In our survey for Challenge 6, we focused our energy to better understanding the role of human and lifelike figures in poster and publicity design. Our initial hypothesis was, in its simplest form, “the more real, the more appealing.” This initial theory doesn’t need much explanation, mostly because our results did not correlate all that well to any metric of humans or lifelike figures present in the design. Instead, we found a few other trends that served as the basis for our product’s design.

First, our Harvard-centric demographic showed clear penchants for more minimalistic or unexpected designs for the largely classical and familiar roster of shows for which we were testing. Second, we found somewhat clear guidelines for preferences within specific genres of performance (dance, musicals, orchestral, etc.) Using this information, and the recognition that some of the posters were extremely well-liked while others were clearly disfavored, we designed Markee.

Markee is first a poster design app for an early stage designer that wants the range of control provided by Photoshop without all the complexity. The web app distills down Photoshop’s functionality into four main categories: text, image, shapes, and backgrounds – providing pre-set options for all four of these areas, while also allowing free reign to experiment further with uploaded images or the ever-popular color selection wheel.

Second, and most importantly, Markee incorporates live feedback to refine your poster design towards attracting or fortifying specific demographics. At the beginning of the design process, a user enters not just the basic registration information, but also information regarding which groups of people tend to buy their tickets regularly, which groups buy less frequently, and how they would like to affect the overall percentiles of their attendance rates. With this information, Markee offers to-the-minute, pop-up commentary on designs as they are being created, suggesting potential swaps of image, color palette, text treatment, and more to better refine a design for the desired demographic.

After a design has been completed, Markee continues to increase its internal demographic knowledge. Users are asked to make their designs public so that other app-users can see an ever-increasing catalog of posters for similar genres of shows or for their show exactly to receive inspiration as to how to better (a) hit the norms of advertising for that show, or (b) distance their production from the crowd. In addition to this catalog, users also receive follow-up email communication asking them to report on the demographic ticket-buying they saw for the production for which they designed the poster. This feedback loop allows Markee to continually improve its demographic knowledge so that suggestions to future users can be better refined.

Lastly, potential expansions of Markee exist in many areas, but the two simplest would be to (a) allow users to upload completed designs – perhaps performed in more advanced apps like Photoshop – so that they, too, can receive the same demographic-based feedback before printing and distributing their materials; AND, (b) expanding the app into a wider range of publicized events outside of arts-specific performances (as is the focus now).