Seeing in Style Adobe at the 2017 de Youngsters Art Party

About the Event

The de Youngsters Art Party raises funds to support programs and expand access for all families at the de Young and Legion of Honor. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are committed to ensuring that families of all shapes, sizes, and demographics feel welcome, and the money raised via the Art Party benefit enables the Museums to fulfill that commitment.

The 2017 art party was attended by over 1000 guests from 200 Bay Area families and raised a record $257,000.

Monies raised support such initiatives as...

  • Drop-in Family Welcome Station and Art Tables
  • Free family events at the de Young and Legion of Honor
  • Eight fully-funded scholarships to Summer Art Camp at the de Young
  • Family Access Days, held in partnership with the nonprofit organization Support For Families Of Children With Disabilities
  • Underwriting for ten SFUSD high school students in the Museum Ambassador program, which trains San Francisco public high school students to serve as museum educators
  • Family Audience Research to inform development of activities and services for family visitors
  • Family-friendly membership brochures, newsletters, and other print and digital collateral
Adobe was the lead sponsor of this year's event, contributing 25k in sponsorship funds, 17k in production costs and over 350 hours of in-kind staff time from a team of eight to produce the custom style transfer photo booths that served as the event centerpiece. Three additional Adobe volunteers joined the team to staff the experience the night of the party.

Why Style Transfer?

The photo booths created for this year's event grew out of months of deep collaboration with the museum, during which we explored ways of employing Adobe technology to foster meaningful engagement and close interaction with actual works of art in the collection. Our team envisioned style transfer as a technology of great museum potential; a visitor might explore the collections and, using the de Young's existing application (driven by iBeacons), would be notified when they approached a work of art that could be "experienced through style." Using their phone's camera, they could then compose in the style of that work as they simultaneously experienced it in real life, building connections between their own creative potential and the fundamentals of artistic style.

Modern collection galleries at the de Young Museum.

As the de Youngsters event drew closer on the calendar and the underlying theme of this year's Art Party was announced – "shape", due to the popular Frank Stella retrospective on view – the team knew our explorations in style transfer had the potential to be a big hit for hundreds of next-gen creative partygoers.

Project Team

  • Geoff Oxholm, Research Engineer, Creative Technologies Lab
  • Lisa Temple, Community Engagement Manager, Digital Media
  • Seth Walker, Senior Experience Designer, Creative Technologies Lab
  • Erik Natzke, Principal Artist in Residence, Creative Technologies Lab
  • Sam Wick, Senior Experience Designer, Lead, Adobe Design
  • Tanya Siadneva, Experience Designer, Adobe Design
  • Mark Kuman, Jr., Project Manager, Creative Technologies Lab
  • Tom Nguyen, Next Gen Creativity, DI Product Management

(Special thanks to our repeat volunteers Cézanne Baghdadlian, Patti Sokol, and Ileana Funez for supporting the team the night of the event)

Adobe 2017 de Youngsters team and night-of volunteers in action.

Development + Testing

The photo booths were developed in the Adobe Creative Technologies Lab at 601 Townsend throughout the fall of 2016. The donation of time and expertise by a team spread across CTL, Adobe Design, Education, and Product Management was critical not only to the success of the experience, but ultimately to the de Youngsters event on the whole. By September, the team had already developed a solid style transfer algorithm and tested it in a prototype application with visitors on the floor of the museum: a project known as "the artistic eye". Getting ready for the de Youngsters event therefore meant figuring out how to go bigger, and create a magical stand-alone style transfer experience that would run flawlessly under the crush of hundreds of little users in a short timeframe.

By the time the new year dawned, a test installation of one 85" photo booth was live in Landmark 193 at 601 Townsend. Adobe staff got to give it a whirl – and put it through the ringer.
601 Townsend facilities team stylize themselves in the manner of Wayne Thiebaud's masterpiece, Three Machines.

