Case study: YASS! Taking the Royal Academy’s Young Artists’ Summer Show online

Author: Ash Mann

In late 2018 we were appointed by the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) to work with them on their annual Young Artists’ Summer Show (YASS).

We were commissioned to design and build a platform that would allow them to manage the submission, judging and exhibition of work entirely online.

The 2019 Young Artists' Summer Show exhibition at the Royal Academy

YASS runs in parallel with the famous Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the world’s largest open submission art show, and provides an opportunity for young people aged 5 – 19 years to have their work exhibited at the RA, online and at the galleries in London.

Thanks to some generous sponsorship from Robin Hambro the RA were looking to expand the Show to be able to accept submissions from young people living across the UK, and a digital platform was an important part of being able to achieve that.

The 2020 Young Artists’ Summer Show received over 17,700 submissions from across the UK.

The platform we built for the RA had to facilitate all the Young Artists’ submissions, all of the judging, and the digital element would also be an important part of the final Show itself, exhibiting all of the selected works.

We had to make it straight-forward for educators to be able to submit works on behalf of their students whilst also being able to deal with the fact that there is no theme for the Young Artists’ Summer Show, so young people could submit anything from a painting, sculpture, photograph, installation or a video piece.

As the FAQs proudly say “We will accept any artworks!

What we built

We built the application using Ruby on Rails as we would be involving the in-house RA development team at various points and wanted to replicate the tech they used in most of their other work.

The application included a custom CMS and functionality that allowed teachers and students to easily register for participation in YASS with the ability to submit multiple artworks.

The setup allowed the RA to easily curate entries for the judging process with selected works display in an online gallery filtered by age group and theme.

Working with the existing RA brand and assets provided by the YASS team we created a website that felt associated with the RA whilst retaining a distinct characteristic for the Summer Show itself.

The impact it had

In 2019 the team at the Royal Academy had optimistic hopes for around 2,000 submissions. In the end they received over 6,300 submissions, from more than 2,760 young people. A really brilliant result.

However in 2020 things went crazy, there were over 17,700 submissions from over 11,200 young people. An increase of 180% and 360% respectively!

They received entries from students across the UK and from British International Schools in the US, Russia, Malaysia and New Zealand.

This map neatly shows the truly nationwide reach that the Show had with entries being received from every nation and region in the UK.

The art

And wow, the artworks, the quality of the artworks!

As someone who was never particularly good at visual arts I found it slightly mind-blowing that such amazing work was produced by people so young but even objectively I think the quality was incredible, below are a few of our favourites from the 2020 Show.

View all of the 2020 Show, online.


Dada Sleeping, Vibhuti, Age 19

Manta Ray, Oliver, Age 11


Collecting Stardust , Emma, Age 7


Dementia, Rafael, Age 11