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UX for Good - Final Report by Insight Labs


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Everyone knows that New Orleans is the home of some of the best music in the world. What if it were also home to the best system for supporting musicians?

At the Clinton Global Initiative in 2011, Insight Labs Dean Jeff Leitner pledged to undertake a project to benefit the musicians of New Orleans. The pledge was fulfilled at the second annual UX for Good event, where the Labs convened some of the nation’s top user-experience designers to help out the people who make the Big Easy what it is.

Designers from Twitter, Google, Manifest Digital, Obama for America, and a variety of other organizations fanned out through the city, interviewing musicians, DJs, record producers, club owners, and anyone else with a stake in the city’s music culture. Then they met to design an innovative set of solutions to the city’s challenges.

Have a look at our final report to learn more about the designers' findings and solutions. Then visit to see a documentary short on UX for Good and learn about what we’ll be up to in 2013.

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UX for Good - Final Report by Insight Labs

  1. 1. SUMMARY as very human users of a sometimes inhumane system, In New Orleans, music can easily be mistaken for a rather than as entertaining objects for their momentary natural resource. But every note of every song is the amusement. It’s a focus we hope is maintained by others product of human beings. Not only are these people often working in the city. Everyone in New Orleans already uncompensated for their work, they are often not noticed, benefits from the city’s unequaled culture of music; now appreciated or understood. To fulfill its Clinton Global what the city needs is a strategy for its musicians.“IF WE WANT MUSICIANS Initiative commitment, Insight Labs convened the second annual UX for Good event in New Orleans on behalf of To maintain the culture of music, musicians these musicians. Top user-experience designers from need access to different resource sets from other across the country convened in New Orleans, where they participants in the economy and social safety net.TO KEEP DOING THE applied their unique brand of unrelenting empathy to the Every year in New Orleans, thousands of people make an problems musicians face in their everyday lives. By the extraordinary decision. They decide to make their living end of the event, the team of designers had devised three playing music. No one would make such a decision in order original ways to connect New Orleans musicians with the to live a typical life or to earn an average American wage;THINGS THAT MUSICIANS prosperity they deserve. according to Scott Aiges of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the average musician in the area is married, has two or more children and makes less than $27,000 a year.DO, WE NEED TO FINDINGS Music in New Orleans is inaccurately perceived as But the problem is even more complex than that. Consider a natural resource rather than the work of human the series of actions that must occur in order for a person beings. Walking around New Orleans, it’s easy to see to appear for the first time on a Frenchmen Street stage.DESIGN ECONOMIC AND how people think that way. Music seems to emanate from A young musician must invest thousands of hours of corner stores and cobblestones. Performances start and practice to become competent. Especially in New Orleans, stop according to their own logic, not when someone buys that learning is often done outside of formal education a ticket or pushes “play” on an iPod. It’s not an uncommon and training networks; to musicians as well as others, itSOCIAL SOLUTIONS experience to hear two or three different performances seems to compete with rather than complement normal happening at the same time without anyone paying a cent. opportunities like school, activities, athletics, and jobs. Thus, simply to become competent, young musicians cut This free-flowing musical environment is a part of New themselves off from many of the paths most people take toTHAT ARE COMPATIBLE Orleans’s identity - it’s “The Big Easy,” and any vendor develop careers or secure financial support. selling Mardi Gras masks on Bourbon Street is happy to tell you about the perpetual party happening there. But at the Then, as adults, musicians discover that support for their end of the day, every single note that is heard in the streets craft is far from certain. In many New Orleans venues, gigsWITH THE WAYS or venues of New Orleans is the work of an artist, a human are not reliably scheduled and musicians are primarily being. Not only are those people often uncompensated paid through tips. Simply making a living requires a for their work, they are often not noticed, appreciated