Interview: How The Rumpus Room delivered a digital jukebox for The Duck & Rice

Find out how the London agency created the Duckbox for Wagammama founder Alan Yau's new Soho venture

London-based agency The Rumpus Room has designed a digital jukebox for the new Soho pub The Duck & Rice, which invites visitors to select tracks to play in the pub using their mobile devices.

Playfully titled ‘Duckbox’, this feature is driven by website and offers a changing collection of tracks, many inspired by local Soho record stores.

The Rumpus Room also built a digital installation behind the bar indicating the Duckbox’ current track.

Functioning as an abstract and sound-responsive clock, this display subtly mirrors the time honoured tradition of 'the three flying ducks on the wall’ - while tipping its hat to the venue’s own iconography.

Converted from the site of the venerable Soho watering hole, The Endurance, The Duck & Rice is the latest venture by restaurateur Alan Yau, founder of the Wagamama food chain

As digital partner across Yau's fleet of high-concept restaurants, The Duck & Rice is only one of the location-based digital engagement experiences created by The Rumpus Room.

“It's actually more the element of user participation than the fact that it's an installation that makes it a typical Rumpus Room project,” said technical director Christian Klotz. “At the end of the day we build software, the majority being pure online experiences and some of them installation work, like our project for Tate Britain."

"What most of them have in common is that people want to participate, by submitting images, recording videos or - as in the case of the Duckbox - get their music selection played at a pub.”

The website, also created by The Rumpus Room, was designed as a destination for music lovers while also showcasing Soho social photography and the pub's range of lagers, ales, ciders and stout..

The site was aesthetically inspired by the pub’s unique geometric window features.

The Duckbox and digital display are also available as music playlist applications for anyone to install on their own devices.

We asked The Rumpus Room's technical director Christian Klotz to give us the background to the concept and design work.

Digital Arts:What was the brief for this project ?

Christian Klotz: When we were briefed to create the website for The Duck and Rice, we were asked to give it another purpose than just providing basic information about the pub since it's easy to find out about location, opening times etc. just by searching for the pub on Google.

DA:How did the concept evolve?

CK: Initially our focus was to use imagery from social networks to capture the atmosphere of surrounding Soho.

Later we remembered that the premises used to be home to The Endurance with its much loved jukebox. After looking into feasible ways to build it we decided to turn the website into a jukebox itself.

Images still play a big part in the website's general appearance using photos of the area and album artwork images.

When we learned about the beautiful window pattern of the pub we also felt like we 'had' to use it in the design to visually connect with the building.

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DA:Can you describe some of the technology and techniques used to deliver the Duckbox?

CK: Our main goal was to make it as easy as possible to start using the jukebox - that's why there's no app. Just visit the pub's website and pick a track.

To make this work it requires a lot of moving parts, obviously the website, which was built in HTML5, but also a bespoke Mac app running at the Duck and Rice, to sync the track listing with the website. We also had to have a separate server to store that information.

Furthermore, due to the lack of a physical representation of a digital jukebox we also built a Chrome app running full-screen at a screen behind the bar.

It shows the current track and runs an animation of abstract three ducks, reactive to the sound.

DA:Were there any major challenges?

CK: It's easy to forget that someone also has to update the track listing. Making this process as intuitive as possible was a big part of the project. We believe we found a nice solution and can't wait to see what they'll do with it. [tracks are selected by The Duck & Rice's music director]

DA: What does the team like best about the final work?

CK: Our favourite aspect of the Duckbox is how much it feels like a natural extension of the pub itself.

On the one hand the visual appearance utilises the window pattern, but most importantly it's how personal it feels popping down to the pub, picking a track on your phone and have it being played at the Duck and Rice.