All our testing helped us shape a streamlined final product for the de Youngsters event:

1. Users began their session by choosing from a collection of colorful props, including cut-out cardboard shapes, emojis, abstract frames, and glasses printed with art from the museum's collection (which they were free to keep as a souvenir).

2. Users were then directed into one of two life-sized "photo booths", activated by an Adobe staffer, which captured a sequence of images automatically on an 85" display.

3. Users moved on to a second 65" touchscreen display, where their images appeared automatically along with a selection of art from the museum's collection; here, a simple timed workflow guided them through stylizing their photos.

4. Users were then directed to the printing station – the last stop – where they picked up their finished images in a folio that matched their stylizations to the museum masterpieces on which they were based.

5. Each user's printout also included a password to retrieve their images online instantly at a secure website; from there, they could save their digital originals, revisit the museum works of art, and share to social media.

Together, we captured 312 unique photo booth sessions, stylizing almost 2,500 images and printing 600 takeaways over the course of the three-hour event.

What We Learned

The night of the Art Party was a tremendous success, during which we demonstrated several areas of improvement over 2016. Key takeaways included:

  • Last year, we were plagued by too many points of choice in our experience, and we zeroed in and definitely fixed that issue in 2017. We created a streamlined, timed and controlled flow that allowed us to accommodate every family at the party (multiple times, even), with no major technical difficulties. This approach gives us a great framework in which to think about the product potential of this technology.
  • We do, however, want to continue to challenge ourselves to keep experiences like these highly creative. What made our experience "messy" in 2016, also made it wild and expressive; we sacrificed some of that in order to have a smoother event this year and, going forward, we will continue to bring together our various team members' expertise in ways that help us marry the messy with the streamlined.
  • The experience was built around a server that we brought to the museum and ran on a local network. While setting it up was easy, it's not terribly convenient and it's also risky, dragging the server around. A better solution would be to stylize from a portable machine, or to run the photo booths over the internet.
  • There are still a few places for improvement in our UI; we noticed these during the calm points, when there wasn't a constant stream of users interacting with the photo booths and, consequently, learning from those that went before them.
  • Our multiple stations (which shielded against the few technical hiccups we did experience) and the additional setup time we gave ourselves were huge factors in how smooth things ran the night of the event.
  • We invested more time, energy, and resources in documenting and telling the story of this year's event, and already this has paid off in terms of continued momentum around the work put into the photo booths and the underlying style transfer technology.

Where the "Artistic Eye" Will Go Next

In February 2017, team members Geoff Oxholm and Seth Walker will present the photo booths at the Adobe Tech Summit and Fair in San Jose. A long list of ideas for continued exploration and application of the "artistic eye" and style transfer technology still remains, including...

1. Sharing our work with the Capture team, with the goal of "capturing" style from an existing image to your CC libraries.

2. Refining the existing algorithm and experience to allow for degrees of stylization, giving the user more creative control over altering their images; also, integrating professional Photoshop workflows such as masking, compositing, etc.

3. Adding support for video content.

4. Using the existing hardware/interface to explore other ways of altering photos, beyond neural style transfer.

5. Showcasing the existing photo booths at corporate locations/events as a uniquely Adobe employee engagement experience.

"Once again, Adobe's station was the must-do activity at the Art Party. What was especially exciting is the fact that the kids were testing a state-of-the art technology that museums such as the de Young can actually use to engage visitors. How better to inspire our 21st-century audience to interact with art than through style? The Adobe experience caught partygoers’ eyes and empowered them to create and personalize fun, artistic selfies unique to the museum."

– Lisa Podos, Director of Advancement + Engagement, FAMSF

"Projects like these provide a great opportunity to break out of day to day work... to do new things and work with new people... I feel like I’ve learned a lot about how (Adobe Research) operates and have gotten to know people on the team. It's also really exciting to be part of work that exists inside a museum... there is a feeling of personal validation that comes with it." – Sam Wick, Senior Experience Designer, Lead / Adobe Design

For more information about Adobe at the 2017 de Youngsters Art Party, contact Lisa Temple at

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