Creating a Larger Career Picture

Understanding the Artist

I set out to understand the process artists go through when looking for new jobs. This included the actions they take, the emotions they feel, the successes they have, and the frustrations they encounter.

I started gathering information by sending out a survey to anyone I knew who is an artist for a living.

I learned that:

  • Over 50% of artists associated negative feelings such as being overwhelmed or unsure when searching for new work.
  • Over 60% of artists find work through some sort of networking (word of mouth, referrals, social media, etc.).
  • The most important factors in choosing a job are the monetary compensation (58%) and alignment with their artistic values (63%).

After the surveys I used interviews to dive deeper into the quantitative data that I collected. I asked six artists various questions that led me to understand more about their behaviors, goals, needs, and frustrations.

When starting the job search, artists first think about what interests them. They do research on what jobs, projects, or companies they would like to work on or for by browsing various online resources such as, job websites, company websites, Instagram, or by checking out new shows, galleries, or exhibitions that might be related to their work. They also rely on their friends and connections to discover and learn about new opportunities within their artistic realm.

All interviewees stressed the importance of showcasing their work and personality to prospective employers. In addition to showcasing their talent all interviewees mentioned having a foot in the door before they got their current job or other jobs, such as a connection within the company, a stepping stone job that prepared them for a different role, or a skill that was important to the role.

An artist’s journey starts with the discovery of an art form. They either enjoy exploring the art form, are gifted in it, or most likely both. The main goal of landing a job in the industry is to get paid for creating and sharing art that the artist is proud of and enjoys creating.

Although the prospects of a new job can be exciting, the task of finding a new one is often overwhelming and can breed self doubt. Job sites will often show tons of jobs but those jobs are almost always useless to apply to without having an initial connection. An application to a job on a job board is unlikely to get a response. There are also many jobs out there that are not shown or posted online, they can only be known through word of mouth or some sort of inside information. With that being said, most interviewees (67%) found it difficult to keep up with important connections even though they acknowledged that these connections are the best avenue to further their careers.

An Artist is Born!

All of my research culminated in the creation of Madison, a persona that I was able to use to focus my efforts towards creating a solution for artists as they navigate the process of finding new work.

Madison is a 25 year old junior graphic designer living in New York City. She lives and breathes art and has always dreamed of working in a creative field. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art from Bard College where she met some of her closest friends and mentors. After graduating college, it took her some time to find a job, but through an alumni connection, she was able to land her first job as a junior graphic designer for a small start up. Although she enjoys her job and the people she’s met, Madison is ready to move into a role that challenges her creativity and that she is more passionate about. She is confident in her abilities as an artist but is daunted by the prospect of a job search and is unsure how to start. She is nervous about reaching out to the connections she’s made in the past because she hasn’t contacted them in a while and she’s unsure how to expand her creative network.

Madison needs a way to leverage her network in order to work in a job or on projects that fulfill her artistically.

Palette: The Networking App for Artists

An artist’s palette is everything they have available to create a work of art. Each artist’s connection is part of their palette. The “palette” helps the artist paint the bigger picture that is their career.

The goals of this app were to:

  • Allow Madison to share updates on her art (personal and professional)
    with people in the art world.
  • Help Madison stay in touch with connections and build stronger relationships with people who can help her grow within her career.
  • Help Madison make new connections within the industry.

Editable Contacts: add notes, reminders, and set the importance of contacts to maintain and build current relationships as well as keep current relationships relevant.

Gallery: share current projects or content and browse content from connections (personal and professional)

Explore: browse potential new connections and discover new art or artists

Profile Page: display story, personality, work, and thoughts for others to learn more

Looking to the Future

I completed two usability tests where I had users navigate their way through six tasks. Although users were able to do three of the six tasks in under a minute, the three that were most difficult involved contacts and discovering new art, artists, companies, or people within the art industry.

Test 1

Task 1: Add a new person to your network.

The user made two errors and took two minutes to complete the task. They were unsure whether to add people from their contact list or from the search page. The add buttons were also difficult to see.

Task 2: Find a way to help you remember to contact one of your existing contacts.

The user could not visibly see the setting. It took them more than a minute to figure out that the settings would appear once they clicked on a contact.

Task 3: Find a way to look for new art.

The user was not sure whether to use the search button or look at the gallery. The gallery did not have any sort of search functionality to discover new art.

(1) An add button was placed at the top of the contacts list so users could add new contacts directly from the contacts page. (2) An explore page was added to encompass all types of searches and to have new content readily available and discoverable to the user.

Test 2

Task 1: Add a new person to your network.

The addition of the add button resulted in no errors and a task completion in under one minute during the next round of usability testing.

Task 2: Find a way to help you remember to contact one of your existing contacts.

Because no changes were made to this functionality during the first iteration. The next user experienced similar difficulties when trying to complete the task.

Task 3: Find a way to look for new art.

The user was able to locate and maneuver to the explore page right away to look for something new.

In the next iterations of Palette, it will be important to increase the visibility of editing and customizing contacts, as that is one of the most important features of the app and an area where users tended to struggle.

The Future of Palette

Looking towards the near future of Palette, more usability testing is a priority in order to learn more about how users interact with the app and to create a seamless user experience for the users.

As the app evolves, it will be important to think about how non-artists within the industry (people with hiring and funding power) will interact with the app in order to find new talent and fill artistic gaps.





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