Th-ink

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A welcoming and informative first-time tattoo experience. 

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Role

Student Project

Timeline

Teammates

Service Design, Product Design, User Research, Video Production
Advised by Jacob Wobbrock
6 Weeks, Spring 2019
Tiffanie Horne, Hannah Johnson, Eleanor Nesbit, Tanya Sangoi 

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As tattoos have become more mainstream, the experience of getting a tattoo has not.

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The process is especially intimidating for first-time clients, and more demanding of artists. 

Some tattoo shops are completely out of touch when it comes to customer service, and you can really tell it affects their business and people’s experiences.”

—Gerald, Tattoo Shop Owner & Artist

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Tattoo different. 

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Th-ink elevates the tattoo experience for new clients by helping them explore and articulate their ideas. 

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Th-ink gives artists more freedom to practice their craft by setting realistic expectations and informing new clients about the tattoo process. 

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Think desktop and tabet UI hero image

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Say Hello

At open house events, prospective clients can get to know the artists, become comfortable in the shop, and learn about the tattoo process. 

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Learn

Th-ink's website helps people learn about different tattoo styles, and their own artistic interests.
 
Once a user selects their preferences, Th-ink recommends artists whose specializations match the user's interests. 

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Inspire

Th-ink helps users clarify their ideas and identify specific elements that inspire them. This helps artists better understand—and meet—the client's aspirations.

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Create

With Th-ink, clients and artists can discuss design iterations and pinpoint desired changes.
Th-ink lets clients and artists share ownership of the design process. Together, they can create a piece they're both proud of. 

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Why Th-ink?

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1

Heightened emotions define a person's first tattoo experience. 

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A client’s motivations and expectations will dictate their entire tattoo service journey. 

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Tattoo artists are not only artists, but also teachers. 

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All tattoos are co-created, yet current tools are one-sided.

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Research let us know.

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We needed to better understand tattoos, artists who create them, and people who want them.

Interviews and contextual inquiries with two expert tattoo artists in Seattle’s Capitol Hill informed us to the nuances of working in this expanding and changing industry.
Our discussions revealed that working with first-time clients is especially challenging for artists and business owners. 
So, we asked five people who were planning, or had recently gotten, their first tattoos about their experiences and expectations. 
Unique desires create unique experiences for each person. However, the stages of the process are remarkably similar. 

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Discoveries helped narrow the scope.

We found that for first-time customers, the beginning stages of the experience are the most complex and variable, for clients and artists alike. I recognized the opportunity for having a meaningful impact early in the process, and we decided to focus there. 

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Contemplation

Browsing

Collaboration

Education

Reflection

After Care

Inking

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Ideas responded to insights.

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Now that we had an outline, we sketched 28 ways to make a better story out of getting a first tattoo. 

We coded and mapped our ideas to the stages of the service cycle we identified, and each of us crafted a scenario involving two characters drawn from our research. 

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We needed a way to evaluate our concepts, and to select one for further development.

The structure of the class left little time for formal review, so I organized a critique to solicit feedback from other designers. We agreed that both the Open House and Co-Creation Platform concepts showed the most promise.
 
The ideas were complementary: despite having overlap in educational content, each could meaningfully improve different aspects of the first-time tattoo experience. We developed both. 

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Personas drawn from our interviews helped unify these concepts into a complete experience. 

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Dana, the Client

  • Has been considering a tattoo for months.

  • Set on a particular style, but has no specific design idea in mind.

  • Has misconceptions  the tattoo industry due to pop culture and social media.

Sasha, the Artist

  • Has been tattooing for 14 years.​

  • Prioritizes building trust with clients.​

  • Has simmering frustrations with those who don't understand tattoo culture or process.

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Dana wants a tattoo.

She goes to a local shop's open house.

Sasha shows off Th-ink, their new web tool.

Dana uses Th-ink to share ideas with Sasha.

She collects ideas on Instagram. 

Sasha teaches his process and answers questions. 

They create a piece they're both proud of.

Dana returns to the shop to get her first tattoo.

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We tested it.

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We staged our own tattoo shop open house and tested a paper prototype of the online platform's key flows.

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We tested our concept with two people who were interested in getting tattoos someday, but who still didn't know much about different styles or the logistics of the process. 
I played the role of a tattoo artist hosting an open house, and made participants feel at home in the shop while outlining the typical scheduling and design process, clearing up common misconceptions, and answering questions.
 
The open house also served as an introduction to the Th-ink web platform, which participants used at home to express their ideas and start the tattoo design process.

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low-fidelity paper prototype UI wireframes

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The prototype validated our approach to promoting trust and communication between client and artist. 

It also highlighted ways to provide more timely information, in a way that's more relatable to those who are new to tattoo culture.
 
The results of this experiential prototype informed Th-ink's UI, and its relationship to the surrounding components of the service. 

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I feel like this isn’t going and getting lost in the ether, but going directly to Sasha. Being able to interact with an experienced artist is helpful.

—Danielle, Experience Prototype and Usability Test Participant

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We refined it for clients,

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This or that tattoo style comparison and education exercise

Actionable Education

Th-ink teaches people about different types of tattoos, and gives them the vocabulary to learn more. By choosing their preferred styles, potential clients can learn about their own interests.
 
Their selections are used to recommend an artist who would be a good fit the client's tattoo aspirations.

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Add and explain inspiring reference image

Structured Ideation

Artists often rely on reference images when designing custom tattoos. However, most people aren't experienced artists, and have trouble externalizing their ideas. 
Th-ink gives clients a way to express why they like something, helping artists create better, more personalized work. 

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Client side proof review and message annotation

Creative Communication

Once committed, an artist will use their client's inspiration images and style preferences to begin designing a tattoo that's just right. 
Design proofs and messaging are presented together. Clients and artists can discuss the overall progress and indicate specific changes openly and seamlessly. 

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And scaled it for artists.

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Familiar Management

Contextual inquiries revealed that iPads are the tool of choice for tattoo artists. We incorporated a CRM dashboard into a tablet app so artists can manage their projects without switching context. They can also import designs from drawing apps like Procreate and Adobe Sketch. 
artist crm dashboard for tablet UI
tattoo project dashboard on artist's ipad
design messaging and proof approval

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Improved Service

Designing great tattoos is only half of an artist's job. They must also give clients a pleasant experience in the shop and throughout the design process. 
To help artists provide better service, we created a service blueprint outlining best practices for working with new customers, and a journey map to illustrate their experience with the service. 
Providing a good customer experience is integral to turning first-timers into repeat customers, and for earning referrals and growing the business.
Customer journey map for Th-ink

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Reflect and remember to:

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Talk with strangers.

Setting out, my team and I shared an interest in tattoos, but none of us knew much about them. Going out into the world and speaking with people involved in the industry and with experience getting tattoos taught us more than we could have ever learned on our own. The conversations we had and the stories we heard ultimately helped us determine our problem space and define the scope of our response. 
 
Similarly, presenting our ideas to outside critics questioning the work allowed us to see the best path forward. I found that the act of presenting my ideas helped me understand them better, and to see their flaws or merits. 

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Be aware of your context.

No product stands alone, nothing exists in isolation. Tattoos are permanent changes to one’s body, and Th-ink is only one part of the first-timer’s experience. For the digital platform to be successful, it was critical to consider the physical, personal moments before and after its use.
 
Creating Th-ink required designing beyond the UI, and examining the entire service through an experiential lens to ensure the best possible outcome for both clients and artists.

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Customer Journey Map