Profile image of Christine

Tara McAllister

Hey, I'm Tara! I'm a process-driven human centred designer who loves creating the products of the future. I'm currently working as a UX Designer for Rapid7, focusing on application security products.

When I’m not designing, you’ll find me sewing, travelling or drawing.

portfolio image

Immerse yourself in creativity, be inspired as you explore art at your finger tips and get real-time advice during your creative process with Easel.

Easel layers the digital world over your real world using augmented reality.

portfolio image

About Easel

Easel is an augmented reality (AR) application designed to help beginner artist's hone their craft as they create. Through immersion and real-time advice Easel empowers artists to build key skills at their own pace.

portfolio image

The Process

I have not designed for augmented reality before but I was passionate about pushing myself to create something different whilst learning lots along the way.

Researching the space

Vast amounts of research and learning were required in order for me to ramp up in the augmented reality space. I read streams of AR literature and usability research, I explored available AR experiences and I chatted to industry experts Deepa Mann-Kler and Alice Tennant early in my project in order to gain a deep understanding of delivering an amazing AR experience.

With Easel being an educational art platform I also researched learning psychology in order to ensure Easel truly helped people learn key art skills.

I was lucky enough to partner with Digital Catapult's immersive lab in Ormeau Baths who loaned me a Microsoft HoloLens - an industry leading AR headset. Using the HoloLens first hand helped me develop a deeper understanding of what end-users really need when interacting with an immersive AR experience.

Understanding users

A deep understanding of users in vital in product design. I needed to validate the need for Easel within the artist community. I ran an Artist Demographic Survey which gave me a deep insight into artist's needs and wants. It delivered key insights such as the environment in which most artists do their work. This is very important as I needed to design my AR experience to be optimal in this environment.

From my artist demographic survey I created a set of user personas. I then reviewed the scope of the project and decided to aim Easel toward beginner artists for the first phase as I felt the technology could deliver the most value to them.

portfolio image

I attended the ‘Who is my Neighbour Workshop - Mapping your User Ecosystem’ hosted by Peter Worth as part of Belfast Design Week. I identified people in my user ecosystem and their different needs, motivators and depressors. I also explored people's relationships with the technology in the ecosystem. Peter's workshop helped me realise I needed to understand my target market better. Following the workshop I conducted over 15 user interviews with beginner artists from all over the globe.

portfolio image


With extensive knowledge of my end-user, the beginner artist, I began sketching, defining my product map and key features as I went. I sketched product maps, macro-experiences and micro-interactions exploring my ideas on paper first - always.

portfolio image portfolio image portfolio image portfolio image

UI Layer

For a cohesive enjoyable Easel experience it was vital to add a high fidelity UI layer over my existing low-fidelity wireframes and prototypes. My UI design needed to take into account the delivery platform of AR.

Designing for AR means considering the effect and demand of the experience on all 5 senses. Designing for AR requires deep thought into the user’s environment and the user's line of sight. I needed to think about the scale of digital elements, the legibility of typography and the contrast of colours within the context of the user's environment.

I needed to consider where digital components lived within the user's physical space and the use of grid as I was now working in a 3 dimensional space. I also had to exclude true black (#000000) from my UI as the Microsoft HoloLens renders black as empty space.

Taking these principles into consideration I built a style tile and component library in Figma. This component library featured building blocks which I re-used throughout my UI in order to build a cohesive and recognisable Easel experience.

portfolio image

Interaction Layer

With an immersive experience like AR, the interaction layer is even more important. Additionally AR is a new space with no existing standards. I felt this project provided a great opportunity to define these standards from a humanist point of view. Users require consistent interactions that are simple to use, learnable and repetitive.

For my interaction layer I needed to consider how I could create intuitive and accessible interactions that are realistic within the context of the user's environment. I also needed to consider cybersickness, flickering and cognitive overload.

After lots of research and sketching I decided upon gestural and voice control.

portfolio image portfolio image

I also decided to create examples of gestural control usage in Adobe AfterEffects, as I felt a Figma prototype could not accurately depict the gestures.

portfolio image

User Testing

Using the MVP version of Easel and Maze I ran 20 user tests.

88% understood how to interact with the tutorial browsing experience, and liked it

100% found the tutorial detail page easy to understand and felt it's content would help them decide if it was a tutorial they would be interested in

94% said it was useful to place a tutorial video in their environment

100% understood how to interact with the voice interface

Test subjects rated Easel's overall experience an avg of 4.8/5 stars

The Brand

I wanted Easel's brand to reflect how Easel is a marriage of art and technology.

I considered how in the future Easel would use machine learning to generate advice for users while creating art and to suggest different tutorials to the user. I thought.. what if I use machine learning on my brand?

I created unique one-of-a-kind computer generated brand variants using machine learning. These are used through Easel's promotional material.

portfolio image

The Outcome

Designing Easel has been a hard but rewarding progress. I have grown in so many areas and have carved a new speciality subject for myself.

I‘m very happy to look back on Easel and be so proud of what I produced during a challenging final year.

The MVP prototype hi-fi prototype and all of my research are available online. You can also dive into Easel‘s Launch Strategy to see more of the Easel brand in action. Explore away!