art Map was projected to the many digital screens around Helsinki, including the ones at metros and trams and the huge one at Narinkkatori. Measured in visibility alone, the project was probably the most significant in our company’s history so far. For the Helsinki Festival, the app functioned as a cool and modern marketing tool with an important message: the most important part of any festival are the people who show up.

 
 
The Results
 
 

Besides being visible in the cityscape, the app gathered attention in the Finnish media, most notably in the evening news of MTV3, Helsingin Sanomat, Hufvudstadsbladet, Me Naiset and Metro.

The unique idea did spark interest: the app got over 8 000 downloads, 75% of which were downloaded during the actual night. The result is impressive considering the application was only in use for a short while.

The Living Art Map was a successful marketing stretch for both Helsinki Festival and Taiste. Its biggest value was in the way it managed to offer a truly creative approach to big event applications and utilised the possibilities of mobile marketing by reaching the audience in the heat of the action.

Below you can watch the whole life cycle of the Living Art Map. The animation was created directly after the festival, in the very early hours of the next morning on our way back home.

This has been one of the most memorable projects in my career. The fact that all the work culminated to just one night, gave a special kind of exciting twist to it all. I have to admit being extremely relieved, when the movements of the visitors started appearing on the biggest digital screen in Finland. Because of numerous technical uncertainties, that screen could have in the worst possible scenario been left blank.

Ville Kaisla

Design Director, Taiste

The application's functionality was extremely important during the Night of the Arts, because it was not in use before it or after it. Reliability and trust meant everything. Taiste succeeded superbly in this. The same could be said about the project as a whole, too.

Anu Kauppi

Marketing and Communications Manager, Helsinki Festival

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