Project: First Thursday

App name: 1st Thursday

Team: Kwame Harlin, Yun Li, and Erika Takeuchi

The First Thursday iPhone app would help curious art lovers explore Seattle’s famous First Thursday art walk in Pioneer Square and learn more about local artists and their collections.  When First Thursday started in 1981, art dealers used to paint footprints on the sidewalk to help guide people from gallery to gallery.  Since then, the art walk has grown to cover over 54 blocks, leaving it hard to know where to start.  The First Thursday iPhone app would be the perfect pocket companion to the art walk, allowing you to easily view nearby galleries relative to where you are on a map.  It would also provide a quick way to view and search for participating studios and galleries, find out what their hours are, and learn about the artists and their art.


According to the First Thursday website, First Thursday in Pioneer Square is one of the first art walks in the United States.  It all started in 1981 when a group of Pioneer Square art dealers printed handout maps, did small-scale promotions, and painted footprints on the sidewalk on the first Thursday of the month.  Today, we find Pioneer Square remains at the heart of Seattle’s art scene with a wide range of art from sketches to mixed-media installations that often rotate month to month.  And on the first Thursday of every month, faceless brick buildings and studios big and small open their doors and transform Pioneer Square into one big, free art festival.  Arts and culture play an essential role in making Seattle a vibrant city bubbling with creativity, innovation, and opportunity and a remarkable place to live, work and visit.

The art scene and community in Pioneer Square is also significant because it contributed to the urban renewal that occurred in an area which used to even be feared by police themselves.  The area north of Yesler Way, the main east-west street that runs through Pioneer Square once was known as “the Deadline,” the northern border of the “restricted district” where crime, drugs and prostitution filled the streets and buildings.  In the 1960s, rehabilitation of the neighborhood began and artists began to carve out space in the area.

An iPhone app could allow both locals and tourists to better explore and appreciate this vibrant and organic art scene and community.  It would provide an on-the-go tool where people can easily find and navigate to participating studios and galleries, and learn more about the art and artist.  The app would also help artists promote their work and connect with fans and buyers.

First Thursday does have a paper walking map and website, but it is pretty cumbersome to unfold the 20×30 poster-sized map and the website is not optimized for mobile devices.  Additionally, the map and website are not updated very frequently, so the information is static, high level, and outdated.  For example, the venue page on the website for Noble Horse Gallery is still promoting an exhibit that ran from November to December of 2008.  And 619, a building that houses over 100 artists among its 6 stories is nowhere to be found on the walking map.  Even the website and walking map are at odds, listing different start times for First Thursday.  Additionally, the map is not widely distributed –this past First Thursday, it was only available in small quantities at a random table in Occidental Park (an open square that houses the First Thursday vendor booths).  An iPhone app would better serve the First Thursday explorer, because the information can be at your fingertips and much more dynamic– allowing you to look at a GPS-enabled map, filter for studios/galleries, and share and connect with others while on the go. 


The First Thursday’s audience is comprised of community-conscious art enthusiasts, art investors, and tourists in the area who come to experience the talent of local artists in the form of visual and performance arts.  Unfortunately, there is virtually no information on just who frequents the art walk.  We were able to get in touch with the Alliance for Pioneer Square and they confirmed that there currently has not been any research or surveys to learn more about the demographics or volume of visitors to First Thursday.  It is difficult to gauge the exact number of attendees to First Thursday each month due to the numerous indoor exhibitions from private galleries combined with public exhibits along the pioneer square streets and parks. Generally, based on observation alone, First Thursday can attract hundreds of visitors each month.  It also tends to attract a wide variety of characters from people dressed in full costume for the occasion to those who just can’t pass up a free event.

Scope and key features:

Below, we have grouped major features of the First Thursday app into 3 different versions.  In version 1, we plan to focus on surfacing basic navigation, venue and artist information, and sharing tools.  In version 2, we look to bring in more personalized and interactive features.  And in version 3, we look for partners that can broaden the reach and sophistication of the app.

