When starting a new business, one of the many steps is to define your identity, your value proposition, and find ways to get visibility - steps that are not easy, especially in the art industry which is one of the oldest markets ever! So we worked very hard on our concept; we recruited emerging artists, built a strong community that shared the same artistic vision and we developed a reliable website and mobile application to create a tangible connection between artists and people. We also collaborated with the famous company, Landor, to design a powerful logo and define our guidelines.
Just over one year of operationally running our business in the art market, we are inevitably still facing some challenges. One of these challenges is that it's difficult to clearly illustrate to the public that we are not an art gallery; we are a hybrid company but have also kept some design codes within the art market to be credible.
This leads me to discuss the roles of our UX designers in the company. We have two UX designers: Sina, who has been working at Artupia for seven months, and Thomas, who literally joined the Artupia team 15 days ago. Sina and Thomas come from completely different professional backgrounds, almost a 10 year age difference between the two, one is from Iran and the other from France. Very different profiles! As part of the marketing team, I am working closely with them to maintain brand consistency and ensure our users receive important messages.
Finding the right balance
"Artupia is a community of artists and art lovers. Our mission is to remove barriers between art and people, and transform an exclusive offline activity into a community-driven experience, creating an “art utopia” where art is for all, not just a select few." - Sina
Sina gives us a simple but really true definition of Artupia. Technically speaking, yes we are an “online platform for artists to showcase their talent and be connected with buyers”, however, in reality, Artupia is so much more than this. We are a community, we deeply care about our artists, we have a genuine vision that art should be shared with a larger audience and we're willing to change the status quo of the industry by empowering people to reintroduce modern art back into their everyday lives.
So how can we affirm our strong identity and leave enough space for our artists and their masterpieces?
“Designing an app that sells Art, especially visual Art like paintings, adds the challenge of reaffirming our brand while leaving space for the Art to express itself. The artwork we showcase in our app are from a wide range of styles, colors, and shapes; we have to design the best experience for our community while leaving space for the visuals to shine. We are achieving this vision by adopting a modern and lightweight interface, still retaining the Artupia brand with its signature green and the Avenir typeface, helping us looking forward to push the Art market to new heights.” - Thomas
Being credible for our users
"On Artupia we have two kinds of users, Artists, and Collector - that's how we call our users who are interesting in buying paintings. As a UX designer, one problem that I try to solve is to find an intersecting point between the Artist goals and Collector goals. Because on one hand, we must show our artists that their artworks are valuable and important, and on the other hand, we should show the collectors that art is accessible and that everyone can afford one." - Sina
Yes, our prices are lower than our competitors because our business model is different but still, we are selling high-quality paintings. So we need a website/app design that communicates this clearly. I avoid using the term “cheap” for qualify paintings because of its “low quality” connotation (IMHO). In regards to our interface, just like Sina said, it has to be professional - for the credibility - but not luxurious or elitist since we want art to be accessible to everyone and aim to break this stereotype of “art is only for rich”. To solve this problem of "accessibility", we are trying to implement a clean design in line with a friendly interface, talking directly to our users through the website and the mobile application with our text.
We also focus on showing the story beyond the paintings and transmit the message that each painting has been created by someone who had a purpose in mind:
"As a solution, when designing a new page, we decided to focus more on the story behind the artworks rather than their price. By doing so, we let our artists see that we care about every stroke of their brush and each drop of color on their canvas. On the other hand, sometimes the words that tell the story about a painting turn out to be even more interesting than the actual portrait itself, and that makes the paintings much more special in the eyes of the viewers. When a viewer feels connected to a painting, he/she is more willing to buy that piece of art." - Sina
Displaying our product
Another difficulty resides in showing our products. We have two kinds of services: the first one is custom paintings (requested by a user to a selected artist), whilst the second service is “ready to buy paintings” - original paintings completed by our artists.
When it comes to displaying custom paintings, they are almost always a direct interpretation of a private clients photograph; we need to make it clear that the image displayed is a painting of this picture and not simply a filter or cool photoshop trick. Custom paintings are undoubtedly unique and crafted with exquisite care by the hands of one of our talented artists. Although this point is quite obvious for those of us within the company or to our friends and family, we have to keep in mind that not all our users and visitors are English or Italian speakers, that sometimes people don’t even take the time to read. We need to find the best presentation for the user to perceive the quality and the uniqueness of the product.
When it comes to showing our paintings, the problem is different. We have a large number of original masterpieces, each one with its individual characteristics.
We want our users to see paintings based on criteria and what they like, but we also want to introduce them to different styles of paintings and expose them to things they would not ordinarily interact with.
A simple comparison is the menu of a restaurant: imagine you are in a pizzeria and the menu shows you hundreds of pizza. If you don’t exactly know what you want to eat, then you’ll probably feel lost and quite stressed and end up ordering something that doesn't satisfy you 100%. The same scenario can be said for paintings. Sometimes our users arrive to the website with a clear idea of what they are looking for. They start exploring, add the painting they like to their collection or, purchase it directly. But sometimes, our users come on the website also out of curiosity and without a determined goal in mind. To solve this issue, we are working hard to better develop and organize the explore page with an aim to offer the best user experience. We have created categories by interest, stories and styles like "Paintings for your living room" or "Paintings for your bedroom" "Do you want to discover abstract artwork?" or "Are you looking for a landscape?" etc. We need to find the right balance between showcasing multiple products without losing the interest of our users.
We also decided to rename that page "Explore". Not "search". We are offering users a different experience. We guide them to the paintings they might enjoy the most but also keep in mind that we want to expose them to new things as well.
I could write much more about the challenges from a UX design point of view! Working in a startup is very stimulating since you have to face problems and invent solutions almost every day! If you are a UX designer or if you’re just curious, I invite you to visit our website or download our mobile app. We’ll be happy to share your point of view, your best practices and maybe your advice to offer the best experience to our users.