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Case Study: Giving a Voice to the Artists of Southeast Asia

When an artist creates a piece of work, they are communicating a message. Some of these messages can be generic, such as “love”, “peace”, or “war.” Other messages can be a little more abstract.  But no matter the message, all artwork is connected through one thing: a platform. The platform the artist chooses to share […]

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When an artist creates a piece of work, they are communicating a message. Some of these messages can be generic, such as “love”, “peace”, or “war.” Other messages can be a little more abstract. 

But no matter the message, all artwork is connected through one thing: a platform. The platform the artist chooses to share their artwork on is the way that viewers can see their work. Without it, an artist’s art is limited only to their eyes.

In Southeast Asia, a platform was created by Samsung to shed light on the different pieces of work created by the region’s talented artists. The platform’s name was “Masterpieces” and it had the potential to change the entire creative market.

However, with a few shortcomings and problems to fix, “Masterpieces” still had a long way to go before they could leave their mark on Southeast Asia’s artist population.

Samsung’s “Masterpieces”

The “Masterpieces” application was a digital art gallery used to display pieces created by artists across Southeast Asia. Optimized for Samsung Note devices, the “Masterpieces” app allowed artists to edit and create pieces on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

To ensure that the art being presented on Masterpieces’ digital gallery was of the highest quality, pieces were carefully selected by a panel of judges. These judges consisted of some of the top names in Southeast Asia.

From Esplanade’s Visual Arts programming officer Tamares Goh to filmmaker Ho Tzu Nyen, the vetting process for each piece of artwork was extremely meticulous. At the same time, though, it gave students and professionals alike the opportunity to utilize digital power in order to create pieces of art.

The Problems Behind Masterpieces

Even though Masterpieces was a great idea and it had limitless potential, the app lacked a branding tone. To most, it was more like a medium between artist and art enthusiast rather than an actual art gallery.

Masterpieces’ ability to create and display art online was ironically overshadowed by its blank canvas of a personality. Therefore, not only was it failing to attract artists from across the region, but it was failing to give the artists a voice.

How to Give Artists a Voice 

Our goal was to help revitalize Samsung’s “Masterpieces” and show the world just how important this app could be once its shortcomings were fixed. To achieve this, we followed an intricate four-step plan.

1. Pinpoint the Weaknesses and Double Down on Solutions

When Samsung first came to us, our first plan of action was to make sure we knew their problems loud and clear. That way, we could figure out a solution and double-down on the process.

There were several areas of improvement that we noticed when we first got started. Aside from the lack of a brand tone, the app wasn’t entirely optimized for Samsung devices and the digital experience still had room for improvement.

To start off, we listed all the ways that the app could be improved. This gave us an idea of the different features and functionalities that we could add to improve Masterpieces. 

However, to get the best possible results, we would need to grasp a firm understanding of the users using the app as well as the different ways they used Masterpieces. 

2. Find the User Persona

A key part of revitalizing Samsung’s Masterpieces app was understanding the user persona. We had to understand the types of people using Masterpieces, whether it was an artist or just someone scrolling through.

By creating user personas, we were able to pinpoint the best possible features for Masterpieces and in turn, craft an experience that all users would love.

We achieved this by coming up with different scenarios that would happen whenever someone was using Samsung’s Masterpieces app. Combined with the user personas we created for Masterpieces’ customer base, we were able to come up with a brand tone that fit the functionality of the app.

3. Communicate the Product

Now that we knew the type of people using Masterpieces and the ideal user experience, it all came down to execution.

The first step was to make a prototype and by using Keynote, we were able to come up with several different prototypes. These prototypes tested various features and functionalities to better suit the user.

Most importantly, we wanted to make the Masterpieces digital art gallery actually feel like an art gallery and to do this, we added several key features. The ability to scroll through art pieces and find out more information about them made it feel more like a museum rather than an actual app.

On top of this, we added gallery-specific colors and styled it so that it gave off more of a museum vibe than anything. That way, our users wouldn’t just be looking at art, they would be dining in on the whole digital experience.

We also implemented extra browsing qualities so that users would be able to explore Masterpieces in various ways. For example, the addition of horizontal and vertical scrolling allowed people to use the app in the way they were most comfortable with. 

4. Learn What the Users Think

Communicating the product was our primary goal since Samsung’s original Masterpieces app lacked the ability to connect with their audience. To be sure that our newly added features would be monumental to Masterpieces’ success, we went out and did some user research to see what people thought about the product.

First, we talked to people who had Samsung devices and gathered their demographic. Once we had that down, we began usability testing with our different prototypes. We asked our participants to do simple tasks, such as looking through art.

Then, we recorded their thoughts on the prototype and how they felt the task went. After gauging the participants’ thoughts, we used the feedback to improve the already-existing features we had planned for the final product.

The Final Product

The role of Masterpieces was to give the artists of Southeast Asia a place, a place where they could properly showcase their artwork. But the original design was only a medium between artwork and viewer.

There was no brand tone and there was no personality behind the app. Therefore, it was hard for the viewer to actually appreciate the efforts of the artist.

By addressing the lack of a brand tone and the problematic functionality Masterpieces had, the Melewi team was able to come up with an innovative solution that not only helped artists show off their talents, but also create a better digital experience for the people using the app. 

As you can see, the final product was more user-oriented compared to the original. Thanks to our help, Samsung was able to highlight some of the best artistic names in Southeast Asia while also showing off the usability of their own digital devices.

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