running words around
design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

Talk : Digital Strategies For Creative Artists

Thursday, 11 December 2014

During the first week of December I was fortunate enough to do a couple of related evening talks at Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts, a multi-disciplinary collective specialising in ceramics, jewellery, textiles, print and furniture, which runs workshops from two studio locations in central Edinburgh.

The talks were entitled 'mARTketplace - Digital Strategies For Creative Artists' and focussed on the planning, optimisation and implementation of e-commerce enabled portfolio websites.  The audience were skilled and highly-creative artisans looking to get their work noticed and sold in their own specialist marketplaces.Whilst I was researching and writing up the talks, I designed a couple of posters to promote the events, and managed to throw in my current go-to font, an excellent multi-purpose sans serif from Hoefler & Co called Knockout.

Both of these talks lasted about two hours. I used two Macbooks, a single projector, and a sketchbook. In the first talk I covered quite a lot of ground about getting started properly on a web design project - being organised, analysing, planning, writing and positioning the site and its content. Quite a few in the group already had a website of some description, so the talk encouraged them to take an objective step back and reassess their key goals in using a digital channel.  For those without a web presence, I covered some of the classic pitfalls and mistakes, and digressed into domain names, search engines, mobile-friendly content, and social media integration.

I also introduced the group to a useful way to get started with a strategy for presenting their work - a swing'o'meter-style art direction scale, hopefully explained simply with this sketch -

For those in the group who already had websites which used proprietary templates, or dated layouts, the feedback was no surprise - they all complained of poor access to editing, limited flexibility in terms of rearranging and organising new content, browser compatibility issues, and some confusion over domain names, copyright and so on. Some of the specialist hosting platforms around now do address these issues (Squarespace and Format spring to mind), but a bit of careful analysis and a pencil can usually solve a lot of the basic design problems at the outset.

For the second talk I gave the group a brief overview of the design process - sketching, wireframes and mockups - and then concentrated on looking at some of the more user-friendly and reliable e-commerce tools, including Tictail and Weebly. This included a pretty detailed demonstration in Weebly, which is actually a very versatile and intuitive site-building app.  It also has a detailed help section to complement the user-friendly administrative area.

The feedback was really positive for mARTketplace, and I'll hopefully be invited back in 2015 to do some followup workshops.