As a semester-long project for my Service Design class, the non-profit, public urban re-development organization wanted a more impactful, unified art experience that met the needs of both artists and visitors. But they left it to our 2-person team to discover their problems, design a solution, and present prototypes that demonstrate our concept.
I have always been passionate about design that empowers. We realized this project held enormous potential for helping local artists gain opportunities and outlets for expression.
Through research, my teammate and I realized the best way to help our clients was to address limitations when servicing local Atlanta artists that include lack of funding and missing community resources for artists.
Here's how we got there.
We knew there were three main stakeholder groups that factored into this overall service: the visitors, the artists, and the BeltLine.
We conducted field observation and quick conversations with visitors to gain insight into how they interact with artwork, what painpoints they had, and what they liked about the art programming. Our reasoning was to find how existing service touchpoints and experiences fell short and how it affected visitors directly.
For artists, we conducted three main semi-structured interviews with three different kinds of artists: a musician, a performance artist, and a photographer. We talked about their experiences within art communities, what personally helped them create, and painpoints in finding opportunities. We wanted to dive deep into the artist perspective, investigating their social connections to artists, networks, and outlets for their art.
Finally, for the Art on the BeltLine stakeholder, we conducted two main interviews: one with the programming and art program lead, another with the fundraising arm of the organization. We investigated their goals for the organizationwere, past difficulties they've had across touchpoints, and regulations they have to abide by as a public and non-profit entity. This was a practical investigation into restraints our design could take while also seeing what they had planned, and why their current system worked the way it did.
In the end, we summarized and compiled all the most important driving motivating factors of stakeholders in the following diagram. These would help with deciding design directions moving forward, and heavily impact considerations and implications when moving into the ideation and wireframing stages.
Almost just as importantly, we laid out how their relationships to each other mattered. This ultimately painted a better vision for our client, and helped solidify possible directions moving forward. Knowing we had a limited scope, opportunities,and timeframe, we had to choose which stakeholders to help most.
In the end, we decided to primarily focus our efforts on the Artists and the BeltLine. We knew that there was great potential in helping artists, usually the most exploited out of the entire ecosystem, but we also knew it was important to bring our clients and the BeltLine onboard with such decisions, which meant greater focus on their end of the system.
With our insights from the research phase synthesized and verified, we looked to ideate, prototype, design, and iterate the experience that best fit the needs of users.
We first started by creating an initial task flow of the navigation of our site. We knew that we had to highlight interactions like applying and donating. But we understood that even before this we had to give enough context to users to communciate the vision of the BeltLine - and how our new platform helped realize that.
After brief visual research of different digital platforms, we started with both pen-and-paper and digital wireframes. We looked primarily at visual and informational hierarchy. Even at this stage we started considering trade-offs, interactions, and different use cases.
With that basis, we created low fidelity designs of our pages which helped define the visual language and build affordances to streamline navigation. With that in hand, we could use user testing to inform design directions moving further.
Through every stage, we conducted usability tests, running a variety of users with different levels of familiarity with art, the Atlanta BeltLine, and technology through talk-aloud sessions. Crucial information like conflicting mental models of task flows, confusion over interact-able elements, and copy not being clear were all noted, taken into consideration, and addressed in further iterations.
Our final design created a platform and service that was created towards creating an artist hub that offered paid opportunities and community achieved with three key features:
The main highlight and touchpoint is the rotating collection in which artists can apply for a collection based on a theme and users can donate to a collection if they resonate with the cause.
We also want to show off our monthly workshop series which is the main touchpoint of Expressive Horizons’ increased focus on creating a hub for artists in Atlanta. It operates independently of the website, which means there are multiple, personal touchpoints to enter into the service.
Our project is based around utilizing local sponsors. Through research, we found artists wanted Atlanta companies to "put their money where their mouth was," and to actively participate in assisting local projects. Leveraging our clients' existing public fundraising connections not only builds trust with artists, but helps to exapnd partnerships within the city.
As an extension of design artifacts we've already created like touchpoint audits and journey maps, we created a service design blueprint for our clients to communicate and clarify how research insights play directly into design choices for our new comprehensive system. This tracks user needs and desires across different stages of their customer journey, how this concept might address these needs, and how the system is built especially for artists and how they prefer to interact with the brand.
We presented and defended our designs in front of a panel of service and strategic designers in addition to our clients and other Atlanta BeltLine representatives. Our designs were selected as one of the top solutions, with the judges highlighting the attention we paid towards the artist perspective.
It was easy for us to get trapped in the research phase because it never felt like enough about the user. But a crucial decision for us was to move forward and to trust the design process.
Unknowns like regulations on funding, or what artists felt about the project were eventually revealed. Decisions about which trade-offs to pursue were never permanent, life-or-death choices - even if they seemed like that in the moment.
There was only so much we could figure out at once; the key was not being paralyzed by choice. Taking the leap into fast prototyping early, testing, documenting, and iterating seemed hasty but saved us from indecision.