Know Your Users: Beautiful Art Needs Beautiful Apps

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By Sian Morson (Founder & CEO, Kollective Mobile)  

I have always been in love with technology and I have always been independent. Together, those two things have brought me to where I am today –- CEO and Founder of Kollective Mobile, a mobile development agency. When I look back, every job I’ve had has prepared me for my role as a founder. It was a long road, but I’m convinced that every failure, success, irritating client and difficult project now provide me a much-needed reference when issues arise while I run my company.

I studied Film at NYU. For a few months after graduation , I actually thought I would head to L.A. to make movies. A move to San Francisco changed everything and the Internet happened. I saw the Internet, though it was in it's early days then, as a great equalizer of sorts. An autodidact, I picked up the basics of HTML from a friend and taught myself web design and some more complex elements of development.

It wasn’t long until my first site was live. It was not much to speak of really, a listing of every bar that I knew of in San Francisco. But with that, I was hooked, not only on the Internet, but also on technology.

A few years later I was interning at a gallery in New York and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand how to fuse what was happening in the art world with the advances in technology. It was a feat, in and of itself, to explain to gallery directors why they even needed a website at all, much less one which was updated regularly for visitors and potential collectors. Thankfully, those days have passed.

Most, if not all galleries have websites now. However, with my current focus on mobile, just like all those years ago, I have tried to merge the worlds of technology and art. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth was create ArtKollect, a startup focusing on mobile products for the art world.

I talked to countless gallery owners and directors, as well as artists and those in charge of non-profit arts organizations. I heard one thing over and over: “I just want it to be easy”. Off I went to create a product, one which would be easy to use and would usher in a new era where technology and art could coexist. And I did, and it was easy. Dead easy! But something was missing.

As I was preparing my product for launch, I saw that there were a few others with similar ideas. I remain undaunted and positive that my product is, in fact, superior. While reviewing a competitor’s apps, my differentiator struck me like a lightening bolt. Art is beautiful! The art apps needed to be beautiful too. There’s weren’t and neither was mine. They were functional apps, they worked fine, but none were visually appealing. It was my Steve Jobs ah-ha moment! I wanted my mobile products to be just as beautiful as the art we were displaying.

We scrapped all of our designs and went back to the drawing board. I tracked down my favorite designer and begged him to work on our product. I gave him my wireframes and set him free creatively to do his best work. I took the designs back to gallery owners and directors to get their opinions.

Currently in a private beta, ArtKollect focuses on creating beautiful yet functional mobile and web products for those in the arts. An underserved community, and one not typically known for early adoption of technology; the art world has nonetheless made huge strides in embracing technology. ArtKollect will provide turnkey mobile solutions for the field.

Our KAMS™ content management system was created to allow users to manage content within their app via any browser easily and seamlessly. The product has is in beta with galleries in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area and a few arts organizations. We also plan to license versions of the software for other verticals as well. If you are the owner or manager of a gallery or arts organization, please contact us. We’d love to offer you a trial run before we officially launch in a few weeks.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Sian Morson is the Founder and CEO of Kollective Mobile, a boutique mobile development agency based in Oakland, CA. She has a background in advertising and is an internationally exhibited artist. Sian's latest venture, ArtKollect, provides mobile solutions for the art community. She consults regularly with startups on their mobile strategy. Follow her on Twitter at @xianamoy. Follow her startups on Twitter at @kollectivemobil and @artkollect.