A preview of the Campus Community Connection project

Let's Explore Art!

Overview

As part of my Design Thinking and Youth course, I was to design a system that would be beneficial to children. There were many topics I considered, but ultimately, I decided to design a system aimed at educating children about digital art.

Digital art is an emerging and popular form of art, but for various reasons, is still not commonplace in art education curriculums. As a result, not every child will have the opportunity to create digital art. This is an issue not only because we are living in an increasingly digital world, but there are many disadvantaged youths who would enjoy or benefit from creating art digitally.

Using technology to create art is not simply another creative outlet for children. For some children, it may be the only form of art that they can create. Many children with disabilities find it more rewarding to create art digitally rather than traditionally.


"For children who have physical challenges to illness, accidents, or medical treatment, technology may provide necessary adaptations to compensate for any lack of manual skill needed for art making."

- Cathy A. Malchiodi, Art Therapy and Health Care

Digital art is undoubtedly an important lesson to incorporate into art education, and should be easily accessible to all children, regardless of socio-economic status. Therefore, I wanted to answer the following question: How might we design an interface to educate children about the different forms of digital art in order to foster a general interest in digital art?

Responsibilities

  • Research
  • Information Architecture
  • Visual Design
  • Testing

Tools Used

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe After Effects

Requirements Summary


Children who use this system should:

  • Learn what forms of art can be defined as digital art
  • See examples of each form of digital art
  • Have the opportunity to try the digital art of their choice, depending on what is available
  • Discover ways that they can create digital art at home

Research


Data Collection (Part One)

For the ideation process, I interviewed three children who attend a local public school. They have a very limited exposure to technology, with none of the children individually owning cell phones or any other pieces of technology, and their entire family of 8 sharing one computer.

I decided that a combination of interactive interviews and card-sorting would be the best way for me to collect the data I wanted. I structured the activities into three parts in order to answer three questions:

  • How do the children feel about art?
  • What do the children consider to be art?
  • Does exposure to digital art change the child's opinion on art?



Activity One


The first activity I set up was to answer the question "How do the children feel about art?". For this, I placed an index card titled "How do you feel about art?" at the top of the area.

Underneath that card, I placed 5 more index cards which were labeled with the following categorizations:

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • It's okay.
  • I don't like it.
  • I hate it.


Once they read these categorizations, I provided them a pad with various colored sticky tabs. I let them choose their favorite color, and asked them to place it on the categorization that best matched their opinion. Two of the children said that they loved art, while the third child said that she liked art.
An about page for CCC




Activity Two


This activity was aimed at answering the question of how the children define art. For this, I decided that a card-sorting exercise would be best.

I started by giving each child a stack of index cards with various forms of art, both traditional and digital, written on them. I chose the following art forms:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Digital Art
  • Clay sculpting
  • 3D modeling
  • Virtual Reality


Then, I had the children read the four possible categories that they could place their card in:

  • This is definitely art
  • This may be considered art, but not always.
  • This cannot be art
  • I don't know what this is
An about page for CCC




Activity Three


For the third activity, I wanted to see if exposure to digital art would change the children's opinion on art. For this, I set up a workstation where I had a drawing tablet available, and let the kids take turns drawing a picture.

Once they were finished with their drawings, I asked them to repeat the first activity-- categorizing how they felt about art now that they had exposure to digital art. I also asked if they wished their art classes would incorporate digital art into their curriculum.

The oldest child said that her opinion of art was unchanged, and that she preferred traditional painting to digital art, but would not mind if her school integrated digital art into its curriculum. The middle and youngest children, however, both said that the experience with the tablet had improved their opinion of art. The youngest child placed her sticky tab on the card labeled "I love it!" while the middle child said that he already loved art, and wanted there to be a card to indicate that he likes art even more than "I love it!".



The youngest child's drawing
The middle child's drawing
The oldest child's drawing




Data Collection (Part Two)

I chose to approach the design process using a mixing ideas technique. While the ideal users would be children younger than high-schooled age, I know that not many kids this age have much experience using apps, let alone the comfort to design them. By using the mixing ideas technique, I thought that the children would benefit from seeing each others' ideas and filling in any knowledge gaps that the other might have.

I interviewed two children, a 6th grader and an 8th grader. Due to the current situation with COVID-19, I had to conduct the interview via Zoom. Therefore, the children were in their own home while I was in mine.

I gave them the following prompt:

"Imagine that a new classmate of yours doesn't know anything about art. How would you design an app or a website to teach that classmate about the various forms of art?"


