I created a more refined wireframe prototype that maps out the full application so far. The initial design, placement of the UI elements and visuality will see a lot of iteration, but this version of the interactive prototype enables testing the core features as well as the overall structure. Next I will include some example content and ask feedback from users.
When the user registers, they go through a startup questionnaire that determines their background and goals, as well as their schedule. Based on this information, the app creates a curriculum that determines the prompts for each user.
Whenever the user wants to draw, they can choose how much time they have to spend, a suitable prompt type and the available media.
Then they get the first stage of the prompt, during which they can browse help if they want, and once they feel like they’ve finished sketching for example, the app asks if they would like to continue.
Once they feel like stopping, the app asks what they liked in their work, what they thought about the media and other feedback. The user can save their work, and share it if they want.
The core idea in different prompt types is the same, but the information is laid out a bit differently. For example, in the more challenging prompts the reference tutorial is automatically provided before a certain technique, whereas the lighter prompt assumes the user already knows the medium that they are using, yet it still provides the reference material if needed.
The user can also edit their schedule and the curriculum and goals.
A storyboard I drew to visualise the context for the application.
In the storyboard the application reminds the user of the opportunity to draw. The reminder is based on the schedule the user has determined herself within the application. First she gets a sketching prompt, after which she continues into the painting stage, where the app provides a tutorial because she’s unfamiliar with the medium. When she’s finished the app congratulates her on her drawing streak, she takes a photo of the work and saves it on her personal timeline.
To further define the idea and role of the visual user interface in the app, I have been looking into existing applications such as Headspace. Headspace provides narrated meditation guides, and it has similar functionality in terms of tracking the user activity and making the user commit to the app. The interface is calm to support the idea of mediation.
I aim to combine similar sense of calmness into something more creative and colourful. To help the user to shift their thinking into more positive, it is also important to pay attention to the way the application visually displays the user’s achievements.
Guru’s day was a success. I created a quick wireframes to map out the core functionality of the application, and made it interactive using Marvel prototyping tool. This allowed me to quickly demonstrate the idea to the gurus, and I got a lot of useful feedback in terms of the features and the flow of the application.
Some of the interesting insights I got:
In terms of making the user to commit to the application, push notifications are something to consider. Although many people may think they are annoying when uninvited, they can be useful in reminding people of the opportunities to draw, as long as the notifications are based on the schedule the user creates and manages themselves. When the user directly controls them, they agree to the notifications appearing on their phone.
Visual balance is an important aspect to consider – the application needs to stand out and be inspiring, but not too intimidating.
It’s important not to punish the user and focus on the positive mentality. This is especially important when the application is mainly targeted to people who are picking up a new or an old forgotten hobby, instead of people who are looking for serious art education.
Currently I have been focusing on creating the structure and an initial flow map for the application, so that I can create the first interactive prototype.
Some rough sketches to help in figuring out the contents for some pages, but these have nothing to do with the actual layout or design yet.
I have identified the key features for the application. In order to address the problem of finding time to draw, the application helps by scheduling the time by reminding the user of the opportunities to draw. As the user opens the application, they specify how much time they have for drawing, after which they can choose between a lighter, a challenging or a practise prompt. The application recommends suitable mediums for each prompt, and the user can tick away the ones they don’t feel like using. The lighter prompts are based on the user’s comfort zone, and the challenging ones are new subjects and techniques. One of the key things is that the app always gives a helpful set of reference material chosen for each prompt allowing the user to spend time actually drawing instead of having to search for specific references.
While drawing, prompts are split to more bite-sized stages so that it’s easier to schedule and endure it if drawing feels difficult. After each one the user has the option to move on to the next stage or to stop if they want. The application also counts down the user allocated drawing time, after which it checks if they wish to extend the session or continue later on.
Throughout the process the application supports the user — it aims to convey a feeling of accomplishment after every stage of the drawing process, so it congratulates the user whenever they have drawn something, no matter how small. It also gives praise on keeping a steady monthly, weekly, or even daily pace.
After each session the application keeps track of the user’s preferences and aims to shift their outlook to more positive by asking the user what they like in their work and what they thought about the media or technique used. This self-appraising data is also used to define the further prompts. It also records the previous drawings into a timeline that is not constantly visible, but gives the user the option to see their previous work and improvement over time.
Based on the discussions I’ve had with my tutors, I believe that it is important to include some kind of sharing option as well. Not necessarily to other social media, but safely contained within the application. This is supported by my research as well – many people said during the interviews that it’s refreshing to see other people’s work-in-progress pieces, or work that they are not happy with.
I’ve been defining my project goals – the aim of this application is not to teach people how to draw, but to get people to draw and engage with the drawing practise regularly, and to shift people’s thinking and attitude towards their own work. Because the amateur artist’s mind is stuck on negative thinking patterns, they fail to evaluate their own work and often lack a healthy form of self-criticism. That negative outlook discourages people from drawing as they feel that they don’t have the ”talent” for it.
My project aims to promote a growth mentality, helps to find the positive qualities of one’s own work and assists in finding and setting informed goals to work towards.