Version 1

  • Location Services: integration with Google maps to display venues closest to your current location
  • Find artists and venues by category:
    • Art type
    • Art medium
    • Venues
    • Artists
  • Venue and artist detail pages with basic information such as hours, address, description, and also UGC info like ratings, comments, and a photo gallery.
  • Boolean search functionality
  • About page: lists information about First Thursday, a link to the First Thursday website and a way to email in feedback and questions.
  • Share options: share favorite artists and venues with friends through email, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Save favorites: Bookmark favorite artists and venues that you want to follow or save by adding them to your Favorites folder

 Version 2

  • Push notification reminders for First Thursday and optional reminders for events by your favorite artist/venue
  • Incorporate nearby restaurants on the map
  • Plan a specific art walk path and share this with friends
  • Action sheet where you can connect with artists by email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Version 3

  • Integrate turn by turn technology to help guide people inside buildings
  • Possible integration with FourSquare
  • Possible integration with Seattle Art Museum
  • Tastefully weave in advertisements for sponsors/advertisers

Screen shots:



Information flow:

Below, we’ve mapped out the key information flow from the 1st Thursday app home screen and 3 main tabs: Nearby, Categories and Favorites.  As noted in the screenshot in the previous section, the Home Screen features 3 next steps: a button for “About” that links to more information about First Thursday and the app, a button for “Most Popular” that takes you to a listing of the top-rated venues, and a search box where you can search for a specific artist and venue.


People who are visiting First Thursday would use the iPhone app for 4 core scenarios: 1. Locating nearby galleries, 2. Figuring out where the hot spots are, 3. Finding a specific type of art, 4. Saving and sharing favorites.

Scenario 1: Locating nearby galleries

Let’s say you’ve just found parking at 3rd and Occidental (lucky you), and you’re excited to gallery hop, but are not sure where to start. With the first Thursday iPhone app, you would simply click the “Nearby” tab, allow the app to find your location and then you would see a map with a blue dot showing your current location and red pins marking the studios/galleries closest to you. Then, you could get more details on the studio/gallery and current art being showcased. And when you’ve settled on the first destination, you just click on the address and it will help guide you there with walking directions.


Below shows the info flow for scenario 1, including navigation from the home screen to the “Nearby” tab to view the closest galleries and then the possible next steps to view the venue detail page or artist detail page.  Then, you can go deeper by browsing the photo galleries or get directions or a list of all venues and artists.

Scenario 2: Figuring out where the hot spots are

It’s easy to miss a lot of the First Thursday gems – from an alley that has a buffet spread and a jazz singer to an exhibition and concert that salutes the female designers behind many great bands called “Thunderbitch.” With the First Thursday app, you can get a better pulse on the hot spots by tapping the “Most popular” button on the home screen. From there, you can browse the top rated studios and events. You can also access additional information about the exhibit and artist and then map out directions.

Scenario 3: Finding a specific type of art

Sometimes you’re on a mission….like finding the perfect painting to fill that big boring wall that is going to make or break the feng shui in your new apartment. You’re really into Japanese art, so you turn to the First Thursday iPhone app to quickly hunt down galleries to visit.

You can do this in 2 ways. You can use the search box from the home screen and query “Japanese art” to see a list of results and then click, “Show all on map” to find the one nearest to you.

Or if you’re having second thoughts about Japanese paintings and want to see what your options are, you can start by selecting the “Browse Categories” tab and select the type of Art you are looking for: “Paintings.” And then, you can view the list of studios and artists and read about and view samples of their art.

Scenario 4: Saving and sharing favorites

With First Thursday’s diverse range of art, you’re bound to find something you love. With the iPhone app, you get to decide whether to keep it to yourself or tell the world about it. You can take photos of your favorite artwork and then post them to the venue details page. Or rate the studio 1-5 stars and share comments with the community such as, “Loving Punch Gallery’s orange crush theme! And, the free oranges and orange crush!” You can also easily share a studio or artist page with friends through email, Facebook and Twitter.

To post a photo to the gallery page, you click on “choose photo” and then pick the photo from your iPhone collection.

Data sources:

The First Thursday website and the Alliance for Pioneer Square would be our initial base for information about participating venues. The website currently lists 86 venue profiles with a main photo, address, description, art category, typical hours, and sometimes featured exhibit. Additionally, their website has a profile request form if you want to be listed in the participating venues section, so we would want to get access to submissions so we could update the app.

However, since first hand use has shown that there is a lot of out to date information on the website, we are prepared for a lot of “door to door” information gathering and promotion of the app to the venues and artists.  We would also plan to manually pull in the information that artists and venues post to their individual websites.  There is an incentive for venues and artists to participate and update their information in the app to attract additional foot traffic and grow awareness of their art, which we hope will fuel participation.  When we chatted with one of the vendors who had a mobile booth in Occidental Park, she agreed that most people would be happy to help give their information or at least a business card to get an app started.  The Dumbo Art under the Bridge Festival app, which we discuss below, leveraged participation from the artists and they received artist biographies, statements, photos and videos.

