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A New Way to Achieve Color Palette Perfection for Artists and Designers 

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Role

Product Designer

Time

3  Months

Contributions

Research, prototype, and testing 

Product type

Mobile responsive website

Overview: While pursuing my studies in art and technology at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I designed and developed Gamut—a color conversion system and a comprehensive database of color formulas. The primary goal was to streamline and expedite the color matching process for artists and designers. What began as an idea for an independent study project has since evolved into a startup. I was responsible for all aspects of research and design, collaborating closely with developers to bring the vision to life. I am grateful for the support and assistance I received from my instructor Christopher Baker, my startup mentor Neale Sales-Griffin, and my project funders Gregg Latterman and Aaron Tucker. 

Challenge: There is a lack of effective digital tools for handling color, which plays a vital role in art and design, yet the color testing process is plagued by a high error rate. This leads to considerable wastage of materials, financial resources, and time for artists and designers.

Objective: Develop a comprehensive solution centered around the creation of a digital library and an online community, fostering collaborative sharing and documentation of color formulas among designers and artists. The ultimate goal is to enhance efficiency and speed in the color testing process while facilitating valuable insights and connections within the creative community.

Design Process

Insufficient insight into existing problems and desired solutions.

Following a thorough market analysis aimed at identifying business opportunities, assessing competition, and understanding existing process, I found that there was no technology available on the market that could assist artists in their manual processes. Building upon these findings, I moved forward to validate my hypothesis: I believe that artists and designers are facing challenges in obtaining desired color formulas.

I continued my research for an additional three weeks to learn more.
  • Survey ( Participants: 355, Age ( 18 - 55 ), Questions: 10 )

  • User Interviews ( Participants: 18, Age ( 18 - 50 ), Duration: 20-30 minutes )

  • Ethnographic Research

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User Interviews and Survey Takeaways
  • On average art students spend about $255 on art supplies per semester. “It's hard to predict what will work for my project, so I usually buy more than I need."- Sara Armstrong

  • On average it takes about 100 hours to create a new artwork. “I spend the majority of my painting time testing colors". - Mike David

  • About 35% of art materials go unused in the US. "Making colors is tricky. I like to make pigments in large quantities since it's hard to get the same color twice".
    - Celia Glastris

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Ethnographic Research Discovery

I spent a few weeks observing and interviewing artists in their studios. Among the departments I visited were those dealing with fiber, ceramics, painting, and fashion design. 5 of the 18 participants were colorblind in varying degrees. Statistics indicate that one in ten men are colorblind. As a result of my findings, I had the opportunity to consider a range of problems and solutions for designing for accessibility and inclusion.

Design Process

 Conceptualize

Needed to start prioritizing to form a strategy.

To form a stronger understanding of the key pain points, wants and needs I classified all insights gathered through the use of affinity mapping and user journey mapping to better understand how these three personas go through their journey of testing colors, discovering products, documenting the process, and sharing their resources It was one of the most valuable artifacts since it helped me understand and structure the journey for the potential users.

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User Journey Takeaways
  • Some color-blind artists experience the ability to perceive colors on computer screens due to the RGB color model. However, this capability doesn't translate to real-life scenarios where a broader spectrum influences color perception, affecting their ability to see certain colors.

  • Varied materials, ingredients, and heat temperatures can yield different color outcomes even when following the same recipe. This leads to a high error rate for artists in color production.

  • Artists face challenges in predicting color outcomes, resulting in significant time consumption. Additionally, documentation for swatch books, especially in the ceramic department, is often cumbersome and inconvenient to carry around.

Feasibility Study

I conducted feasibility research for the product in order to determine if it would be possible to convert the digital color system into real-life colors. A few important factors I considered were the existing color systems, color perception, and limited color gamut.

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Color Systems Exploration

The RGB color system exhibits the property of combining red, green, and blue to produce white on electronic screens. However, in the tangible world, the amalgamation of these colors typically results in an almost black pigment. Intrigued by this contrast, I delved into research to unravel the conversion dynamics between RGB and CMYK systems. Additionally, I sought to establish a comparable system applicable to physical pigments, spanning diverse mediums like ceramic dyes, fabrics, textiles, and conventional painting methods such as oils, watercolors, and acrylics.

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Color Perception Variability

The perception of color hues can vary across various computer screens, brightness settings, and individuals, even when observing the same color. This variability poses a challenge for artists and designers, making it more difficult to effectively communicate and ensure a shared understanding of colors in their creative endeavors.

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Limited Color Gamut

In contrast to the expansive color perception of the human eye, computers and cameras face limitations in their ability to perceive and display colors accurately. This inherent constraint poses a technical challenge. 

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Key Takeaway

I concluded that while it may not be possible to achieve 100% accuracy through digital color conversion, even 80% accuracy would reduce the number of errors and trails significantly. As a result, I decided to pursue ways and other means of delivering the product.

Design Process

I shaped my findings into opportunity statements to support the ideation process. I used the How might we (HMW) frame as it doesn’t suggest a particular solution, but give room for innovative thinking.
  • The information is scattered over the place and hard to navigate.

  • There is no convenient or practical way to share recipes

  • Users and teams perceive color differently

Possible solutions
  • Make information easier to navigate

  • Create solution that makes it easier for the community to share recipe

  • Make it easier for users to label and identify colors

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With the help of art and design students, we brainstormed and designed during the art and technology workshop. We followed a method known as Design Charrlettes, and after dot voting, I decided to move with building a mobile application. 
  • I conducted an open card test on Information Architecture following this session. It proved very useful in understanding how different users perceive information differently

  • I conducted an open card test on Information Architecture following this session. It proved very useful in understanding how different users perceive information differently

  • After quick paper prototyping  and iterations for feedback from potential users, I created wireframes and a clickable version on InVision to test the workflow and gain further feedback before jumping into the following high fidelity design

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I preferred the storyboard and agile backlog technique over other techniques as they clearly show the relationships between larger pieces of work. As a result, I have prioritized the implementation process as follows:
  • Minimum requirements: necessary features for the creation of the product

  • Major requirement: the features that users expect from a product of this type

  • Nice to have: features for the user's delight

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A simple new solution and a valuable experience.

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Seamless Discovery and Collaboration

This feature empowers artists and designers to effortlessly connect with their team and collaborators, facilitating the sharing and preservation of color recipes.

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Effortless Color Capture

Experience the ease of selecting hex codes or RGB values by simply pointing your camera or importing a photo from your library. Utilize the color picker to precisely document the color recipe with minimal effort.

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Quick and Simple Documentation

This feature allows artists to effortlessly document and share a wide range of recipes. Include details such as ingredients, temperature levels, materials, tools, and product or ingredient brands, ensuring a comprehensive and quick recipe-sharing process.

Outcomes

​The project was awarded the Positive Development Award and the Innovative Solutions Award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Moreover, artists shared overwhelmingly positive feedback, expressing their great enthusiasm to begin journaling their color recipes digitally.
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