or huge amount of managerial time and attention that mostMUSICIANS MUST LIVE.” understood. Their struggles as well as their triumphs are musicians can’t afford while also working odd hours frequently swept under a rug woven from romantic notions and honing their craft. Long-term planning is virtually about the freedom and the joy of musicians’ lives. impossible; when faced with a decision, musicians are likely to do what is best for their craft rather than what is best for As we reflect on the UX for Good experience, we believe that their livelihood - a completely reasonable approach, given the greatest virtue the designers brought to New Orleans that they left the “straight” world long ago. was an unrelenting empathy that considered musicians
  2. 2. Problems become more complex when musicians face tourism-based, live music economy. After talking difficulties within this system. Consider the situation of a with musicians from a variety of backgrounds, the designers musician whose instrument is damaged. When most of us concluded that there was a substantial, unmet need for music have a problem with a computer at the office or a machine at management tools and talent that would help New Orleans a factory, we assume that a phone call to the right person will musicians connect with the greater economy. These music fix the problem. While we understand that the equipment management tasks include: finding new gigs; promotingInsight Labs is research and development for social change, must be fixed for the business to continue making money, shows and recordings; obtaining secondary resources;seeking disruptive models for improving quality of life through we would consider it grossly unfair if the cost were taken seeking opportunities for professional development andthe arts, healthcare, public education, civics and philanthropy. out of our salary, or if we weren’t paid while the machine collaboration; and others. Many such tasks were traditionallyIts pro-bono think tank – in which top minds in business, was fixed. Musicians must bear both burdens, as well as the handled by regional record labels and (particularly in Newgovernment, academia and the arts convene throughout the time it takes to find a competent “horn doctor.” Meanwhile, Orleans) informal associations like neighborhood “krewes.”US to tackle challenges in the non-profit and public sectors - how should they make a living? How does one explain this But many such local institutions were disrupted afterhas been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, GOOD Magazine set of problems to a social worker or unemployment office Hurricane Katrina, and the national music industry is noand The Chronicle of Philanthropy. bureaucrat? It’s no wonder that, over time, musicians have longer an effective partner for the musicians of New Orleans. come to only trust other “music people.” For example, as interviewees in the city told our designers, most professional managers are not interested in acts that If we want musicians to keep doing the things that musicians gross less than $500,000 per year. do, we need to design economic and social solutions that are compatible with the ways musicians must live. The key is to The solution to this issue is not to connect NOLA musicians find the nodes where musicians’ experience connects with the to the shrinking amount of money in the national recordingInsight Labs is a founder and the incubator for UX for Good, rest of the economy. As Reid Wick of the Recording Academy industry. Instead, musicians should be using new tools tothe first effort to leverage user experience design for large- told us, “If you’re a shrimper, you’re out doing your own connect to the substantial but untapped New Orleans touristscale social good. User experience design, also known as UX, thing all day. But at some point you’ve got to come back and economy. After meeting with local officials and musicians, ouris an increasingly influential field, known for integrating connect and dock with the rest of the economy. That’s what designers learned that about 8.8 million tourists visit Newempathy, ergonomics, technology and systems design. UX for musicians need to do too.” Orleans every year. Even if those tourists were the sole baseGood events have four key elements, which guided design of of support for the city’s approximately 4,500 musicians, theUX for Good 2012 in New Orleans. Music management is a vital skill set, but it doesn’t math to solve the problem is easy – If a little more than $5 need to come from the music industry as we could move from every tourist directly to the musicians, theirTo see a documentary short about UX for Good 2012, currently know it. New Orleans needs a form of average income could be increased by an average of $10,000,visit music management that fits New Orleans and its ensuring many of them a secure place in the middle class.
