Painting With A Twist: Undercover Boss

Quick Recap

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings from their perspective rather than your own. Empathy is an important part of being a designer. It is both the first phase of the design thinking process and a crucial part for the designer because they need to be able to empathize with the user. The design thinking process stage of empathy consists of designers spending time getting to know the user and understanding their needs, want, and objectives. This is achieved by observation and engagement with users to understand them on an emotional and psychological level. To truly empathize with the user, the designer needs to take away their point of view and fully immerse in the user’s feelings. An example of this can be seen in the show Undercover Boss.

What Is Undercover Boss?

Undercover Boss is an American reality TV show where high-level execs secretly take low-level jobs within their company to find out how things really work and what their employees think of them. These execs drastically change their appearances, assume a new identity, and have a unique background. With the use of hidden cameras, this show provides the audience with an authentic perspective of the exec’s journey with the company’s employees and everyday operations. They also create a fictional explanation for the camera crew. This show has been running for ten years now. They have a lot of experience going undercover. They continue to learn about different perceptions about the company and sometimes about themselves.

Season 8 Episode 4: Painting With A Twist

In this episode, Renee Maloney, Chief Financial Officer and Co-Founder of Painting With A Twist goes undercover to three studios across the U.S. and one warehouse. Renee changed her identity and became Savannah; she dyed her hair blonde, wore contacts, put on glasses, and dressed like a hippie. Her goal is to go undercover and find out what the employees think and feel about their jobs and whether or not they are doing their jobs correctly.

San Antonio, Texas

At this location, Renee meets Macy. Macy is one of the art instructors who lead the class. Macy loves her job, but her career is far from her mom, who raised her after her parents got divorced. Macy didn’t go to college because of loans, so she is trying to save up money to go to school and to go see her mom. Macy loves her job and wants to continue to work and keep customers entertained.

Rockwell, Texas

At this location, Renee meets Bree. Bree is the manager in training; she makes sure to know everyone’s names. Her goal is to make everyone feel comfortable and have fun. Bree enjoys her job and is very creative, but she feels that artists who create original work should be compensated for the work. She loves that Painting With A Twist does a lot of community work; it was one reason she works there.

Hammond, Louisiana

This is a third party location where all of the supplies are shipped from. Painting With A Twist hires outsources their art supplies. Renee goes to this location to find out what the third party does. She works with Calvin. Calvin shows Renee exactly what they do, which is open boxes and check every single canvas for quality. Renee was pleasantly surprised at all of the quality control because she is not technically Calvin’s boss, but the third company works hard to make sure everything is up to standard.

Royersford, Pennsylvania

At this location, Renee meets Steve, who is a franchisee. Steve decided to open up this location of Painting With A Twist, and Renee wanted to learn more about what it’s like to set up a new location. Due to the expansion, Renee is no longer part of the franchising process. Steve proceeds to tell her that he didn’t get the training he was supposed to, so he paid for a course on his own, which surprises Renee because she didn’t expect her employees to go above and beyond.

At the end of the episode, they all meet up again, and Renee reveals that she was Savannah and learned a lot from them. I decided to create an empathy map for the high executive, Renee Maloney, and one of the employees, Bree. I am making an empathy map for Bree because of her interaction with Renee Maloney.

Renee Maloney – CFO and Co-Founder

Renee Maloney is CFO and Co-Founder of Painting With A Twist. She founded it with her friend, Cathy Deano, whom she met on the first day of kindergarten when her youngest child started school. Renee is the behind-the-scenes numbers and business side of the company. They started the company after hurricane Katrina ruined their homes. The business grew exponentially and moved out of Cathy’s barn, and became a franchise. 

Bree – Manager In Training

Bree is a manager in training at the Painting With a Twist studio in Rockwall, TX. She is very attentive and loves her job. Bree makes sure she knows the names of all the recurring customers that she likes to call “VIPs.” She enjoys creating her original art but sometimes lacks the motivation to do it because she does not compensate for her original pieces. Bree works at Painting With a Twist because of their monthly charity work that gives back to the community. She is super supportive and wants everyone to do a good job even when they struggle. Bree has struggled in her personal life. At one point in her life, she couldn’t provide food for herself and her children, which is why she works hard for organizations that help with all kinds of food issues around the world.

See the entire empathy map document below!


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