SFMOMA launched the SMS-based service Send Me SFMOMA to great acclaim (it was featured on The Today Show) in 2017. You could send a text message to the museum, and they’d respond with a relevant (and sometimes hilarious) item from their collection. The initiative was conceived as a way to shed light on the museum’s vast collection, only a fraction of which is on view at any given time. Send Me SFMOMA quickly went viral. Over the course of the summer millions of people texted the service everything from “Send me 🙄” to “Send me abstract expressionism” to “Send me a sign” and received artwork images from SFMOMA’s collection.

What we made

That summer, SFMOMA partnered with Stamen Design to create data visualizations exploring the alternately poignant, deadpan, and whimsical exchanges that emerged between users and Send Me SFMOMA.

It’s not a search engine. You can’t request something specific that you want. It’s a sublime engine. be compelling, we need to get to a place where data visualization is just as effective at storytelling as a well-written article, a photography series, or a short video. Stamen showed us within a week that you could do all of the obvious things, but neither of us was happy with them. And so we spent the next month getting down to the hard work of creating something deeper and more interesting. Keir Winesmith Director of Digital Experience/Head of Web + Digital, SFMOMA