CRITICAL REFLECTION

At the start of the final year I knew I want to focus on learning more skills on creating and designing digital content, as this is relevant to my career prospects. During this project I did learn a lot about creating user experiences, designing UI elements for mobile, the constraints of the platform and its requirements for graphic design.

The idea of Luova started with people – I noticed a phenomenon and a habit that affects many hobbyist artists, and wanted to create a solution that serves those people and helps them find the appreciation and joy of drawing again.

PEOPLE

Many young hobbyist artists struggle to findsupportive materials for drawing with limited time and resources. This makes them feel discouraged to draw or present their work online due to insecurity. The social media-mindset and pressure reflects on personal drawing people cannot enjoy what they do and end up too frustrated to draw, even if they would be only drawing for themselves without any intention of publishing the work. As nowadays most of the art is exhibited online for free and creates a constant source of inspiring but at times overwhelming images, I believe it is important to reconnect with the individual’s drawing practise and find the appreciation for one’s own work.

As I set up the long initial questionnaire I got 44 answers from across the globe that gave me a great starting point and allowed me to further define the problem I was designing the solution for. Throughout the design process I collected feedback from people that belong to my target audience, but also interviewed professionals and teachers. Together they provided a lot of useful feedback and insights and allowed me to design a service that provides enough support during the drawing practise, but also gives agency for the user to meet their own goals.

At times it was also to difficult communicate the needs of the target audience and how their problems differ from those who have access to art education or who have a strong aspiration and are prepared to spend more time looking for resources. Based on my research, the main problems of art hobbyists are lack of time, resources, and insecurity, which makes maintaining a drawing practise difficult or stops one from drawing altogether. My research indicated that the best way to help them is not by providing conventional art education, but by getting them to draw more and more casually. The goal of Luova is to help find time for drawing and to guide people’s mindset from negative towards more positive and growth-oriented. Based on interviews I concluded that the best way to help artists with challenging tasks is to provide the missing tools and tips for learning a new technique but leave it up to the user to freely explore and implement them as they see fit for their own practise. This brings forth small advances, helps regain lost motivation and reconnects people with the joy of drawing as an activity.

Balancing the at times conflicting needs of the users was challenging, as creating a more organised and structured approach some artists preferred could at times end up too pressuring and discouraging for others. As it comes down to individual preferences, I found that it is important for the application to let the user to choose their own approach and take agency in building their own practise. Personalisation is also something that diffrentiates Luova from mere prompt generators, as Luova bases its prompts on the goals the user chooses and the user feedback after each prompt. This lets the user to choose themselves the best approach for drawing – whether it is drawing in one’s comfort zone to be able to draw anything at all or exploring new challenges.

When researching the drawing practise overall and people’s relationship to art, the social side is an important part of it, especially nowadays as hobbyists connect mostly via online platforms. Social profiles and validation from others make people feel less alone. While my goal was to create an application with a friendly tone of voice to support the drawing practise, it was never supposed to replace feedback from other humans. Therefore I designed a social feature to maintain the sense of community. I came to the decision to restrict the social side within the application, leave out a following system and profiles, and include the full process behind an artwork instead of just finished pieces. The goal of this was to create a safe environment for both browse and exhibit one’s own work without the pressure of like-hunting or being too overwhelmed by heavily curated feeds. This enables the userbase to share their love for the works of others easily through the tagging system, while promoting the appreciation for art as a process.

Even though the target audience of Luova is hobbyists, I believe that the design of the application would also serve more experienced artists or beginners aspiring to be professionals in finding appreciation and enjoyment in their own work and building a routine for their drawing process.

 

DESIGN

When it comes to the visual design, I wanted to create a service with a distinctive brand that stands out and reflects the creative nature of the application. It was a fun challenge to balance the colourful branding with the limitations of the platform in order to maintain a good information hierarchy and readability. In the beginning I wasn’t sure what platform to design for, but during the first stages of research I realised that most people use phones a lot while drawing, and thus it was natural to design for the same device.

These days even traditional drawing processes have a digital presence, as people search for reference materials and tutorials online while drawing, and exhibit and share their work in social media. However, no existing application combined snappy online tutorials with relevant reference images and a prompt generator. Based on interviews with people from the target group there is a definite need for one.

Mobile and social media was also the main source of distraction and insecurity that restricted people’s drawing practise. When people lose their focus from drawing, they first look at their phone. As the interviewed art teacher mentioned, it’s important to re-direct the focus back to the positive, provide small tips and help artists to get back into the flow. A companion application that is running when the user is drawing provides instant support and tips whenever the user gets stuck helps them to get back on track.

The reason to choose an application over a browser version was that people use browser for reading content, but applications for interacting. Additionally, a browser version could not have supported some features of Luova.

Prototyping and user testing early versions confirmed me the strenghts in the application’s structure as well as what parts needed more refining and clarification. First directing the artist’s mind back to the positive qualities was done just by asking the user to write, but this interrupted the flow between the stages. The visual tagging method instead was quick and easy, and along with the process animation it brought a new dimension to viewing a piece of art through iteration and happy accidents.

To help avoid distraction I split the prompt paths into more bite-sized stages that allow the user to take one step at a time and quit in the middle if they need to. Taking or importing an image after each stage is important to create the progress animation. However, at times it was challenging to decide where to draw the line between the stages, and thus I implemented the option to take unlimited process images during any stage, allowing the user to record more of their process if they want to.

Many people mentioned they have difficulties appreciating the work they have done, or they forget that they have drawn at all in their otherwise busy lives, contributing to the feeling of inferiority. Thus it was fitting to keep the user’s own progress timeline as part of the application, to visualise the user’s processes and small accomplishments.

Similarly to deciding the exact stages, it was difficult to determine the categories for the tags, as there are so many different things in artwork one could comment. I looked into what people usually comment on online pieces and picked the most repetitive comments that would work in combination with the visual marking overlay on top of an image.

TECHNOLOGY

ProtoPie worked well as a prototyping tool, as unlike many other available tools it allowed me to use variables to create high fidelity interactions and animations, which was important for prototyping the tagging feature. My familiarity with coding and using variables helped greatly in building the trigger-response actions within the prototype, and thus I was able to create well timed and working interactive parts.

However, as ProtoPie is a fairly new tool, the scale of the full application required too many screens, and my project hit the maximum capabilities of the tool. The phone I use to demonstrate the prototype hit the limits of its processing power, and ProtoPie did not support prototypes as large as mine with multiple interactive parts. Unfortunately I had to sacrifice image quality and resolution, as well as leave out some of the routes within the application to reduce the size of the prototype and make it feasible to be run with the ProtoPie engine. I had already designed and built prototypes of the features, so I captured the rest of the routes on videos that can be viewed here in the blog.

If I had more time during this project, I would spend more time testing the user journey on different prototyping tools to see which one is best for demonstrating the interactive parts. I would also refine the overall flow of the application and create smoother natural transitions between different screens, as well as improve the information clarity in the tagging screens and the relationship between the tags and individual comments on the social side.

Overall this project allowed me to develop a good understanding of the visual and prototyping challenges on the mobile platform, compared to the desktop environment I have more experience with. It was fun to create interactions that use touch as a trigger and design screens in smaller scale. I also enjoyed the overall project management and  managing multiple routes along with the design and interactivity state of multiple screens. This project honed my skills as an interaction designer, from UI and UX to graphic design and branding, giving me a good base on developing my career in interactive media.