The UX of the Art Studio

Thinking about usability when the only user is yourself

You’re only as big as your arms

A great studio keeps the most important items within arms reach. What do we hate about sites or apps with poor usability? We hate hunting for the button/link/whatever that might help us do the thing we need to do, only to realize it doesn’t, and now we have to start over.

Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House Museum) Amsterdam

Make your menu clear and memorizable

When you’re in the thick of working in fine art, your “menu” is comparable to your tools. Your brushes, your knives, your cups, your water…whatever. Once your tools are set up the right way, you quickly memorize them. In the chaos of creation, you reach for your favorite tool without thinking about it. Only when it’s not there do you pause, look up, and think “Damn it, where did it go?”

The UI of the Studio

Provide simple, flexible tools

To allow a user to create, the fewer and simpler the tools are, the better. If a tool is simple, I can use it for almost any purpose. If a tool is the dreaded “unitasker”, it can sometimes be cumbersome, and hard to learn.

Having fun at Acorn!
At Vermont Studio Center

Turn the low resources “lemon” into production “lemonade”

For most projects, we feel we never have enough of what we need; people, time, data, money, etc. On occasion, you’re given a tremendous amount of one resource (i.e. team members), but not nearly enough of another (i.e. time). Typically, you’ll have no other option except to go with the flow with what you have, allowing the nature of your resources dictate how you influence success of the project.

My studio at Cooper Union

You cannot schedule the user’s usage; make it easy to resume tasks

In the last year or so, I’ve pressure-tested my work with several “typical” user scenarios, including this one: imagine Janet, a 28 year-old professional in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. A nurse has told her she has another full 10–15 min left to wait, so Janet pulls out her phone to do ____________.



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