Lastly, we would want to invite the community to help keep information current and to flesh out information about the venues as they each often have their own quirks, styles and attractions.

Competing apps:

There aren’t any true competitors here, however, there are a few apps within the art industry that serve as good models and talking points for how this First Thursday app could function to solve some of the scenarios we outlined.

AMNH Explorer

This personal tour guide for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City has a number of features and design elements that we would look to leverage. We plan to mimic the home screen design by showcasing art from a First Thursday artist in the background and having translucent overlay buttons that large enough to be finger-friendly. Additionally, we like how the “Directory” tab screen displays a list with visual icons. On the back of an exhibit card, you can open an action sheet to share through email, Twitter and Facebook, add a bookmark and mark that you’ve visited the exhibit. They also have turn by turn directions to help you navigate through a digital floor plan of the museum to a given exhibit, which is something we would look to adopt in a later release of our app.


There are a few things that aren’t intuitive about the app – you need to press a small info button in the bottom right corner of the exhibit card to view the back of the card for the interactive features.  And when you select a specific exhibit, you lose the bottom nav bar and to get to the home screen, you need to press “Directory” or step your way back. You also need to connect to the museum’s wifi through your settings and safari first.   However, they do have a 3 minute video tutorial that walks you through all the key features and use cases of the app, which you can find off of the info button on nav bar, which is well done if you find it.  They also leveraged this video on their website, although it unfortunately falls below the fold of the page.  We also plan to create a video tutorial, which would serve as both a marketing tool and a how-to tutorial, but would look to showcase it more prominently.

Dumbo Art under the Bridge Festival (Free in iTunes) – This app was created to help people navigate the 3 day art festival in Brooklyn.  The artist information in this app, including the artist vision, recorded statements, photos, and information about the project, was all submitted by the festival artists themselves.  Our goal would be to similarly leverage artist participation in the First Thursday app to get detailed artist pages and keep the info up to date. Additionally, we would leverage the photo gallery where you swipe your finger to view additional photos in full screen, and the sharing features on the artist page where you can easily send to a friend via Facebook and email.

NY ArtBeat, an art and design events guide, allows you to find current and upcoming art events in New York City. We like the way that UGC content such as reviews and recommendations allow people to sort through the art events. We plan to leverage their “Most Popular” page, which would be based on user ratings to help people find the studios and galleries not to miss on First Thursday. People will be able to rate and add comments to the artist and venue detail pages, offering them an outlet to contribute and share their experiences.

Artnear pro helps you find galleries and museums around the world, and browse and see images of current shows, openings and more. We would model the First Thursday app’s “Favorites” tab functionality and design after their “Bookmarks” pages. We like the visual list and the ability to then view the details page. Our details page would also include sharing functionality.

Possible organization sponsor:

We would target the Pioneer Square Community Association as our government sponsor for the iPhone app.  PSCA is the core sponsor for the First Thursday art walk, artist’s market in Occidental Park, and the First Thursday website. 

The mission and vision for PSCA align nicely with the goal of the First Thursday iPhone app.  The PSCA is a non-profit organization devoted to the betterment of Pioneer Square with a mission to create housing and community development opportunities in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. Their funding is coming from the city, business and property owners, and the major sports franchises. Former Seattle mayor Charley Royer and Nitze-Stagen developer Kevin Daniels co-chair the group, which is operating under the slogan “New Energy for Seattle’s Historic Neighborhood.”

Support from the PSCA would also be quite practical since their website and the First Thursday website currently contains abundant information about the Pioneer Square district and art walk such as attractions, landmarks, local vendors, cafes and restaurants, bars, and more. These databases of information and the design elements from the First Thursday website could serve as a strong base for the iPhone app. 

Other possible sponsors include CityArts, Seattle’s Convention and visitors Bureau, Seattle Art Blog, and City of Seattle – Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, all of whom have supported the First Thursday website in some way.

Since the First Thursday app is aiming to providing a practical and social tool that can better boost awareness and participation in this local event, the benefit of the app will help to reach PSCA’s goals that making Pioneer Square the most unique, eclectic, and dynamic neighborhood in Seattle.