  3. 3. In this context, the lack of a substantial music industry in managers.” When musicians are just getting started, they New Orleans should not be viewed as a liability. Instead, could use these tools themselves to track basic information New Orleans represents a significant opportunity to like income, attendance, and social media feedback. Over design new ways of connecting musicians to a sizable but time, though, the same set of tools would help musicians untapped base of live music customers with expendable tap into collective intelligence in order to make better income. The solutions developed by the UX designers all decisions about their careers. For example, geo-location speak to this opportunity. and check-ins could help musicians see where large number of fans gather and help them plan a more effective schedule of gigs. SOLUTIONS The UX designers developed a number of solutions that This same set of tools would be useful for New Orleans could help musicians more easily obtain the resources they music fans. Because of the overwhelming number of venues need to thrive. The Insight Labs team noticed that these and artists, most tourists find it difficult to navigate the New solutions clustered around three concepts that could more Orleans music scene as easily as they would use a record effectively connect NOLA musicians with the regional store or music-sharing app. The ability to “follow” bands tourist economy. and musicians via their phones would help them to more effectively structure their visits to the city around music, REMAKING MANAGEMENT getting more dollars directly into the hands of musicians. How can New Orleans musicians benefit from management The tools would also enable musicians to build relationships skills if full-time music industry professionals are not with tourists that would persist after they had left the city. willing to represent them? By taking advantage of digital Many digital tools currently exist to aggregate information tools in order to aggregate the managerial intelligence of about fans’ musical preferences; the tools proposed by everyone below the existing professional threshold. our designers would be the first to use that information toCHALLENGES empower musicians, too.Designers were divided into two teams, each charged with Our designers proposed a digital toolbox that could beproposing solutions to its own challenge: effectively used by both musicians and fans to manage In the long run, the goal of developing these digital tools and promote live New Orleans acts - a kind of “FitBit for would be to enable a new class of music managers with skillHow can we re-arrange elements of the New Orleansmusic scene to help artists survive and thrive in adigital economy? “It seems like all the ingredients are there.The musicians are there. The clubs are there. The audienceis there. But what’s the tipping point that could send it intooverdrive?” Scott Goldman, vice president of MusiCares andThe GRAMMY Foundation. Read more about this challengeat can we re-arrange elements of the New Orleansmusic economy to produce more resources for artistsin need? “A lot of people took music for granted here. It tookHurricane Katrina for us to realize what it might be like if thatculture started to disappear.” Reid Wick, production managerfor The Recording Academy. Read more about this challengeat
  4. 4. sets that fit New Orleans’s culture, economy, and live music New Orleans’s musicians need spaces where such exchanges scene. This new type of manager would not be an agent so are central, not peripheral. In the past, such interactions much as a “curator,” employing a deep knowledge of specific may have occurred in neighborhood institutions such artists and genres in order to imagine new kinds of gigs and as homes, churches or hole-in-the-wall venues far from revenue opportunities. For example, a manager who notices Bourbon Street. Many such places still exist, but the city that two local hip-hop artists have many fans in common could still benefit from a new kind of institution built for the might propose a rap battle on a Kickstarter model. Managers generation after Hurricane Katrina. Our designers imagined of this type would not necessarily make a full-time income these “embassies” as spaces where musicians could jam from their work; instead, they would more likely be “super without the pressure of performing for an audience. But fans,” amateur musicians, or employees of other New Orleans they would also host “jam and learn” sessions where players cultural institutions. They might also be young people with could gain managerial skills, organize to improve theSYSTEMIC CHALLENGE Despite its central role in tourism, a strong desire to experience New Orleans culture before community, or discover how to gain access to services likeNew Orleans’s number one industry, no one is ultimately joining the work force. medical and