To learn more about artist and client perceptions on the first-time tattoo experience, we conducted semi-structured interviews with individuals considering getting a first tattoo as well as individuals with tattoos who could reflect on their experiences. We also visited a few Seattle tattoo shops to speak with artists!
Tattoo artists aren’t just artists, but also teachers
Artists often must reorient their clients' expectations about the tattoo process. These tasks take artists away from their creative work causing frustration.
A person’s first tattoo experience is uniquely emotional
Due to unfamiliarity with tattoo culture and permanence of outcome, first-time tattoo clients often feel less comfortable with the process.
All tattoos are co-created, but current platforms are one-sided
From competitive analysis we discovered that most technology that artists and shops use don't allow for creative collaboration with clients.
Through our research, we realized that the experience of getting a tattoo maps to a cycle comprised of several stages. Based on our insights, we saw rich opportunity to improve the first-time tattoo experience within the stages leading up to receiving a tattoo: contemplation, browsing, collaboration, and education.
We each ideated several concepts and then pinned them under the relevant stages of the tattoo experience that we previously identified.
To down-select from 20 ideas to five we used the Six Hats Method, and also discussed how each concept aligned with our desired outcome. Of the five narrowed concepts, we identified a combination of two that comprehensively addressed our desired outcome.
Tattoo Shop Open House
At shop open houses, prospective clients could get comfortable in the shop environment while learning more about the tattoo process, reducing intimidation and misaligned expectations.
Creative Collaborative Platform
A digital platform that empowers artists and clients to collaboratively explore design concepts for the client's tattoo! It prioritizes helping first-time clients learn to articulate their style.
We depicted an ideal use case through a journey map detailing salient moments, emotions, and individuals involved. This helped us form and explore the end-to-end Th-ink customer experience.
The journey is through the eyes of a high-level persona we developed based on one of our interviewees: an open-minded first time tattoo client who has specific motivations for getting a tattoo, but not a specific design in mind.
How would the tattoo shop carry out the customer experience we'd designed? To answer this question we created a Service Blueprint, which not only explores aspects of the Th-ink experience that customers directly interact with, but also what must happen "back stage" for the service to succeed.
I wireframed the Th-ink digital platform, separating the user's experience into three stages: Learn, Inspire, and Create. I also experimented with a sidebar to track user progress across the tattoo process as well as a space for clients to message their artist.
As a team we constructed an experience prototype our concept with several participants. We turned our studio space into the Th-ink Open House, and wrote semi-structured scripts of how the event could play out. I acted as an eager first-time tattoo client attending the event (not far off from reality - I don't have a tattoo but would like one).
After our participants experienced our mock Open House we simulated a home environment in which they could test my paper prototype of the Th-ink Creative Collaboration Platform.
We learned a lot from running through our end-to-end experience prototype with several participants. These learnings helped us improve our designs at several touchpoints before moving to a higher fidelity.
Through the experience prototype, we learned that the shop could use Open Houses as opportunities to introduce the digital collaboration platform.
Our tests further revealed to us tattoo-related terminology that first-time clients may need more explanation on.
While participants enjoyed the concept of messaging their artist, the ever-persisting messaging bar confused users.
We devoted time to fleshing out the artist side of the Th-ink platform too, where they can view and manage their clients' ideas and inspiration all in one place.
Through our research we discovered the ubiquity of iPads in tattoo shops - artists use them to quickly sketch using apps like ProCreate, for instance. We designed the artist side of Th-ink with this in mind.
Throughout the entire process, my team and I used the Lean Canvas method, a business planning tool that aims to help bring entrepreneurs clarity to their business ideas. Creating and iterating upon this artifact helped us narrow in on how Th-ink could add value to the first-time tattoo experience.
Conduct experience prototype walkthroughs with artists
Our prototype sessions focused on first-time clients. We wanted to dig into the emotions surrounding their experiences and expectations. However, to ensure Th-ink is feasible and viable within a tattoo shop, we'd need to test more with artists themselves.
Integrate with popular apps for tattoo artists, like ProCreate
With more time, I would've liked to explore how the Th-ink digital platform could integrate with artist tools. I think of how the suite of design tools I use attempt to seamlessly connect with each other (Figma + Principle, for example).
Receiving a tattoo for the first time can be an extremely intimidating process - it's permanent, after all. Designing in the context of such an emotional experience was rewarding, and a great setting to explore engaging testing methods like experience prototyping.
Tapping into client expectations and motivations early was key.
Grounding our concepting in the experiences of those we interviewed was important in creating a service that could support intimidated first-time tattoo clients.
Increased confidence in designing end-to-end experiences.
Since our response Th-ink was a two- fold physical and digital service, it was important we get the details right, but also keep in mind how the service operates from each client touchpoint. I really enjoyed the systems thinking required to create artifacts such as our journey maps and service blueprint.