SYNC is an iOS app that provides a platform for the music-minded. Connecting musicians from all ages, cultures, and skill levels. A community for musicians to find opportunities to develop a sustainable career through connection.
Project Type: Academic March-May 2021
Role: UX Researcher, UX/UI Designer, Brand Strategy
Timeline: 8 Weeks
Artifacts: Flows, Wireframe Sketches, Screens, Responsive Web pages
Tools: Figma, InVision, Marvel Pop, Zoom
Skills + Methods: Interviews, Usability testing, Qualitative Research, Experimenting, UX + UI Design
Throughout my life, I have grown a strong passion for music. Although I do not produce any music myself I have always found myself to be very involved in the entertainment industry as well as the many journeys of my friends who are aspiring musicians. Because of my involvement, I have been able to witness the various challenges one must overcome to develop a career in the industry and how much of it is based on “who you know”. Witnessing these challenges I was inspired to design a digital solution that would become that helping hand for maneuvering within the industry.
I read articles about the current state of the music industry as well as watched a variety of insightful videos to gain a deeper understanding of the problem space. I was reassured that the path to developing a sustainable career in the music industry is definitely not a straight and narrow one. There are no job applications. One’s career success is solely done through networking and who you know, unlike many other career paths.
These statistics show either a lack of knowledge or connections that are required in order to build one's career. This is a result of aspiring music industry professionals not knowing where to start when they begin to develop a career path in the industry. (a + b)
Establishing an HMW question allowed me to create a framework to work within. My Digital solution will be the answer to this question:
"How might we help aspiring music industry professionals initiate a career so that they have a chance to create a sustainable career?"
I conducted competitor analysis on companies that were related to career growth within the music industry. This was an important step to take to have a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of what exists out there already. With this understanding, I can better align my focus when it comes to ideating a solution.
Now that I have gained a baseline understanding of the problem space it was time to conduct my own primary research. I was given the pleasure of interviewing 5 participants between the ages of 20-25 years old who were all in the beginning stages of developing a career in the industry. In addition, all of the participants had a common goal to achieve a long-term sustainable career as a musician. After analyzing the insights I received I categorized them into three primary themes:
Knowing the right people and finding a support group is essential to being successful in the industry. Who you know can influence your opportunities for collaboration, the ability to get booked for shows, and awareness of the resources you have available to you.
It can be extremely difficult to start a music project from the ground up and on top of that be able to impress a label. Record labels do not just want to sign people who are “capable” they want to sign someone who is unique.
There are a lot of politics involved with the music industry. In addition, “breaking in” to the industry can be an incredibly elusive thing especially at the beginning of one's journey it's hard to figure out A. knowing what resources to look for and B. knowing where to look for it.
Based on my interview key insights, it was clear that most of the issues my participants faced fell within the theme of connectivity. I have defined this theme as a central idea of collaboration, connection, and networking in regards to one’s career development. Tying it back to my problem space, many aspiring music industry professionals do not know where to go when developing a career because there lacks a sense of connectivity. Identifying this central theme allowed me to begin think about how to frame my solution.
After analyzing all of the insights provided by the interview participants, I asked myself:
"Who am I designing for?"
This lead me to develop the Primary Persona of Henry to represent my target user. An aspiring professional musician who struggles on finding a direction to bring his career to the next level. Connecting this back to my interview insights, the resource of connection is what will provide this direction. In addition to creating a persona, I crafted an experience map in order to identify opportunities for a design solution.
Utilizing my HMW statement and the persona of Henry I developed 30 user stories which I further categorized into 4 epics. Taking into consideration the core value proposition, I chose the following epic and user stories to create my minimum viable product (MVP).
Core VP: A platform that promotes connectivity for guidance, collaboration, and networking for individuals looking to seriously build a sustainable career within the music industry
Core EPIC: Personal Development (which leads to a strong foundation for career success)
Now that I had the theme of connectivity and the epic of personal development I could strengthen the framework of my solution even more. Reviewing my user stories within the personal development epic, I identified the main tasks. From these main tasks, I created a primary task flow to represent how the user would go about completing these tasks. The task flow I created illustrates how a user will get served up custom results of potential musicians to connect with based on their shared experiences, interests, and goals. From these recommendations, the user will be able to select an artist to connect with and successfully reach out to them for guidance and mentorship.