dental care.responsible for the health and welfare of the local musiceconomy. Instead, government, non-profits, foundations and But the possibility of creating a new, professional music Music embassies could be supported through any numberbusinesses must work together to sustain and promote the management class based around digital tools should not of business models. Prominent musicians who want to givemusic scene and the many professionals it supports. be ruled out. The designers suggested that these new back to their communities could establish them through acts managers could be “cultural entrepreneurs” who borrow of philanthropy; corporate brands that desire to associate models from the life paths of tech startup pioneers or food themselves with New Orleans culture or music couldPARTNERSHIPS Even though most of the audience for New truck operators. Furthermore, the odds for a new music sponsor them; embassies could also charge a nominal feeOrleans’s music is from out of town, the community that management class would be much better if New Orleans for membership. But it should be stressed that musiciansproduces it can be suspicious of outside help - particularly in could develop opportunities around the two other nodes would not be the only ones who would benefit from thesethe aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. To establish credibility identified by the designers. new institutions. For example, amateur musicians with dayin the community, UX for Good collaborated with the jobs or fans who wanted a “behind-the-scenes” experienceNew Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation; SyncUp, a local ESTABLISHING EMBASSIES of New Orleans music could join in order to learn from theconference on the business of music; LaunchFest, a forum for During UX for Good, our teams considered how to re- masters. Music managers learning the ropes could join thethe city’s start-up businesses; and Make It Right, actor Brad arrange the elements of the New Orleans musical economy embassies in order to build contacts, or even rent officePitt’s effort to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward. in order to better provide economic opportunities as well space there. In the end, the effect of the embassies would as social services for musicians. But in the minds of many be to complement restaurants and other venues, rounding players, the distinctions between these categories may out the New Orleans musical economy in a way that benefitsINTERVIEWS AND OBSERVATION The design teams, not be meaningful. For example, consider the situation musicians first.with their own drivers, were unleashed on the city for several of a young guitarist who owns a Fender amp that keepsdays, conducting dozens of interviews - with musicians, music shorting out. In theory, the musician could be provided RE-TOOLING TIPSindustry executives, government officials, business owners and with funds to repair or replace the amplifier; however, Our designers were surprised to learn how centralsocial service providers - and observing live music in clubs, on an older, more seasoned player could repair the amp the practice of tipping is to making a living as astreet corners and at New Orleans Jazz Fest. just as easily. The old-timer talks with the young player, musician in New Orleans. At many venues, musicians teaching him how to avoid similar problems with this type are compensated entirely in food, drink, and tips. of amp in the future, and perhaps sharing a few licks. This Unsurprisingly, many musicians resented the unreliabilityDECISION-MAKERS The design teams presented their interaction would fall somewhere between the categories of this system and the low revenues it brings. However,findings and proposed solutions to an audience that included of social service, career development, mentorship, and fun. because there are so many musicians competing for gigsexecutives from The Recording Academy, MusiCares and New The course it would take might not make sense to someone in New Orleans, it is very difficult to force venue operatorsOrleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation - whose endorsement is outside the music community. to pay more for performances.essential for making the solutions real.
