Content creation

In order to create content that demonstrates the reference and inspiration images in the application’s supportive materials, I’ve been sourcing images with creative commons licenses to use within the app. I will create the tutorial material and technique demonstrations myself to avoid copyright issues with existing tutorials, while I will still base them on existing reputable guides and books. While there are many art tutorials online, most of them are either hours long, behind a paywall or require browsing through a lot of content before finding the relevant one. When I asked people what format they prefer for tutorials, the most popular were blog-post like short explanations with images. Tutorials like that usually circulate in social media. They are easy to read and understand, but they get lost in the social media feed. The tutorials will follow the short and snappy principle the interviewed art teacher mentioned, as this will be more efficient for the user and save them the time, leaving more time for actual drawing. Time is especially a constraint for people with full time jobs, so it’s important that the tips provided will be efficient. Additionally, the reference images displayed during each prompt path will be relevant to that specific path and stage making it easier for the user to find relevant support.

Instead of being a random prompt generator, this application takes into account the user’s own comfort zone and goals when providing prompts and drawing ideas, making it more customised to each user’s individual needs. This is important as the target group people’s needs vary from softer to more structured approach. Ideally the application would have a team of people behind it generating the prompts and supportive materials and tutorials for each path. The application maintains the database it uses to determine the prompts by using the background questionnaire from the registration process, and also collects feedback from the user after each completed prompt path.

The prompt paths I’ve thought of so far are:

  •  “Relax” is something the user is familiar with, and thus it has less stages and less new tutorials, but still the inspiration and reference material.
  •  “Challenge” is something the user doesn’t usually draw, featuring a new subject or medium. It is longer and has more stages.
  • “Practise” is croquis-like prompt that changes the images after a short time period, and the idea is to do quick sketches of animals for example.
  • “Have an idea” gives the user an option to look for relevant reference material and tutorials to their own prompt idea. For example, if the user wants to draw still life kitchenware with markers, the app provides reference images of kitchen utensils and tutorials on how to use markers. The available media and time selected by the user determine what kind of prompt the application suggests.

For example, if the user would like to learn to draw cityscapes, the contents would include materials such as things you would find on an alley, different kinds of people etc. If they had problems with perspective, the app would provide a perspective grid.

The following are examples of the reference materials and inspiration the app provides:

prompt example-1
prompt example-2

As this is an application focused on drawing, I need example content of illustrations. I have asked a permission from some hobbyist artists to use their work as an example or inspiration within my application, so I will now be able to create prototypes with example gallery content.

Feedback on the wireframe prototype

After Christmas I revisited the wireframe prototype that maps out the core structure and features of the application. I asked some target users general feedback on the overall flow of the application. People liked the structure through a prompt path: as one interviewee described “it’s like a train, you can continue if you want but you can also leave at any stop”. They also enjoyed the snappy exercise structure. The community aspect was surprisingly popular, as many people liked how it allows them to get a chance to others’ WIP work. Improvement suggestions were focused on how the curriculum feels rigid and reminds too much of to-do lists, and that the current tone of voice of the prototype is too cold and it could be friendlier.

Some features that needed clarification were:

  • Shedule: In order to suggest relevant prompts, the application needs to collect data on how much time the user has and if there is time they could spend drawing but are not necessarily aware of it, which is the case for a lot of people with full time jobs.
  • Background questions during the setup: In order to determine the comfort zone of the user, the application needs to know what subjects the user usually draws and what media they are comfortable with, along with the user’s goals and what they would like to draw more. Ideally the app would have a built-in system that measures how much time the user spends drawing different techniques and mediums, and would determine the time required for different prompts based on that.
  • The user testers mentioned that it’s a bit difficult to give feedback without content at the moment, so next I will focus on the user journey of going through a prompt path (for example, relax or challenge) and get the flow of that right before focusing on other features that support the core structure. Some changes I already have in mind are asking the user to write feedback in between different prompt stages instead of at the very end of each path, as this would re-direct the artist’s thoughts to the positive qualities in their work in every stage instead of just the finished piece. I’m also thinking about changing the colours based on how far in the prompt the user is.

SECOND WIREFRAME PROTOTYPE

proto2 kopio

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.

pproto3

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.

proto22

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.

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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.

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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.

proto

STORYBOARD

storyboardblog

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

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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.

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First interactive wireframes
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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.
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Guru’s day setup with an interactive prototype on a phone

Flow map sketches

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.

Rough sketches

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.

Sketch flow map
Sketch flow map

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.

Project Goals and Inspiration

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.

Tracking App Inspiration
Inspiring examples of tracking

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.

visual insp
Inspiration for the visual direction

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.