App Development / UX Design & Research


Applying Behavioral Change Design & Gamification to Support Creativity

Imagine a world where every first draft of a book is written, every idea for a painting or musical composition is executed and comes to fruition. And a world where every deeply passionate creator is able to bring to life their personal creative projects. 

I conducted a thorough research process to identify the needs of creators and the roadblocks to creativity, and designed a facilitated network of high-value social interactions between original creators, that provides a doorway to greater connection, collaboration, and constructive criticism on their work.

Independent Study

Goal Setting & Motivation
Behavioral Change
Creativity & Achievement

My Role

UX Research, Strategy, & Design 

Problem Space

Anecdotally, I’ve noticed many artists, writers and musicians who have creative passion projects that they struggle to start, complete or even make progress on. So I investigated this phenomenon by interviewing a variety of creators: visual artists in digital and traditional media, musicians, authors and performers. I tried to figure out what fuels the work of these creators, what keeps them going, what keeps them from quitting, or in some cases, what led them to a place of giving up. I also was very interested in their daily habits and the kinds of activities, rhythms and routines supporting them in doing their best work and keeping them going for the long haul. 

The Psychology of Goal-Setting 

Many studies in traditional goal-setting are oriented toward personal improvement, whether in health, behavior, or performance, goal setting and achievement is composed of a series of concrete steps and repetitive behaviors. While the creative process is often more individualized, less concrete, and less defined and repeatable, and not focused on personal improvement, it seems some of the methods and frameworks used by researchers to evaluate performance and progression toward a goal in the other arenas could be highly transferable to my chosen area of focus. 

Qualifying Research Participants 

  • In an evaluation of his or her goals in different core areas of life, these individuals rated their personal creative goals at a relative importance of greater than 7 on a 10-point scale. 
  • In their day to day life, these individuals have significant life responsibilities, whether full-time work, school and or family life.
  • Their creative interests are separate from their main profession. 
  • They are already working and progressing toward creative goals.

Conversations with Creators

Research Questions

  • How do individuals with defined ideas for personal creative projects approach working on these ideas and making consistent progress toward completion? 

  • For these individuals, what are the current behavioral routines or factors contributing to incremental progress in a personal creative endeavor? 

  • What are the obstacles to progress toward and completion of a personal creative goal?

The goal of this research is to determine the attitudes, behaviors and behavioral routines of those who are actively working on a personal creative project (whether in music, visual arts or writing) to better understand the factors that both influence the successful progression of personal creative work and support the eventual completion of these projects. This research will serve as a foundation for the development of a product that aims to assist and support creators in successfully progressing in and completing personal creative projects, so that more novels are written, more songs are composed and more art is produced.

Survey Respondents

Qualifying Respondents

Research Interviews

Inside the Lives of Creators

Understanding Motivation and Routine

Emotional Fulfillment 

“It’s something that that really builds me up and fulfills me inside… I don’t want to keep neglecting it”

Self- Expression

“If I don’t find a way to express myself and get in tune with those deeper emotions, then I’ll go crazy!”


“I get so overwhelmed with all the things I want to do.”


“It’s a challenge for me.. I can start things, but finishing things is always hard.”

Output & Mastery

“I would have liked more individual critique of how I could be better…I want to keep improving.”

Feedback, Guidance & Critique

“It was hard for me to keep being productive when there is no one to critique your work.”

Core research themes

Understanding Motivation and Routine

The Inspiration-Recovery Cycle

In the words of one interviewee, “I know I’m passionate about it; I’ll pick it up when it’s the right time.” There is a sense of relaxed trust in the idea that the creative passion is innate and an ever-present constant in their life. The interviewees, on the whole, tolerate times of fallowness in the practice of their passion, whether initiated by a temporary time of demanding responsibility in another life area, or by the completion of a significant but intermediary creative goal.

Varied Environmental Conditions

Every participant had a different way of working that was most effective for them. What one participant found distracting to their work, another participant found encouraging to it. More research with a larger sample is needed to determine whether or not personality or other factors are correlated with environmental preference. It is worth noting that for each individual, they do express a clear preference for a particular environment while working.

Innate Creative Drive & Passion

All of the participants possess an inner drive toward their own creative pursuits and these creative activities are passion-based and very often very personally, emotionally and even relationally fulfilling. The element of relational fulfillment is a new discovery through the research process, and was not immediately hypothesized in the beginning of the research phase.

Vital Importance of Creativity

It could be argued that the fact that the creative passion is typically unscheduled supports the idea of the practice being vital to life, much like eating or sleeping. For these individuals, their creative passions are a huge part of their lived human experience, and even flow from it emotionally and personally, and would, for them, constitute a vital human need. All of the participants, regardless of their rate of progress (daily, weekly, monthly) had clearly defined overarching creative goals.

