Singer atelier

Designing a physical and online sewing experience for young mainstream sewing enthusiasts

Client: Singer

2016
Sewing is big again in Belgium. It is part of a larger “maker culture” that seems to be popular with younger generations that long for authenticity and tangibility. Unlike some of us, very few of the younger generations ever had any formal sewing classes and soon discover that it is quite difficult. In many cases, the newly purchased sewing machine ends up retiring to the closet.

The business goal

As the market leader, Singer Belgium wanted to support the sewing trend and continue to inspire people, so they would remain enthusiastic about sewing. This would not only strengthen their market-leading position, but also create interest in their high-end and specialty machines.

Design research to uncover needs

By completing contextual observation in sewing workshops and in-depth interviews with 16 users, we discovered that the main barriers to sewing well are not necessarily lack of inspiration, but rather lack of time and lack of technical knowledge.

One of our interviewees did not know she needed a special needle to sew T-shirt material. She thought her machine wasn’t able to do it. Unfortunately, she was very disappointed about her purchase because of a simple lapse in information

Based on our design research, we created 4 persona and mood boards, which helped the team and our client visualize who they were designing for.

The concept

The main challenge was to design a concept, which would allow users to learn step-by-step with a quick learning curve and fast results.

The concept consisted of 3 components:

  • INSPIRATION: blog and community
  • LEARN: online video tutorials
  • EXPERIENCE: Convenient do-it-yourself kits containing all the material to start a video tutorial
Brand and DIY-kit design

Many sewing magazines and sewing products no longer attract the current target group; they are quaint in style, photography, fabric and pattern choice, and tone of voice.

Singer Belgium used the name “Singer Academy” for their workshops, but we suggested renaming it “Singer Atelier”, which gave more of a contemporary feel to the experience. We designed a complementary, illustration-based house style to support the image of craftsmanship. Simple graphic elements can be combined to create a coherent and distinctive image for online applications, packaging, patterns and even a video recording studio

The do-it-yourself kits contain everything needed to finish a sewing project: fabric, thread, buttons, zippers, and the sewing pattern as well as optional needles and machine accessories, if needed.

Sewing pattern design

An important insight we discovered is that many young people see the preparation time as a major obstacle. They usually don’t have a separate sewing table or room and sew in the living room or on the kitchen table during free time. Sewing a complex piece like a coat is not something one does in a few hours. Just cutting, pinning and tracing the pattern to the fabric correctly and cutting the cloth can take several hours already.

Also, many sewing patterns are very complex for beginners: they consist of super-imposed solid and dotted lines in different sizes and they do not account for seam allowances. On top of that, users need to be able to determine how to place the fabric properly on the folds, when and how to flip the pattern if needed for multiple pieces, and sometimes even scale or alter certain pieces.

The pattern we designed for Singer Atelier is innovative in a number of ways:
– There are no super-imposed lines because there is one pattern per size and each piece is printed as it should get cut.

  • The user can pin the pattern on the fabric and start cutting immediately.
  • There is a sewing line and a cutting line
  • There is a brief “how to” graphic and a reference to the more detailed online video tutorial.

This avoids confusion, mistakes and cuts most of the preparation time.

Online experience design

The Singer online video tutorials are a main part of the user experience. To get the details right, we prototyped an online video tutorial to create the ideal experience: the right camera angles, voiceover approach, sound levels, and graphic overlays, etc. We also created the wireframes and look & feel to balance the themes of inspiration and creativity and a step-by-step learning process.

Integrated Design as differentiator

There are other online platforms offering sewing content and do-it-yourself sewing kits. Via our design research, we found out that the key differentiator for Singer Atelier should be “accessibility”. That is, not for the fashionistas, but for a young mainstream audience. Our design not only focused on a contemporary graphic style, but equally important, it focused on ease-of-use and a reduced learning curve.

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