User Story: "As an aspiring music industry professional, I want to be able to share my experiences and goals so that I can find someone who understands what I am going through"
User Story: "As an aspiring music industry professional, I want to connect with established music industry professionals so that I can receive guidance on what I need to work on to be taken seriously"
User Story: "As an aspiring music industry professional, I want to find a mentor so that I don't feel as lost with my career development"
I first utilized pen and paper to experiment with different design solutions. With design thinking, some imagination, and inspiration from sources such as Dribbble I created these paper prototypes:
Now Having grown an idea of a potential direction for my digital solution I then looked to Figma to develop a grayscale wireframe. My grayscale wireframe ended up being a blend of my initial sketches due to the iterative process:
After solidifying my first grayscale wireframe I conducted 2 rounds of user testing with 5 participants each round. After synthesizing all of the feedback I received I prioritized changes that would have a high impact on the usability of the design but required low effort to fix due to the limited time frame I was given.
When I came to the stage of determining the visual identity of my solution, I found myself to be very indecisive. The name and brand colours of the application have the power to completely alter the tone and meaning that it conveys. I kept an open mind continuously looking to my peers and educators for feedback and even going back to some of my interview participants to get their honest opinions. Through this iterative process, I experimented with 3 different names, multiple wordmarks, and a variety of colour combinations.
After much experimentation and feedback as well as checking the contrast of colors against WCAG accessibility standards, I finalized the style guide for my digital solution.
When I was in the process of making UI Design decisions I was continuously looking for feedback from my peers and educators. After much experimentation and a little bit of tweaking, I present to you the finalized design of the SYNC app. If you are interested in the interactive prototype please click on the link below.
Look into the future I asked myself:
What actions would I need to take if SYNC were to go to market?
This question influenced me to experiment by designing a responsive marketing website to promote the SYNC app. To create an influential and brand-connected marketing website, I gathered UI inspiration, created a multitude of sketches to consider, ran user testing, and designed low-fidelity wireframes which I later translated into the images you see here down below. The goal of the SYNC marketing website is to communicate the main benefits and features of the app while only providing a sneak peek influencing the user to download it for themselves.
Another avenue of concept exploration I wanted to take on was multi-platform design. Considering the fact that the primary user has the role of a musician I decided on creating a desktop interface so the user can have the option to scroll through SYNC when they are busy in the studio.
How might cultural habits change how your product is used? And how might your product change cultural habits?
The music industry and SYNC will influence one another in many ways. Working backwards, I believe SYNC could have the ability to culturally change the structure of how artists find gigs. Booking agents and well-connected individuals could begin to depend on SYNC to find fresh new talent.
On the flip side if these cultural habits strengthened new features could be implemented into SYNC. An example of this could be "voting" an artist into a gig. Where the venue or booking agent could post an upcoming show they need an artist for allowing individuals or groups to submit their samples publically. From there, these artists can either get up-voted or receive constructive feedback (no down-voting). This would allow for a positive environment to give more people a chance at a performance opportunity while still receiving feedback on their work.
Reflecting back on SYNC, I know its impact will be a positive one. SYNC is not just a music streaming platform it's a community for musicians who are looking to seriously make a name for themselves or want to give back to the community. Its impact will be establishing a positive environment that fosters growth while stripping back all of the politics of the industry.
After completing my capstone over the 8-week timeline with BrainStation I took some time to reflect on the things I have learned through this process.
• (a) https://www.musicentrepreneurhq.com/10-jaw-dropping-music-industry-stats/
• (b) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4j6NQLezi8I
• (c) https://www.businessofapps.com/data/soundcloud-statistics/
• (d) https://soundcloud.com
• (e) https://www.linkedin.com/
• (f) https://drooble.com/
• (g) https://jammcard.com/