When it comes to the actual functionality of the app, I took some inspiration from other self-help, tracking and scheduling apps. However, instead of this being just a ”get up and do it” application, it is important that this is more towards ”assisted get up and do it”.
It is really important to focus on the positive side and the improvements and achievements, so I looked into how applications use streaks and reward the user of their work.I believe including congratulations such as ”you’ve drawn for three months now!” or ”you’ve drawn 5 drawings!” is beneficial for the user. An example of this is Pokemon Go – distant to my subject, but relevant int terms that the app congratulates the user on the weekly streaks, but doesn’t shame them for breaking the streak. Instead it just starts again from day one. I find staying away from the kind of ”streak broken” remarks is important in order to not to discourage the user.
As the application needs to stay engaging in the long term, it is important that the visuals are inspiring and that the phrasing of the texts is supportive of the user’s goals. That’s why I have looked into creative branding and colours, and also into existing lifestyle apps to avoid the kind of pressuring likeness to productivity and to-do apps.
I feel like these will help me to find a visual direction for the application and make the app more engaging from just the kind of text-on-background type of thing.
Inspired by this I have been exploring with different colours and typography options.
The reason I’m leaning towards creating a mobile application is that based on the research, people use their mobile phones for searching inspiration or reference materials, as when drawing traditionally there is often no space for a laptop or it’s too risky with having paints around, and when drawing digitally people want to use the whole screen estate for the drawing.
As I want the service to work as a standalone application, I’ve been sketching possible user journeys through the core parts of the application. The key parts at the moment seem to be identifying how much time the user has for drawing, and what kind of prompt would be suitable for them.
A sketch example of a user journey through one part of the application:
I also created a graph to visualise the concept of a ”comfort zone” which is one of the key factors that the ”curriculum” is based on. Comfort zone consists of what drawing media and techniques the user is comfortable using and use the most, as well as what subjects they usually draw.
The closer to comfort zone people are when drawing, the better their mood and confidence is. The harder and less used to the subject or technique they are, the more their mood drops and they feel more insecure because the mind shifts to negative thinking towards ”I don’t know how to draw, I can’t do this”.
Without help it’s difficult to overcome this, but when the practise is supported, usually by art educators but in this case by my application, it’s easier to overcome the negative feelings when learning new things.
In order to find out what kind of approach professional tutors have towards people with no prior art or illustration experience, I went to shadow a textile design student’s drawing critique. During the 30 minute quiet observation I found out that their approach to drawing and art was expressive and abstract. The method that their tutor encouraged the students to use was to create abstract, expressive art and patterns using different mediums, including ones that the students hadn’t used before. In the critique they associated descriptive words, such as ”living, merging, growth” or ”soft” to the work, which were then used as an inspiration to develop the patterns further. The students were also told to collect mood boards for inspiration, and the tutor emphasised how important it is to just keep the drawing practise going in order to ”get more stories” and interesting ”accidents” that would inspire the work further.
It was really insightful to see how the approach to abstract subjects can be more poetic, yet the core of the drawing practise is still the same – it’s worth it to keep drawing, no matter if the person is insecure about the results.
I have also been developing more ideas for the application:
The application takes into account the user’s comfort zone, by asking / recording what medium and subjects people usually draw with, and uses that information to its advantage when creating easier or more challenging prompts.
It creates a customised long term ”curriculum” that enables the user’s long-term improvement.
Takes into account the physical location and mediums suitable for that location.
Encourages to draw on different styles and techniques in order to enable the users to find the techniques they like.
Time to try challenging things multiple times in order to learn that specific subject or technique.
Based on last week’s interviews, I created a graph visualising the current experience of drawing process for amateur artists.
Finding time is a big problem – and even though there might be small windows of time that would give the person an opportunity to draw, they don’t necessarily realise that they could use the time to draw.
Having supplies is not a problem, although certain media needs a special environment – painting for example requires enough space and preparations and is not something that can be done on the go.
Idea – ”what I want to draw today?” – or the lack of it, can be something that stops the process entirely and keeps the person from drawing at all. On the contrary, sometimes having a good idea can raise the interest to draw and create excitement for the process.
Getting started is easier with an existing idea, whereas with no ideas it can be really difficult.
Sketching is part of the process that people seem to enjoy the most, and all of the interviewees also doodle for fun anyway, even if they don’t count is as properly ”drawing”.
Finding reference material is difficult, as it’s hard to describe the visual assets required for a specific scenario. The interviews and the survey revealed that most people prefer blog-post like quick tutorials over books or videos, as it’s much quicker to scroll through a blog post. Less time spent trying to find references means more time for drawing.
Finishing the piece can either be fun if the person has a flow going, or it can be daunting and feel unachievable.
People like sharing their work, showing their ideas and emotions to others as well as getting feedback.
My goals for this project are:
Support individual artist’s drawing practise, both immediately and in long-term.
Get the user to engage with the process of drawing. Possibly through scheduling, maybe including notifications.
Keep the user engaged throughout the process, by taking into account their personal interests, style, long-term goals, and by allowing them to choose between lighter and more challenging prompts.
Make the user see the value of their own work, by making sure that the moment of ending the drawing process is positive. Congratulate the user for drawing, no matter how small or insignificant their piece of work might seem to them.