Because neither child had much experience with digital art, they felt more comfortable in focusing their interfaces to educate their classmate on the various forms of traditional art. I did not find this to be a problem, though, as it would not be difficult to change the interface from being about traditional art to digital art.



Interviewing Participant One


The first child really focused on giving the classmate hands-on experience with digital painting.

On the home page, she wanted to list various forms of art and present it as a horizontal scroll. Underneath, she wanted to add a feature which mimicked a drawing app she had on her phone. She also had an idea where users could upload pictures of examples of art they find. For example, if someone saw a painting in a museum, they could upload a picture of that to the painting page.
Participant One's sketch


Interviewing Participant Two


The second child focused more on how she could get her classmate to take advantage of local resources to learn more about digital art.

On the home page, she wanted to list various forms of art and present it as a horizontal scroll. Underneath, she wanted to add a feature which mimicked a drawing app she had on her phone. She also had an idea where users could upload pictures of examples of art they find. For example, if someone saw a painting in a museum, they could upload a picture of that to the painting page.




On the home page, she listed different types of art and traditional art principles. Underneath that, she wanted to list art schools that were near the user's location.
If you clicked on an art form, she wanted to have a definition, materials needed, examples of artists, and any art classes that were near the user.


Mixing Ideas Time!


Once both of them had completed their designs, I brought them both back together to discuss their designs with each other. When they explained their reasoning for their designs to each other, I invited them to a virtual whiteboard where we could create a design that combined the best of both of their ideas.

The home page they developed had the content from Participant Two's design, and took advantage of the horizontal scroll idea that Participant One came up with.




The new home page
A page with an art form's details


Design Summary


Because the design they created was focused more on traditional art, I decided that some changes needed to be made in order for it to be relevant to digital art. The first thing I omitted was the "principles of art" section, as that applies to traditional art more than it does to digital art.

I decided to keep Participant Two's idea about listing local classes or resources. Since this interface is only meant to educate children about different forms of digital art, rather than teaching the art itself, I thought that listing local resources would fit well in the context of this project.

Final design

Design Overview


This design assumes that the user will have a fair amount of time to interact with the app. It is focused on educating children about the different forms of art, and letting the children make an informed decision on what type of digital art they are interested in.


Homepage




A Page with Art Form Details






A Scenario Written from a User's Perspective


Mary is a 13 year old cancer patient. She wants to partake in the art therapy activities that her hospital's oncology division offers, but due to her chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), she finds it difficult to do many basic motor functions, such as holding a pencil or brush properly. As a result, she is unable to create the traditional art that is offered in art therapy. Christina, the art therapist, brings a tablet with this app loaded onto it to Mary's hospital room. She tells Mary to take her time in choosing which digital art looks the most interesting to her. Christina then goes to other oncology patients while Mary is learning about the different forms of digital art.

After some time passes, Christina comes back to Mary's room, and Mary tells Christina that she thinks 3D modelling would be something she can try without it triggering her CIPN and causing her pain.


Design Assessment


This design fully meets 3 of the 4 requirements I have listed for this system. I feel that the last requirement, "Discover ways that [users] can create digital art at home", is partially met.

While the system does not directly teach the child ways that they can create digital art at home, the supervising adult will show the child what the necessary tools are. For example, using the scenario listed above, the app did not show Mary what tools she needed to do 3D modeling, but Christina would teach Mary about those tools, as that is her role as an art therapist. Therefore, the final requirement has been satisfied, but not directly by the application.

A major disadvantage that this design has is that its success is relative to how expansive the associating program's art selection is. For example, if the art therapy program at Mary's hospital only had a couple or no digital art tools at all, then the system would not be useful.

Therefore, I believe that this system would be best if implemented in conjunction with a well-established art program that has the resources necessary to teach children a variety of digital art forms.

Takeaways


This project taught me a lot, not only about how to design and work with youth, but also how to keep in mind about the context in which the system will be used. No application exists in a vacuum, and design ideas must be centered around the context in which the system will be used. I learned how to critique my designs, and how to make sure I fully understand all of the advantages and disadvantages.

I also learned the importance of being flexible in the face of unexpected situations. The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic meant that the scope of my project had to be narrowed, and that many of the design activities I had planned to be in person were switched to being conducted online. While this situation certainly was nothing I could have predicted, I still had to learn to adapt and change my project to still be meaningful and relevant.