ARTO

Time for a sta­tus update on my stay in Sin­ga­pore. I have already entered the final three months of my time here. Time flies when you’re hav­ing fun eat­ing every­thing in sight, it turns out.

On the work front I have indeed found the time to do some think­ing about what my next big thing will be. Noth­ing has firmed up to the point where I feel like shar­ing it here but I am enjoy­ing the con­ver­sa­tions I am hav­ing with var­i­ous peo­ple about it.

In the mean­time, I have been keep­ing busy work­ing with a local start­up called ARTO. I have tak­en on the role of prod­uct design­er and I am also respon­si­ble for prod­uct man­age­ment of the user-fac­ing parts of the thing we are build­ing.

That “thing” is about art. There are many peo­ple who are inter­est­ed in art but don’t know where to start when it comes to find­ing, enjoy­ing and acquir­ing it. We’re build­ing a mobile and TV app that should make that a whole lot more easy and fun.

When I say art I mean com­mer­cial, pop­u­lar and con­tem­po­rary art of the 2D vari­ety. So paint­ing, illus­tra­tion, pho­tog­ra­phy, etc. Things you might buy orig­i­nals or prints of and put on your liv­ing room wall. Oth­ers are doing a fine job on the high end of the art mar­ket. We think there are parts remain­ing that have been under­served to date.

There are many mov­ing parts to this prod­uct, rang­ing from a rec­om­men­da­tion engine, con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem, mobile app, TV app and more so I am nev­er bored. There is always some­thing to fig­ure out in terms of what to build and how it should work and look. For the past cou­ple of years I was always too busy man­ag­ing the stu­dio to real­ly get into the details of design but now I can total­ly focus on that and it real­ly is a plea­sure.

On the peo­ple side we have a small but grow­ing team of bril­liant indi­vid­u­als hal­ing from var­i­ous parts of the region includ­ing Viet­nam, Myan­mar and India. This lends an addi­tion­al lay­er of fun chal­lenge to the goings on as we con­stant­ly nego­ti­ate our dif­fer­ences but also dis­cov­er the many com­mon­al­i­ties afford­ed by the glob­alised tech indus­try. I also get to trav­el to Ho Chi Minh City reg­u­lar­ly which is a nice change from the extreme order that is Sin­ga­pore.

It is ear­ly days so I not only get to help shape the prod­uct from the very start but also the com­pa­ny itself. This includes fig­ur­ing out and main­tain­ing design and devel­op­ment process­es. For this I find my Boy­di­an explo­rations quite use­ful, paired with what is now more than 13 years of indus­try expe­ri­ence (how did that hap­pen?) I have also con­duct­ed more hir­ing inter­views in the past few months than I did in the ten years before.

In a month or two a first ver­sion of the prod­uct should be in the mar­ket. When we’ve got­ten to that point I will do anoth­er of these updates. In the mean­time just know I am up to my armpits in think­ing-through-mak­ing about art dis­cov­ery and enjoy­ment on screens small and large. If you have any­thing relat­ed to share, or would like to be one of the first to test-dri­ve the thing when it arrives, let me know.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.