de Youngsters Studio

Practice Area


de Young Museum

Project Vision

The de Youngsters is an interactive environment in the family gallery of San Francisco’s world-renowned de Young museum that engages children and their caregivers in a participatory fashion, encouraging both physical and digital interaction in a new way.

The design team’s objective was to connect users of the space to the museum’s content and art housed within with a dynamic permanent space that allows children to explore five core artistic concepts: color, composition, shape/form, texture and sculpture. They created an overall single structure made of five wooden cubes designed to isolate each experience while offering transition and discovery. The modules include touch displays, projection tracking and augmented reality as tools to explore these concepts. Also present are projections of circular shapes, triangular ceiling elements and colorful fabric strips that create a lively playground and abstraction of the structure and colorful forms within the de Youngster logo.

The first module consists of a digital column that employs sensor technology so that children can mix and combine primary colors. They do this by dragging their fingers across the column, creating digital pigments. It’s an open space that allows for interaction as kids move around the column exploring color mixing and blending their designs and sharing ideas with one another.

Four light tables at different heights invite children to create a piece of art by using simple acrylic forms for “composition.” As they work on the forms on backlit tables in front of them, the kids can see overhead projections of their compositions on the interior and exterior walls of the module. The larger projection increases a child’s ability to understand scale, while making their creations visible to their parents and other visitors in the surrounding area.

Live cameras capture children’s movement on a two-sided wall surface for “shape & form.” The human form is abstracted as a line, but when two kids’ outlines on the projection meet, intersecting patterns occur. Children work together to discover the various shapes that can be made with the human body. It is an interactive activity about movement and play and encourages physical use of the space.

In “texture,” physical tiles with textural features are placed on large digital touchscreens, creating a canvas where textual patterns are then drawn. Drawing with texture rather than lines is a new experience that makes novel artworks from elements derived from the museum’s fine art collection. Kids “paint” with texture, effectively extracting a 3D representation from a flat surface.

Collections of magnetized blocks are available in a variety of geometric and organic forms in “sculpture.” Kids make sculptures with the blocks and then place them into an augmented reality platform that captures the image in real-time and inserts the creations into an environment of their choice, inside and outside of the museum, like various galleries and the outdoor sculpture garden. Once projected, the dimension and scale of the image can be manipulated, giving kids the experience of creating an object and placing it into the world.

Project Details
Clever incorporation of various interactive technology to consistently engage the young audience. Beautiful.
Juror 1
This combines the use of a restricted color palette and simple shapes with technology serving as an opportunity for children to learn, grow and explore at their own pace.
Juror 2

Tellart (design-build partner)