Zhenya Rynzhuk on the digital design decisions behind the interactive Covid Art Museum

Zhenya Rynzhuk, co-founder of Synchronized Studio, discusses the technical details behind the innovative website design which is full of unexpected surprises.

10 June 2021


The Covid Art Museum is the world’s first museum for art borne during the Covid-19 quarantine. Founded by three friends working in Barcelona’s advertising agency – José Guerrero, Emma Calvo and Irene Llorca (otherwise known as CAM) – the project exists on a micro site developed by Zhenya Rynzhuk, co-founder of Synchronized Studio. Currently exhibiting more than 800 artworks from over 70,000 submissions and 120 different countries, the project is upheld by a bold visual identity showcasing the breadth of content inside the digital museum.

Speaking to Zhenya about the mammoth project, she tells us how the concept resonated a lot with the team at Synchronized. In turn, the studio wanted to find a way to express the multiplicity of the work inside the digital archive, spanning photography, video, drawings, set design, poetry, performance and more. The platform aims to depict the reality of the work, not just a mere documentation of it. It shares the artists’ experiences and emotions, shining a light on how the pandemic affected peoples’ lives as told by the people themselves.

“If we look back at the grid in some time, we can see how the situation as been evolving and how people perceived this situation and overcame it,” Zhenya tells us. “This is not a platform primarily focused on the art itself, it is much beyond that. It is a collection of real stories, emotions and happenings shared by people across the globe in the format that they found to be the most comfortable for them to speak up.” When CAM approached Zhenya with the brief, it was full of flexibility. As they liked the studio’s previous work, they gave full reign as to how to approach the project creatively. As long as it provided a space for people all over the world to submit work, get support from other peers and some media exposure during the days of quarantine, that was the main thing.

As a result, Zhenya and the rest of Synchronized came up with a grid system to hold the work. Devising a clear separation of the cells to reflect social distancing measures, the website also has a few surprises in store – this includes micro-interactions, so that users can play with the grid by clicking on some empty cells and disclosing what’s hidden within. The reveal sees new work from a contributor, a quotation or even a social distancing disclaimer in some parts. Playfully engaging with the grid which is historically static and concrete, Synchronized wanted the website design to pique the user’s interest by turning concept on its head.

One integral aspect of Synchronized’s process is to cooperate with the development team from an early stage. This means that the overall concept for the project is based not only on the designer’s opinion but also the technological details and novelties. Balancing the delicate grid system with a bold and large display font, the team made highly considered design choices to make The Covid Art Museum as unique and multi-layered as the pandemic itself. For one, the About page has an alternative aesthetic to the homepage with more of a type heavy focus, though ensuring it is clear and informative at the same time.

“The website features quite a few Easter offs among which is the colour mode switcher,” adds Zhenya. “At Synchronized, we love playing around with the 404 pages since there is always a lot of space for creativity when it comes to the error page,” she says on another fun quirk on the website. When it comes to the loader, Synchronized decided to place the artwork upfront so the viewer gets an idea of what the website is about from the second it opens. “With the help of motion,” she continues, “we’ve also tried to make the loader feel rather dynamic as we wanted to convey the feeling that the platform is vivid and all-embracing so the user will get certain emotions after visiting the site.”

Born and raised in Ukraine, Zhenya’s creative background is in architecture and urban spacing, an education that has helped her form considered notions of interaction and space. It wasn’t until a short stint of working as an architect that she moved into digital design, a practice that also looked to other fields from photography to graphic design and new technologies – which, in turn, pushes her work into a number of other directions to continuously improve it. With an evolving style, she prides herself on an eagerness to try new things while making each project memorable with distinct personality. Whatever the project, she is always looking to the detail, trying to define certain visual accents in order to offer the user nugget after nugget of information. Though she classifies herself as “a big fan of minimalistic design,” she tries to find a happy balance between cleanness and character, achieving a unique and personal touch.

In doing this, The Covid Art Museum hopes to inspire other people to express their emotion in new ways, creating new, unapologetic artwork that isn’t afraid to get some feedback or support. It’s a mentality shared by Synchronized who are always moving forwards to improve their digital projects and refine its visual language further. “We are also very keen on taking on new interesting projects that go beyond just web but can have offline applications,” Zhenya finally goes on to say. “What’s crucial is to do projects that you really enjoy working on, that inspire and resonate with your beliefs and that leave nobody indifferent.”

GallerySynchronized Studio in collaboration with CAM: The Covid Art Museum (Copyright © Synchronized Studio, 2021)

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Synchronized Studio in collaboration with CAM: The Covid Art Museum (Copyright © Synchronized Studio, 2021)

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.


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