Artist Collaboration & the Artistic Process

In learning about public art in Pittsburgh, we noticed that some pieces of art were created by an individual artist, like the Magnolias, while others were collaborations between two to three, like the sculptures in the Agnes R Katz plaza. We were interested in learning more about the artists creating the work we see, and discovered that artists struggle to receive feedback from qualified individuals, especially other artists, due to lack of connections. 


Wall Walk & Reframing Activity | Contextual Inquiry | Affinity Diagram | Think Alouds | Speed Dating

The Team





Project Manager

Research Lead

Product Manager

Design Lead


Figma | Mural | Zoom


6 Weeks

My Contribution

  • Uncovered insights from contextual inquiry and interpretation sessions.

  • Defined possible design solutions.

  • Speed date users to verify the identified needs.

The goal of our project was to learn more about the artists creating the work we see, including their creative processes and possible collaborations with others. After conducting various methods of user research with multiple artists, including think alouds and contextual inquiry interviews, we discovered one main problem for artists: receiving critiques from qualified individuals, especially other artists. We found that it is important to artists that they receive feedback on their technique and direction from those they trust and feel are qualified, but many artists lack the relationships with other artists in order to receive this kind of feedback. From our speed dating with proposed solutions, we believe a platform made specifically for artists that allows them to meet and connect with other artists, as well as seek out critique on their artwork would solve this gap.

User-Centered Research & Evaluation (UCRE)

This is a sponsored project for the User-Centered Research & Evaluation (UCRE) course. The purpose of the project is for use to practice and learn "capture and understand tasks and goals; generate ideas to support tasks & goals; measure our success at that support" quoting from the UCRE class introduction slide. 

Design Brief


The project focuses on public art* and how it contributes to the city of Pittsburgh's livability. The team collaborated with Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon and the Heinz College, Arts Management program to further research to find design opportunities within the focused subject matter. We are expected to analyze the data collected by our collaborator and find a topic area in conducting further research.


Page of the current prototype: Public Art + IoT = An Engaged Civic Space

*Public art is loosely defined as art in outdoor or indoor public spaces that are readily accessible to the general public. It can take many forms from modern light shows to a historical statue. 

Finding the Focused Topic

In order to better understand artists, we conducted multiple methods of user research. We began with a wall walk and reframing activity, consolidating all of our team’s individual research on the data collected from existing prototypes of our collaborator. This helped us to think about our area of focus, artist collaboration, from a different angle and try to identify key challenges. 

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  • General lack of communicative outlets specifically for public art causes general unfamiliarity with how to operate or interact with the few that exist.

  • People value convenience above almost anything else, whether it’s proximity to public transportation, proximity to food courts, how well free time in their day coincides with other activities, how many things they can get done at the same time, or even how hot it is outside.

  • Younger people are the least patient, but the most explorative when it comes to interacting with new media.

  • There is a high potential for leveraging social media platforms with mobile interfaces, especially with younger audiences.

  • Most of our previous research focuses on art viewers as opposed to artists - there is an opportunity to explore how viewers can become a part of the art creation process

The goal of our project was set to learn more about the artists creating the work we see, including their creative processes and possible collaborations with others. 



Contextual Inquiry

Next, we conducted multiple contextual inquiry interviews to further understand the artists’ creative process and possibilities of collaborative art-making. We interviewed two curators, four artists, and one art viewer. We learned that effective collaboration not only speeds up the art-making process but also can generate compelling stories of the process. To make it effective, artists have to collaborate with someone with a similar level of expertise. 

“It is hard for me to collaborate with others. I have to trust the artist I am collaborating with.


-- Artists Brubey

“We made the process into a book and viewers love it.”


-- Artist/ Designer Brett

In addition, the basic infrastructure of the city values much more than public artworks for citizens who aren't interested in art. For those who do value art in their city, they are more likely to feel attached to and build admiration for the artwork through a compelling story behind. Therefore, the team shifted our focus to finding problems in the artist's collaboration. This could potentially increase the livability for artists. Then the compelling story behind the collaborative art-making process will further increase the city's livability for those viewers who value art. 

"People who don’t value artworks may focus more on potholes on the street to evaluate the city’s livability."


-- Pittsburgh Public Art Curator Patrick. F

Affinity Diagram

We then created an affinity diagram using our notes, helping us gain further insights from our research. This helped us to pinpoint the underlying gap in our user base’s needs, which is building relationships. We were then able to narrow down our focus for our project to the most enticing way to improve this for artists, which is collaboration.


Think Alouds

Next, we conducted think alouds protocols on Squarespace, an existing platform commonly used by artists to share their work. Our interviews further confirmed our understanding that the main issue for artists is building a relationship. To be more specific, current artists are experiencing the difficulty of a lack of communication and opportunities to get comments or feedback on their art. 

“There is an artist community … but I don’t know how to initiate a conversation.”


-- Artists Kathy

“I would appreciate a reason to collaborate.”

-- Artists Brubey

Key Needs

A lack of communication 

1. Artists need to make social connections.

2. Artists need to make professional connections.

Get comments or feedback

3. Artists need to receive feedback on artwork during progress.

4. Artists need to receive feedback and see other artists' work when        creating artwork.

Storyboard Speed Dating

A speed Dating session was conducted with our storyboards to validate our identifies needs, uncover new needs, and prob the user's willingness to adapt to design innovations.


​Taking all of the insights we had gained through previous research and the key needs we had identified, we brainstormed multiple solution ideas in the form of storyboards. We conducted speed dating using our storyboards and found that users did not like the idea of a system that would alert other artists of their presence in a new town due to privacy issues, but they did like the idea of a system that would allow other qualified artists to give critiques on their art on a public platform. We were able to validate the need of connecting artists with other artists to receive feedback, leading to our final solution.

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From these insights about artists and their collaboration process, we were able to design a solution that addresses these issues.


Given what we found through our research, we propose a solution created specifically with artists in mind, so that they can connect with other artists socially and professionally. The platform would allow artists to receive feedback from artists if they want, and would be exclusively for artists so that they know that those on the platform have similar goals. 

  • This platform would facilitate critiques, a common practice in an art studio in which artists collectively view each others’ art and give critical and constructive criticism to help them improve. 

  • It would allow artists of different or similar backgrounds to connect and find inspiration not only from receiving feedback on their own artwork but also from seeing others’ artwork. 

  • Additionally, this solution would allow artists to make professional connections with other artists in their field. 

  • Not only would they be able to leverage these professional connections, but they would also be able to develop a better relationship with the artistic community, something that we’ve seen is difficult in a highly individualized field.