Social Evaluation

Many interviewees have expressed a complicated relationship with social media. Some have attempted to share their work, in hopes of greater support, but have been impacted negatively by what they found as social comparison, judgement and competitiveness in the form of likes, shares, and comments. Social sharing seemed to be effective only when the audience was narrowed to artistic peers and/or a smaller network of specific supporters. Many participants feared social judgement especially regarding their creative work; a few even shared they have been discouraged from their creative passions in the past.

Creative Mastery

For some individuals, the desire for mastery is so strong that if there is no way for the individuals to receive what they need to improve (feedback, criticism, guidance, mentorship, etc.) they experience discouragement and demotivation. This raw material for improvement is socially and relationally based, so there is a relationship between social support and the ability and desire for mastery.

Empathy Mapping 

Building Personas from Aggregated User Data

Synthesizing Common Threads

Building Personas from Aggregated User Data

Emotionally Focused & Diverse Creative Interests

The participants fall roughly into two distinct groups: those who have a multiplicity of creative and non-creative interests, and must overcome their diverse interest for a period of time to focus on and make progress in one area; and those who have a narrow or niche creative interest for a longer, more consistent period of time.

 In both cases, creative individuals must stand the test of endurance in their creative passions. For the diverse-interest group, this endurance involves keeping their focus long enough in the current chosen area of interest to make progress and advance, without picking up another simultaneous and competing creative interest.


For the narrow-interest group, this endurance involves keeping momentum through a personal project of a very lengthy duration, and seeing it through to the end. Of course, in the diverse-interest group, this second kind of endurance also applies, for they also must see a project to completion. More research is needed to determine whether or not the diverse-interest group tends to have a collection of shorter-range creative goals compared to the narrow-interest group.


Output Focused & Narrow Creative Interests

Casual, Yet Serious Productivity 

How Might We?

  • Assist creatives like Chad in keeping the momentum going in their long-term projects?
  • Connect creatives like Chad and Ruby with other like-minded individuals and maximize opportunities for feedback, critique and advice on creative work?
  • Provide creators like Chad and Ruby with access to resources and inspiration needed and desired?
  • Reduce or limit distractions for creatives like Ruby so that they are better able to focus on their current creative endeavor?

& Critique 

Ideate, sketch, iterate: developing a platform to quickly connect creatives to the work of other similar creatives for immediate inspiration and feedback.

From Response to Connection  


Creating a facilitated network of high-value social interactions between original creators


  • User uploads own artwork, browses the creations of others, and can give and receive feedback on art.
  • Once feedback is given to another creative’s artwork, that person becomes available for further connection.


  • Gamified mechanism for providing feedback on a creator’s work  


Mapping the User Flows  

Feedback As Currency

Creates a close-knit community of fellow creatives, using positive feedback as a currency, thereby facilitating high-value peer-to-peer relationships centered around creative work. This contrasts with general social media, where impersonal ‘likes’ and ‘views’ abound, many times with little high-value interaction to be found. 

Incorporating User Insight
& Feedback 

From the initial round of usability tests, all participants understood the main premise of the app and the navigation elements were clear. The participants understood the feedback-to-connection flow, that when the user responds to a piece of work, the user is then connected to the work’s creator. On the whole, users reacted well to this concept, and seemed to like the idea of giving feedback on a creator’s work as a necessary first step to interacting and connecting with the creator directly. 

 For some users, the response flow was a place they entered and felt stuck by the inability to move on without completing the response fields. In this version of the prototype, there was no obvious way for the user to exit the flow, save their progress, or selectively skip sections, which violates user control and freedom usability heuristic. 

    Technical, Perceptual

    User testing of the wireframe prototype focused on evaluating the artwork response flow by observing how the user goes through the process of giving feedback on a particular work.

    Is the flow too long or too complex?

    Do the feedback types (emotional, technical, perceptual) make sense to the user? Do they provide value to the user?

    How do multiple feedback pages compare to a single long scrolling page?

    Is it something the user is willing to invest in overall?

    Technical Feedback Evolution

    While user testing confirmed the value of the technical feedback section to the user, many of the users expressed uncertainty over the specific meaning of the technical feedback elements. 

    Representing the criteria in a way users could better understand and appreciate was a pivotal challenge when developing the concept further in the high-fidelity stage of prototyping.

    The technical feedback criteria took form in the final stages of prototyping as abstract photographic compositions representing each of the technical concepts.

    This representation increased the users’ confidence in thier ability to evaluate visual art based on this criteria. 

    Refining the 
    Response Flow 

    The addition of success and confirmation screens into the gamified artwork response-to-connection flow helped to pace the user through the process of giving various types of feedback and framed the experience as a fun and exciting challenge while allowing the user the choice to skip more advanced feedback sections in order to reveal the creator at any time during the process. In addition to the increased choice given to the user, more  feedback via clear progress indicators set user expectations and contributed to overall ease and transparency of the process.   

    From Sketch Concept
    to Final Prototype 

     inspiration, Connection
    & Feedback 

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