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Design Miami partners with The Zig to solve data integration issue and build mobile app

Design Miami holds live events each year (like Art Basel) that connect high-net worth individuals with exhibitors who showcase one-of-a-kind art pieces that sell from $5,000 to $250,000+. Their most recent flagship event at Miami Beach hosted more than 40 exhibitors and received over 31,000 visitors. Each fair attracts prominent art critics, curators, and celebrities such as Serena Williams, Rihanna, and Pharrell.

Business challenge

Already one of the biggest art exhibitors in the US, Design Miami wanted to continue growing their brand and engage a larger audience. The team focused on developing a new mobile app that could improve and extend every phase of their events.

The goal was to have the app live in time for Design Miami’s marquee fair, which was only 3 months away. Their technical team — led by Brian Johnson — tried to build the mobile app but ran into three primary issues:

  1. Time constraint: Johnson knew this project would typically take at least 6 months to complete but he only had 3 months.
  2. Lack of clear scope: They had several ideas about what they wanted their new mobile app to do but struggled to organize their wish list and refine it into a clear set of features, laid out on a practical, achievable roadmap.
  3. Huge data integration problem: Design Miami’s new mobile app had to stay in-sync with their website. Both the app and the website had to show the same exhibitor data and the same items for sale —even as this data changed constantly before, during, and after the event. To add to the challenge, the app had to stay in-sync during a live event with poor connectivity.

    Unfortunately, Design Miami’s system of record made this difficult. It was a WordPress database that used MySQL in an archaic, non-relational manner. To bring the website’s data to the mobile app, it would first need to be transformed into a format the app could work with— and they had to do so every time they synced the two assets.

With the clock ticking, Johnson knew he needed outside help. Johnson needed a technology partner that not only had experience building mobile apps, but more importantly were data experts.


We set a high-profile release for our app aligned with our next big live event, and we had no option to release it late. But we didn’t have the in-house expertise to ship our new app by the deadline with enough functionality to market it effectively. To hit our deadlines, we knew we needed to seek outside help.

- Brian Johnson, Director of Platform Engineering at Design Miami

Ultimately, Johnson chose to partner with The Zig because:


The Zig’s engineering team knew to drive to a successful launch, they needed to solve the two biggest problems — a lack of scope, and a tricky data integration.

To start, they brought clarity to the project’s lack of scope. Design Miami didn’t have a fully-fledged idea on kick-off day, but The Zig couldn’t let that slow down development. So, The Zig immediately began development of the app’s “must have” features, while the rest of the app’s designs were worked on.


The Zig was willing to be flexible as requirements constantly changed. They dug deep into our goals for the app and how we wanted our end users to interact with it and helped us define a scope that made sense.

- Brian Johnson, Director of Platform Engineering at Design Miami

The Zig’s architect and engineers used a three-phase approach to deliver the final solution:

Solving the data integration problem

The app’s data had to come from Design Miami’s system of record, a WordPress database. Sourcing data from WordPress presented two challenges:

Oil Changers’ on-premises SQL database was migrated to a cloud instance of Azure SQL


Migrating to Azure provided flexibility in terms of cost and scalability should the need for more resources arise.
This data was then stored in a data lake that served as a foundation for data warehouse and for data visualization in power BI.


Azure Data Factory provides many activities that provide various ETL tools that enable you to manipulate your data in any form. It also supports multiple data source connectors that you can use to ingest data from diverse sources.
This data was then stored in a data lake that served as a foundation for the data warehouse and for data visualization in Power BI


By leveraging the combination of ADF and SQL we would efficiently load data in a format that allowed for more efficient analytics, further reducing the reporting gap the previously existed.
The data was migrated into a Data warehouse architecture moving from a traditional relational database model to a star schema to enable much more efficient query for reporting large datasets


Power BI makes it easy to bring data to life. Users can connect their data to Power BI and choose from a variety of visualizations (column charts, pie charts, bubble and heat maps, scatter plots, etc.) to tell stories about their data to gain and share insights. Additionally, these visualizations are interactive, which is a huge benefit of Power BI. Consumers can filter reports and dashboards and watch their visualizations adjust and update in seconds to meet their newly applied filter requirements – all to gain more insight from their data. Reports can also be easily shared as they can be distributed via email.
The processed data was then connected to Power BI to generate their reports


The Azure Data Lake provided a cheap blob storage resource that allowed the data to be stored and backed up

To solve this, The Zig:


“Our system of record is a WordPress database that uses MySQL, but not in a relational way. The queries to extract that data get pretty complex and don’t perform very well. This was going to be a pretty big pain point for the mobile app. If The Zig hadn’t been involved, I’m not sure we could have gotten the data into the app in the format we needed.

- Brian Johnson, Director of Platform Engineering at Design Miami


As a result of working with The Zig, Design Miami was able to solve its technical challenges and launch their new mobile app in time for Design Miami’s upcoming live event.

Design Miami was able to launch their app in just under 3 months with a robust feature set that included:

The app was a success, generating thousands of downloads from a select group of high-net worth individuals at the event.

Design Miami continues to operate their app, and it remains a cornerstone of their strategy to meet new opportunities as part of the art industry’s ongoing digital transformation.


The Zig was easy to work with, adaptable to our project as it changed, and dynamic enough to solve each new challenge that came up. Our app received a few thousand installs — which is really significant for our audience — and included significant innovations for our market, like making high-end art pieces available for purchase online with transparent pricing. But without The Zig, we may not have completed the project on time at all.”

- Brian Johnson, Director of Platform Engineering at Design Miami