Augmented reality and the Mattress Factory — a proposal

For one of my communication classes, we were to choose an organization whose mission we admire and imagine that we were creating a new messaging campaign for that organization. We were to pick a channel of communication to share that message and explain why we chose that channel.

Here is my take on that assignment, in which I chose local art museum, the Mattress Factory.

The Mattress Factory (MF) is a modern art museum in Pittsburgh, PA, with a mission “to support artists working in residence to create site-specific installations” (MF website). The site-specific installations supported by the museum are all contained within the walls of or on the property of the museum. This is important, as the new message I am proposing is: “The Mattress Factory is an innovative Pittsburgh-based art museum that takes ‘site-specific’ off-site.” I propose using augmented reality (AR)—through a smartphone app—as both the channel for spreading the message and the medium for the art. The target audience would be threefold: (1) the nearly 48,000 people the museum serves every year (MF press release, 2017), (2) technophiles, and (3) the international art scene. The people who already interact with the museum every year will develop stronger ties with the museum by getting to interact off-site. This has the potential of getting them on-site. Technophiles who weren’t previously aware of the museum will now be more likely to visit the museum, especially if there is other app-related art at the museum. And the ensuing buzz would get the attention of the international art scene, potentially making MF a destination for international art-goers.

I have chosen AR as my communication channel because (1) AR is still new, untested, and underutilized, (2) MF can prove it is innovative by taking a risk on using a new and untested medium, and (3) AR is uniquely suited to site-specific art in that you can designate GPS coordinates to mark the “location” of the art. At the F8 conference in 2017, Mark Zuckerberg demonstrated the art wall in the Facebook headquarters. It is a blank white wall that becomes art (by artist Heather Day) when you look at the wall through a special Facebook app (Nieva, 2017). I have taken this concept and applied it to the Mattress Factory as a way to share their message of being highly innovative and taking site-specific art off-site. MF can work with a local design firm to create the app. An artist-in-residence can then create art that will then be visible only in certain locations around Pittsburgh and only through the app—like the game Pokémon Go, but with only a handful of sites that are clearly laid out. The app is part of the art. Additionally, the app promotes the museum by inviting the user to visit the physical museum, to buy a membership to the museum, or to donate to the museum. The app would offer a discount on your first visit to the museum. In this case, AR is not only the channel, it is part of the message. It is proof of the message.



Mattress Factory press release. “Study Reveals Mattress Factory’s Local Impact: Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Economic Development examined how the iconic Pittsburgh museum enhances the economy and quality of life in the region.” Oct 24, 2017. Pittsburgh, PA.

Mattress Factory website.

Nieva, Richard. “Inside Facebook’s Plan to Turn the World into the MoMA: Augmented reality art, which you can only see through special apps on your phone, is coming. And with it, questions about what’s real and what’s not.” Sep 15, 2017. CNET.


Kelly Smith