Uplifting BIPOC and their creative careers by creating a digital platform to grow networks and knowledge.

Role

Product Designer, from conducting research to visual design

Team

Sole designer

Huge shoutout to the Fuse Chicago chapter for joining me in ideation

Duration

12 week class project
2020-2021

BACKGROUND

Fuse is a non-profit supporting creative Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) through networking and spotlighting creative work.

They have chapters in 10 different cities around the world, publish a magazine, keep a BIPOC creative directory, and more. Learn more about their story here.

Ask

With the world moving digital, Fuse members need a way to build community online.

Fuse Chicago and I discussed their desire to better connect their members, and what potential solutions could look like. They were drawn to the idea of creating a new space built to be more genuine, accessible, and honest.

SOLUTION

A digital networking platform to connect Fuse members and supporters.

A place where you can share your best work and your work in progress. Help each other succeed through honest conversations as yourself, or anonymously. Share your story and celebrate other’s stories.

This new digital layer makes content and community more accessible to places without a physical Fuse chapter, opening the door to growing a larger membership.

USER Interviews

To learn more about Fuse’s audience, I held 8 semi-structured interviews.

Interviewees worked at varying levels of a creative industry, from a freshly graduated student to Creative Director, and all identified as BIPOC.

Goals: Learn about the pain points of pursuing a creative career and networking along the way.

Outcome: After synthesizing with an affinity map, two guiding personas emerged (1) the rising and (2) the established, along with core needs.

Definition

It was clear: BIPOC creatives have unique experiences that translate into unique needs, but these needs have a convergence point.

DESIGN Opportunity

How might we make digital networking more inclusive and genuine?

For many that have succeeded in their career, the causes have largely been contributed to the strong networking channels they have created over time. (Forbes)

But the other side of this reality is: it leaves people behind. So how can we bridge the knowledge and network gap to better serve everyone in the Fuse audience? 

Lo-fi Wireframes

Lo-fi wireframes brought together solutions to our user's pain points.

Testing The Prototype

After testing the prototype with 5 people, I validated a clear need for more genuine digital interactions.

The gap: there needed to be improvements made on several different interactions, such as double-tapping on a post to "like" and auto-populating the search results in real time. In addition, a desire to make the profile page even more focused by putting story first.

The good: users appreciated the familiar interface that limited cognitive strain, how unfocused it was on social status, and how much more personal the platform felt because of it.

DESIGN PRINCIPLES

To make sure we were answering our user's needs, design principles were crafted to help define the experience.

Celebrate Identity, build room for authentic self expression and centering of experiences.
Cultivate Bravery, fuel honest connections at every turn.
Touch Reality, bridge the gaps between online to offline to affect tangible change.

Color Palette

Cobalt was chosen to emulate trust and excitement, but still feel modern and brave.

Transparent overlays let creative work shine through, but still keeps text readable.

High Fidelity

Putting it all together.

User Walkthrough

Meet Alena

Alena joined Fuse a few weeks ago and is interested in entering the fashion industry.

She’s looking for a job, but lives in a small town where she’s only made local connections. She wants to meet more like-minded folks from Chicago, where she’s looking to move to and jumpstart her career.

Alena attended an online Fuse Chicago event for the first time and opens the Fuse app to connect.

RESULT

By using Fuse, Alena now has a tool to help her navigate and celebrate her creative career as a woman of color, with fellow Fuse members around the world.

With Fuse, Alena’s creative network and knowledge base continues to grow and she’s able to move closer towards a successful career in Chicago.

Looking Forward

There are so many different ways we can continue improving the creative networking landscape to be more genuine and helpful.

In the future, I’d like to dive deeper on how mentorship could be integrated. I could see this being achieved through a matching feature or conversation starters, but it fell a bit too far from Fuse’s current offering for this first version. Definitely something to explore in version 2.0!

Additionally, I incorporated a space to sign in as a guest on the login screen. So what would a public Fuse look like for allies and/or recruiters? We are all in this together, so how do we create a space to reflect that?

Reflection

Our assignment was open ended and allowed me to take ownership of defining the problem I wanted to solve. I'm active in community building and am passionate about creating opportunities for marginalized identities, so I wanted to explore how I could contribute design work to further those areas.

In the beginning, I struggled with deciding between creating a new brand or helping an existing organization. In the end, I chose to work with Fuse and was able to work with the Chicago chapter. It really meant a lot to be able to collaborate with an existing organization, even if it's probably not going to be developed (unless?).

Another learning: the Creative Savior Complex. Design is not always the answer.