Promotion Plan

Partnering with local venues

We would partner with local art and tourist attractions and sites to get the word out offline and online about First Thursday and the new iPhone app.  Many local studios and tourist offices have websites, so we would ask them to help promote First Thursday and the app to their visitors.  To capitalize on their offline foot traffic, we would supply them with marketing materials such as postcards and posters that featured art from a selected First Thursday artist on one side and provided key information about First Thursday and the new app on the other side.  Partners would include the hundreds of local art galleries and studios in the Pioneer Square area, museums, art and event magazines and sites, and tourist offices such as: Washington State Convention and Trade Center – Tourist Information Center, Seattle-King Count Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visiting Seattle, Getting Around Seattle, Seattle tourist info, Seattle Art blog, City Arts Magazine, The Stranger, Seattle Art Museum, and Frye Art Museum.

Letting the First Thursday crowd know

We would work with The Alliance for Pioneer Square to get prominent placement on the First Thursday website.  We would ideally want to get a banner module above the fold on the site in the top right corner (see snippet below with black outlined area) that introduces the new app and invites people to learn more and download it.

We would additionally create a website that included a description of the app and key benefits, showcased a video that tours the app, and a prominent download button that linked to the App store. We would leverage the American Museum of Natural History’s iPhone app page and video as a model.  The site would also include a “Share this” button so that fans could easily share our app information with their friends through Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, etc.

Additionally, we would set up a booth in Occidental Park (the square at the heart of the art walk) for a few months to demo the app, hand out information, and create awareness around the app among attendees.  And we would want to send a special email alert and get a persistent module in the newsletter that goes out to the First Thursday mailing list.  Other launch events would include art freebies.  We would work with local venues and artists to commission a poster that we would give out to the first 100 people that stop by the First Thursday app booth and to raffle off one of a kind art pieces autographed by the artist.

Generating chatter

The sharing features within the First Thursday app itself will help fuel awareness and promotion of First Thursday and the app through word of mouth marketing.  On the artist and venue pages, people can share a link to their favorites and a comment with their friends on Facebook, Twitter and email.  And in version 2 and 3 of the app, you will be able to share your favorite art walk paths with friends and the First Thursday app community and check-in in with FourSquare.

It appears that First Thursday is beginning to leverage social media, but we would want to expand its presence and try to sustain engagement through giveaways and secrete invites.  First Thursday already has a Facebook page, but it only has 18 fans, and does not have a Twitter account.  We would work to help get the fan base up and market First Thursday events and the iPhone app. We could also reach out to local art blogs and magazines and provide information about First Thursday, upcoming events and the new iPhone app in hopes that they would include an article or review in their publications.

Launch events

To generate buzz around the launch and the week leading up to every First Thursday, we would kick off events and contests.  One idea would be to send out secret invites to Facebook fans for launch parties, concerts, and artist meet and greets at First Thursday venues.  There are a number of up and coming Seattle bands and artists that we believe could draw a crowd without costing a fortune like Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head.  Another idea would be to kick off a scavenger hunt where people would leverage the app to navigate from venue to venue and figure out clues.  If executed right and with enticing prizes, we think this could generate some great participation, chatter, and PR coverage.  Additionally, we could also experiment with art stations scattered throughout the city – where a mini-exhibit showcases some sample art pieces  or performers draw a crowd in from the streets to learn more about the event the Monday through Wednesday leading up to the next First Thursday.

Paid advertising & app review sites

Additionally, we would look to leverage existing promotion vehicles and advertising tactics.  We would submit our app to some popular iPhone application review and profiling sites such as:, AppCraver, AppSafari for exposure.  Depending on sponsorship funding, we would also test paid search, mobile marketing, and buying ad space from various art magazines and newspapers.  We would also look at buying Facebook ads that were targeted to the Seattle community to promote First Thursday.

Icon images (57×57 & 512×512) 

1st Thursday app team members:

Kwame Harlin

I am an analytics engineer for a local marketing agency in Seattle. I am currently in my last year of completion for the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington; and starting my first quarter in the Social Media Technology and Implementation certificate program also at University of Washington. In my free time, I enjoy sunsets and long walks on the beach.

Yun Li

I have a bachelor’s degree majoring in TV/Film advertising from China Academy of Art. I am currently studying in the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington. I have a passion on emerging social media platforms, web storytelling strategies and any other topics relate to digital media. My interests are researching social media strategies for small and medium business, online advertising and web video productions. 

Erika Takeuchi

I am a Marketing Manager on the Windows Consumer Marketing team and a first year graduate student in the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington.  I spend my days working on video and interactive content and relationship marketing for the Windows team and my nights exploring digital media strategies, theories and practice.


3 Responses to “Project: First Thursday”

  1. Vinod Reddy 3 August 2011 at 11:54 pm #


    We are looking for mobile apps projects. So can we work collaboratively or can you outsource us?


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