Creativity in K-12 Education
Design research project to help Adobe address the role of creativity and design in K-12 education.
Working with a team of 9, I consulted for the Adobe Education team to research pain points regarding creativity and K-12 education. Starting with a broad question—”what is Adobe’s role in K-12 education?”—we conducted extensive user research and storyboarded possible solutions for 9 months. Through a combination of in-depth interviews, focus groups, and market research, we developed core insights that influenced our solutions, including improvements to Adobe’s portfolio website Behance.
This was a team project where I took the lead on qualitative research, specifically working on competitive analysis, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. I also helped my team create some of our final UX wireframes.
Tools used: Sketch and Adobe Illustrator.
Before we began conducting user interviews, we took a deep dive into the current K-12 education space. According to Futuresource, Google is the dominant player in the American education system. This led us to change our guiding question from ”what is Adobe’s role in K-12 education?” to ”what can be Adobe’s role in K-12 education?”. Changing the way we framed this question allowed us to compare Adobe to current and potential competitors.
Specifically, we learned that Adobe products were only used in design classes, even though design plays an essential role in most types of classes. As an avid language learner, I know that language courses love to integrate creativity into projects whenever possible (my Spanish classes were filled with video, podcast, and poster-based projects), even though language classes are not design classes.
We spent two weeks going through secondary research, mostly journal articles regarding learning habits, and compiled a summary of key insights. Taking the information learned from our competitive analysis, we decided to dig deeper into this pain point through qualitative research.
interviews (Round 1)
For our first round of interviews, we were looking for more general insights, not quite ready to dig deep into one specific area. We started off by interviewing 10 students and 7 teachers, asking them broad questions about their experiences regarding creativity, and Adobe, in education.
From this, we broke Adobe users down into two groups:
These students include those who want to communicate ideas effectively, without much concern to craft, e.g. make presentations and complete projects for class. They are more focused on their content than the tool used.
These students are those that want to harness creativity to create good design. They want to invest in creative expression and learn the craft, such as hobbyists, artists, photographers, etc. This group is looking to improve upon their creativity and invest time into tutorials and better tools.
With these two groups in mind, we then developed progression maps of existing design tools in order to visualize where Adobe was located. The first column represents introductory tools—tools that any beginner can easily pick up and use. The second column contains intermediate-level tools. Users in this column are interested in improving their creative expression, moving from communication focused to creation focused. The third column is comprised on professional-level tools, ones where creators focus on impactful design.
interviews (Round 2)
During our second round of interviews, we took a deep dive into people’s motivations by conducting day-in-the-life interviews with 17 students, aged 15-19 years old. We focused on asking why people behave they way they do. After interviewing students, we coded our transcripts and categorized our notes into core insights.
From these insights, we chose three thought-provoking ones to explore more.
We found that for 14/17 students, early exposure to creative tools correlated with later creative preferences. How might we help students increase creative experiences at a young age?
We also discovered that 13/17 students said they used their creativity and craft to engage with others. How might we make creative pursuits more socially engaging?
Inspiration and Motivation
Additionally, all of the college students we interviewed stopped pursuing creative pursuits because it would not benefit their careers. How might we ensure that Adobe is involved with the many sources of inspiration for students?
After analyzing our interview insights, we looked back on the previous work we had done and noticed an interesting common thread: creative discontinuation. We defined creative discontinuation the action in which people stop engaging in creative activities. With this new issue in mind, we conducted more in-depth interviews in order to determine the underlying causes of creative discontinuation.
We focused on graduating high school seniors because this is a crucial time where many students reach a peak in their creativity and resources. However, the transition to college often causes them to abandon their creative pursuits for other focuses, like a non-creative career, and lack of encouragement or motivation.
From there, we consolidated our insights surrounding creative discontinuation into one central hypothesis.
After analyzing the six platforms, we decided to zoom in on Behance. From our own experiences and research, we realized that Behance already offers a large community of talented designers in addition to job postings, inspiration, and personal portfolios. However, through our competitive analysis, we discovered a missing opportunity: Behance is not currently welcoming to high school seniors.
Though Behance has a large community of talented designers, it prioritizes the work of professionals and can be intimidating to students. In our interviews, many students described themselves as “lurkers”. They used Behance for inspiration, but did not create profiles. These students felt that their work was not “ready” for the platform and felt out of place.
Based on our research, we created wireframes for possible improvements to the Behance website.
Overall, I see this project as being a success—not only was our team excited about the work we did, but so was our client. That isn’t to say it was perfect. Rather, I think this project was so impactful because we all learned a lot throughout the process.
One of our biggest issues as a team was learning how to tackle such a large problem. At first, we were overwhelmed. It took us some time to figure out how to tackle a slice of the problem. There was no way that we could address all of K-12 education in 9 months. But, we could address creative discontinuation in that time frame.
I also realized how much I love user research. I ended up taking the lead on the primary research component of our project because I enjoyed it so much. However, I wish we had started interviewing students much quicker. It’s easy to get stuck in your own head, but going out into the world, talking with other people, and really analyzing interviews for one week pushed us much farther than one month of secondary research. Secondary research is essential, however! I learned that it’s important to do both types of research as soon as possible. It’s okay to do them both at the same time—rather, I realized I need to do both.