Sotheby’s is one of the largest brokers of fine and decorative art, jewelry, and collectibles. Over its long history, Sotheby’s has facilitated the sale of Marie Antoinette’s jewels, Biggie’s crown, and Monet’s nymphéas. To support the sale of every anticipated auction, Sotheby's produces an auction catalog. The catalog is a treasured collectible in and of itself, often found alongside art books on coffee tables. Its margins are full of thoughtful notes, and its corners are folded down to refer back to time and time again.
After hundreds of years of in-person auction experiences, the pandemic brought all of that to a halt – the auctions were moving online. Selling the pieces online was straightforward; however, trying to replicate the rich format of the auction catalog was less so.
I lead the digital product team at Your Majesty in designing and building a premium, digital version of the catalog that puts the art and its stories at the forefront of the concept and offers users an equally immersive experience.
To shape our strategy, we interviewed Sotheby's general managers, marketers, and curators. User testing allowed us to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the current digital catalog design, revealing two primary challenges.
The collection size ranges widely, from just a few to five hundred lots. The design required flexibility to adapt to any number of lots within each chapter.
Additionally, the catalog had to meet specific technical requirements. Operating on a legacy eCommerce platform, the immersive catalog had to maintain its luxury appeal while seamlessly transitioning to the more straightforward commercial sections of the site.
Our research, complemented by competitor analysis and content inventory, led to the development of five design principles. These principles guided the creation of a digital-first catalog, departing from a mere replication of the current physical catalog online.
We let the subject matter of each auction or lot dictate the surrounding content and style, creating a distinction between catalogs and chapters.
Employing tactics and techniques within the design to infuse tangibility and a sense of physicality into the digital catalog, elevating the overall catalog experience.
Grouping and progressively disclosing content to make long reads more digestible, creating an experience that deepens without causing disruption.
Empowering users to play an active role in their browsing experience, allowing them to scan or dive deep as needed.
Bringing Sotheby’s knowledge and expertise to the forefront, adding value and enhancing credibility earlier in the user experience.
Based on our research and the established design principles, we conceived the concept 'A Gallery of Stories.' This envisioned experience mirrors a stroll through a gallery, where each scroll presents a window into a theme and its associated lots. By incorporating both horizontal and vertical scrolls, our aim was to allow users to seamlessly step into and out of each window, providing the option to delve deeper or step back as desired.
Each scroll offers a window into a theme and its associated lots.
Contextualize each lot within its overarching movement, era, story, or through expert curation.
Highlight Sotheby's voice of expertise, providing a guided and personable viewing room experience for each property.
The launch of the new digital catalogue product has garnered significant adoption from stakeholders, aiding Sotheby's in securing consignments by offering diverse ways to showcase the physical and editorial values of lots. Notably, engagement with lots and editorials has surged by 13%, and overall lot discoverability has seen a remarkable increase of 25%.
At the end of this project, I pitched a holistic ecosystem concept for the new Sotheby's website, outlining the needs and opportunities for personalization, data experience strategy, and loyalty boost. The presented concept successfully made its way into Sotheby's CPO's three-year digital transformation plan, establishing Your Majesty as a retained digital product firm for the brand.