ArtOf offers a fresh take on edtech for visual learners

ArtOf offers a fresh take on edtech for visual learners

This family-run startup hopes to make book-based learning more accessible with a unique visual style.


The pitch

The ArtOf series offers a intuitive educational toolkit that combines a print book with an iBook and a mobile app, all underpinned by a unique visual learning method. Readers are equipped with both instant visual knowledge and interactive practical tools, to create a complete package of learning content that can be used anywhere and anytime. The first bundle is the business-focused ArtOf Enterprise.

"The combination of the book and app allows the user to learn, capture and apply new knowledge intuitively in real time," claims Dan Underwood, ArtOf's editor and marketing manager. "At the core of ArtOf is a strong focus on simple and powerful visuals, combined with bitesize key knowledge, that can communicate complex subjects simply to a wider audience and engage multiple generations. We then add proven interactive tools are designed to help readers capture their own learning in a visual and intuitive way. This is supported by real world examples and case studies of the tools being used in a variety on industries and with multiple generations and learning styles."

The team

This is no heartless Sillicon Valley startup - ArtOf is a family run business based in Plymouth. It was founded in 2008 by Phil Underwood, an organisational artist has developed a unique style of visual learning, using diagrams and drawings to help people and organisations "see" their challenges and opportunities in a fresh and powerful way over the past 30 years. His entrepreneurial son Dan has a skillset combining experiential learning, visual thinking and applied social science, while his other son Joe, the company's designer and app developer, has over ten years' experience working both in retail and construction. 

What's the gap in the market?

The Underwoods believe that, despite the importance of imagery online, people with a visual learning style remain under-served by educational publishing. "We spotted there was a gap in the market for a visually focused product that can communicate complex knowledge, simply," Dan explains. "With the growth of the graphic novel sector and the development of smart mobile devices, readers now demand that their knowledge be served up in a simple, visual format that allows them to engage with the content quickly and apply it in real time."

ArtOf's also identified a hungry audience in a burgeoning breed of self-starting small business owners and entrepreneurs, who might not have had the advantage (or disadvantage) of traditional business degrees and apprenticeships. "For them, being able to learn quickly and efficiently is vital," he says.

Success so far

The ArtOf Enterprise has found fans within the general public, businesses and educational institutions - but also in unexpected communities too. "Our visual approach has allowed us to reach demographics that are underserved by other forms of learning," Underwood reports.

"One example was a cluster of social enterprises located in Cornwall that are set up, managed and run by people with learning disabilities. Their challenge was in running, growing and communicating their businesses without always being able to fully understand what a business was. These social enterprises discovered for the first time through ArtOf Enterprise that they could 'see' and understand business and the elements that build it. From this they began to grow in their confidence, and start to design and communicate their companies to the outside business world."

Biggest challenges?

"Our biggest challenge has been the lack of resource and designing a product ahead of the current market," Underwood admits. "We are a team of just three developing, creating and producing our own products whilst continuing to manage and build the ArtOf business. Plus working as a family business does come with a lot of challenges of its own!"

Ultimate ambition?

"We want to create and offer engaging and universally accessible products that use the power of visuals to communicate complex knowledge in a simple and organic way."