4. Storyboarding and Probing

Moving on from my first stab at mapping my sector, this week I began the process of developing some target audience/customer storyboards.

...as ever for me, any excuse to draw! No, but seriously... these have really helped me in extracting professional profiles and characters directly from my sector map, (customer segments from my Business Model Canvas) and give them a living breathing identity that enables me to simulate use case scenarios for my cards - who could use them? Where? How? ...and most importantly - why? Before I proceed, I have to say that this process set off quite the chain reaction this week - it's definitely fair to say that now's the time to get yourself nice and comfortable for the debrief... This set of storyboards that I've put together explores the identity of 'the creative freelancer' - which, as was established last week, is the primary target audience for Making Sense. Underneath this core identity, I have developed 4 sub-personas to capture a little more breadth regarding the variety of creative disciplines and identities I anticipate engaging with as part of my participatory fieldwork process (including, but definitely not limited to):

Storyboard #1 - The Independent Musician

Storyboard #2 - The Freelance Designer

Storyboard #3 - The Illustrator

Storyboard #4 - The Dancer

From these, we can see that each scenario shows a maker of some kind, weighing up their options, taking stock of their resources and any limitations surrounding their opportunity, and developing creative formulas with these core considerations in mind. As was made evident in my previous sector mapping exercise, I have personal experience with nearly all of the creative occupations shown above. However, I have also begun to explore other creative disciplines that I have no direct experience of (one particular example of which shown through the 4th storyboard above). But even so, familiar with a discipline or not, the rich wibbly-wobbly tapestry that is modern creative freelancing will see me now approaching many different people from many different backgrounds, who are working in many different contexts, and this is where the true value is going to be as I move into a phase of participatory design with the kinds of personas we see above; because although I can relate to many the DISCIPLINES above, I certainly don't have experience with all of the CONTEXTS that creatives from varied backgrounds are immersed in. This will be an opportunity for learning, and an opportunity to fold back the empathy as part of the recursive loops of participatory design: i.e. prototype the cards, test them with a creative freelancer, discuss their evaluation of the process, and fold any considerations, ideas, and ingredients that emerge back into the prototype deck. Now, to add to this, the responses to my creative professionals survey have also begun to roll in. The responses from this have begun to provide me with further empathy fuel, and many of the kinds of creatives who have engaged with it align with the personas shown in the storyboards above.

This first question enabled me to audit the nature of the professionals engaging in this survey. This was a multiple-choice question with 20 different disciplines to select from, as well as an 'other' field for people to add any roles not represented in the list:

...for this, 90% of the participants had selected more than one role/discipline for this answer. This survey was indeed largely reaching multi-disciplinary practitioners, which was naturally really promising to see.

The second question followed up on the first:

...54% of the people had stated "I can’t decide" here. Of the 46% who could decide, under half of them were still actually split between two choices, but the remainder of these individuals did manage to select one core role as what they identify as the most; it was obvious that in a traditional sense, creative identity wasn't very fixed for most practitioners engaging in this survey. The third question was an effort to gauge appetite for continued professional development amongst these individuals:

Nearly three-quarters of the individuals who filled out this survey said yes. In addition to this, many long-form answers were given as additional detail in the follow up to this question. Of the 74% that said yes, over half of them had cited a need for better discipline or organisation to manage the act of ongoing skills development as part of their active careers. The following question was one of the more interesting ones that emerged during the design of this questionnaire at The Growth Hub:

This digest of some of the responses to this question does a great job of capturing the varied responses to this question, all of which coming from different perspectives, but all with one golden thread; it's a non-constructive, negative, and redundant notion - but nonetheless a notion that has had a negative impact on many of them personally.

With this, I found myself reflecting and identifying a new core value proposition that expands on the way I initially intended to present Making Sense - and that is ‘empowerment’. Making people feel comfortable and happy about their creative makeup, and dispelling the negative impact that the phrase a ‘jack of all trades' has seemingly had on so many creatives out there.

Because, as antiquated and dated a phrase it is, it has clearly generated anxiety and a negative impact on many creative individuals and professionals. So, a new core value of this product is that it simply needs to celebrate and champion diverse mixed practice profiles… and liberating people from any negative connotations around this is a crucial and potentially transformative component for the core value proposition of Making Sense.

...and therefore - it has now found its way into my core value propositions for the business model of this product. Do they want something that adds organisation or structure to their varied creative practices? There is evidence of this yes! Would they want something that dispels antiquated views of the Jack of all Trades? There's signs of this also, yes! ...but! Do they want a praxis on multimodality? Well... not explicitly, no. This is a super valuable jumping-off point for me here given these findings because I did indeed start this journey in 7401 keen to explore the world of multimodality (i.e. creativity spanning the different modes of media, and sensory modes). It's something that has been swimmings around in my head for the last few years and it is still something I very much want to explore as part of my multidisciplinary practice in the coming years. I. Not they. Because here I am, stood out here in the field, looking at my sector neighbours, and their neighbours, through storyboards and surveys, and this just doesn't look like it is the leading spin in this territory. Hell, I strongly believe that the signposting of multimodality via these cards can still have a place as a functional and useful key ingredient, but in a top-level-striking-a-chord-making-people-care kinda way, it's (currently) too niche and doesn't feel like it's a suitable USP (or should I say OESP!) Why?! Well... throughout the groundwork process, my fascination with this subject is down to my own personal journey as a creative practitioner so far, and it is a focus I fully intend to pursue in the next chapter of my career as a new media practitioner - and although I want to use Making Sense as a resource to introduce other creative practitioners to this multimodal way of thinking about mixed disciplinary practice, this is going to be a process; a journey. Meet them where they are, then take them somewhere new. This is an adage we've used time after time again at pyka, whenever we've needed to balance our own dreams with other people's needs. It's served as a very effective guiding principle historically for me, and it feels more valuable than ever right now(forgive me, I'm reflecting a great deal on my professional past as the themes in this post converge and diverge). So the way I currently see this is - yes, raising awareness of multimodality in modern creative workflows is still a viable ingredient of Making Sense, but from the perspective of marketing towards my target audience, it looks as though 'creative organisation' and 'creative identity' are how I am going to meet them where they are. Now given that analysis, I'd like to take a moment to explain why this is so important with some external reference points. Enter Simon Sinek:

His Golden Circle. Or should I say, our Limbic Brain. "Make America Great Again". "Get Brexit Done". "Take Back Control." Even all the way back to Bernays' "Torches of Freedom" - there's a reason that all of these 'whys' were so successful... damn you lizard brain. Damn you! Yeeesh, it really sucks that I have to cite such ugly examples of the success of this model... it's actually no wonder there's such a distaste for effective marketing. It really does seem as though - something that clearly works and is successful and sees results - is something that is often more comfortably adopted by the Domonic Cummingses and Steve Bannons of the world, rather than the Jeremy Corybns and Bernie Sanderses... (nope. nope. okay woah boy... back! Save it for Question Time.) It just leaves me wondering, is there some paradox whereby its better suited to those with no socialist ideals? Perhaps... but then again, making people care about something, then honestly delivering on that promise, can exist; good ethical marketing does exist! But turning yourself over to effective marketing does seem to be 'the new selling out' for musicians and artists and creatives... Because of this, there is now a very large part of me that feels it's high time it's reclaimed by those who actually empathise and care. It is after all the means, and not an end.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.

Okay, slight rant aside... in all seriousness, it is absolutely something I feel myself finally giving in to; being comfortable about grappling with effective marketing... because if I do it right it can go from column A to column B:

Meet them where they are, then take them somewhere new. Lastly, in this explosive chain of discoveries and revelations this week - in his TED talk Sinek actually went on to reveal something else that I had never before come across - The Law of Diffusion of Innovations.

Now, with this extended customer segments pool, and a healthy body of responses form all kinds of creatives, I am considering quite a broad set of profiles here, but I’m also mindful not to get too broad and run the risk of failing to define my customers well enough, and weaken the focus of the emerging business model for Making Sense. To combat this, I will need to take note of The Law of Diffusion of Innovations’. The bell curve of this law spotlights something known as ‘the gap’ - this is the jump from the early adopters, to the early majority, as we can see here:

To summarise the importance of this - in order to accelerate a product into mainstream success within your target sector, you need to secure enough early adopters that you can ride the momentum of this uptake into an early majority. Who are my early adopters? All professional business advice on this matter would state that this would be the individuals who are already seeking a solution to the problems I’ve identified. After all, they are the neighbours of the innovators!

...and through the networks that have been engaging in my online surveys, it turns out they're fairly easy to identify. They are these people:

Hungry for organisation. Hungry for solutions from mixed-practice workflows. Hungry for a concrete creative identity. ...and these are the individuals who already identify as generalists... rather than the individuals who still identify singularly as one of the many disciplines they occupy. They are the people, like me, who have also begun to search for solutions to the problems within the core beliefs I shared with you earlier. To be more specific, these people seem to be:

  • Soundtrack producers.

  • Game developers.

  • Character illustrators.

  • Graphic designer.

  • Animators.

  • Creative Technologists.

All professional roles that either require multiple creative disciplines, or require the maintenance of active communication and collaboration with people from other creative disciplines ...and all of which - of a freelance status, and not employed as part of a company, because these are people who are more likely to be upholding a mixed-disciplinary creative identity but as part of their professional independence.

So it is these individuals that I am going to target as my early adopters.

Breeeeeaaathe. Wow okay, this week's update has covered a lot of ground indeed. So here's a digest before I move forwards:

  • Storyboard explorations of my target audience have been explored to illustrate likely use case scenarios for Making Sense.

  • The creative practitioner surveys has helped me identify that Organisation and Identity are key to the value proposition for Making Sense!

  • ...and multimodality within creativity is now looking to be a granular component of the Making Sense card deck, and not the marketing headline.

  • My likely early adopters are those already immersed in the world of multidisciplinary creativity and are already currently looking for solutions to the kinds of problems Making Sense is aiming to resolve.

  • ...and lastly, I need to make a professional effort to reconcile my relationship with effective, sharp, limbic marketing approaches to raise the profile of this project.

I really have to say... this process over the last week has had the biggest influence on my trajectory for Making Sense to date. This has been a valuable round of sector focusing and market probing, which crucially, is going to help me secure the involvement of the right kinds of practitioners for the participatory design trials; those of my 'early adopters'. ...but before I activate the public intervention - I need to close the gap from 'empathise', to 'define' ...and to do that I now need to complete a round of benchmarking, for me, and my cards.

Copyright © Leigh Davies 2020