  5. 5. Therefore, instead of replacing the tipping system, one NEXT STEPS of our design teams sought ways to make it actually work We have no doubt that any of the tools proposed by our for musicians. They felt that a substantial increase could designers could benefit New Orleans musicians; together, be realized with one small change: replacing the tip jar at they have the potential to reinvent what it means toACKNOWLEDGEMENTS venues with a separate section on the restaurant or bar bill where patrons could tip musicians. Think about it - very few be a musician in the Crescent City. The most difficult question is which actors in the system of New Orleans areDESIGNERS Carolyn Chandler, Manifest Digital; Rob people leave a restaurant or bar without paying, and nearly best positioned to make these tools a reality. ComputerChappell, Peter Mayer Advertising; Bill DeRouchey; Brynn all customers tip at least 10 percent. By contrast, many of programmers and entrepreneurs are a natural fit to developEvans, Google +; Ryan Freitas,; Lee-Sean Huang,Purpose; John Kenny, Draftfcb; Jason Kunesh, Obama the same people fail to tip musicians because they do not new digital tools for management. Music embassies seemfor America; Jodi Leo, Bolt | Peters; Tanarra Schneider, have cash, do not understand that the musicians are only like an appropriate task for philanthropic foundations orManifest Digital; Mark Trammell, Twitter; Mark Andrew paid through tips, or simply forget. Adding a “tip the band” forward-thinking social service providers. A new way ofWills, Hattery; Brian Winters, Manifest Digital section to New Orleans restaurant bills would make tipping tipping would require the initiative of individual venues, an automatic part of life for tourists and residents alike. Also, the cooperation of restaurant and bar associations, or boldINSTIGATORS Jeff Leitner, Insight Labs; Jason Ulaszek, by tying the transaction to credit cards rather than cash, policy-making on behalf of local government.Manifest Digital; Andrew Benedict-Nelson, Insight Labs;Howell J. Malham Jr., Insight Labs; Al Herbach; Katy Klassman this small change could lead to much larger average tips for musicians (imagine if the suggested minimum amount were But an even greater challenge is how to implement theseINTERVIEWEES Mario Abney; Scott Aiges, New Orleans $5 instead of the pocket change many people put in the tip new ideas in a coordinated, dynamic way. A preliminaryJazz & Heritage Foundation; Hank Bartholomew; Evan jar). The tip section could even include a section where fans step might be the designation or formation of a non-Christopher; Kareem Evan; Erin Frankenheimer, Borman could opt in to later updates from the artist. profit group that would be responsible for maintainingEntertainment; David Freedman, WWOZ; Scott Goldman, the integrity of these ideas and tracking their effects onMusiCares / The GRAMMY Foundation; Chris Joseph,Threadhead Records; Doreen Ketchens; Maggie Koerner; Our designers imagined several other tools to transform musicians. After all, the animating idea behind theseTravis Laurendine, Volnado; Sasha Masakowski; Sheri tipping into a just system for compensating New Orleans solutions is that for New Orleans to maintain its musicMcConnell, McConnell & Associates; Danny Melnick, musicians. Digital tipping tools could easily be built culture, it must respect its musicians as human beings. AnAbsolutely Live Entertainment; Sue Mobley, Sweet Home into the management tools described above. Innovative organization built around institutionalizing that respectNew Orleans; Nesby Phips; Cesar Rodriguez, Make It Right; managers could also invent new products or services for could only benefit the city and its culture.Mark Samuels, Basin Street Records; Donna Santiago, which musicians could receive tips. For example, groups ofBackbeat Foundation / Hypersoul; Mahmood Shaikh, Flower musicians might organize gigs at embassies on a KickstarterBooking; Aimee Smallwood, Louisiana Cultural Economy model, in which the show would only occur if enough fansFoundation; Jesse Von Doom, CASH Music; Reid Wick, contributed tips. A digitally based tip system would also beThe Recording Academy a natural entree for musicians hoping to promote additionalDOCUMENTARY Noah Hutton, videographer and editor; appearances or generate additional income.Susan Brecker, producer; Howell J. Malham Jr., producer; JeffLeitner, executive producer; Jason Ulaszek, executive producer To be completely successful, these new tools would needSPONSORS Manifest Digital; The Recording Academy; to be accompanied by a change in consciousness towardAesthetic Apparatus; Axure; Basin Street Records; Draftfcb; tipping among New Orleans musicians, venue owners,The Maison; Peter Mayer Advertising; Volnado residents, and tourists. Therefore, our designers also imagined a city-wide “Tip the Band” advertising campaign,SPECIAL THANKS Joe Ballard, Clinton Global Initiative; which would inculcate the idea that fair tipping is partJohn Corrigan, edo Interactive; Scott Curran, ClintonFoundation; Greentarget; Jim Jacoby, Manifest Digital; of what it means to be a New Orleanian. Together, theseJason Benedict, Manifest Digital; Josh Mayer, Peter Mayer initiatives would transform tipping from an oppressive laborAdvertising; Make It Right; Michael Orlove; Edmund Redd, system to the base of a supercharged music economy.Vulcan Materials; Todd Ragusa, Todd Ragusa Consulting; theWorld Cultural Economic Forum; Mayor Mitch Landrieu andthe extraordinarily generous people of New Orleans