ux + product design

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Context: Critical Practices Provocation: Hyper-personal Prototyping
Group project with Carlos Lazo, Phyllis Thai, and Sally Tran

Client: Christina Ong

Time frame: 4 weeks

Role: Interview, ideation, prototyping


Human Centered Design, perhaps the most well-known contemporary design methodology (brought to us by IDEO) encourages us to begin with humans and end with products, and to design with humans present at every step of the process. Often we end up with designs that appeal to everyone equally but no one deeply. We come to discover that “Human Centered Design” is really “Humans”-centered. But what would it mean to really do “Human”- Centered Design? To design an object or experience that only made sense for a single person? What new forms, interactions, and considerations might emerge if there were only a single user for whom we were designing?



After conducting a series of interviews with Christina Ong, a UC Berkeley senior studying Geophysics and minoring in Cal Teach, we designed an interactive collection box for her as a personal teaching tool. 

The teacher (Christina) can use egg-shaped tokens to symbolize student achievements, and as students earn their tokens in class, they can deposit the eggs into Pokébox. As the tokens add up to reach a certain amount, the Pokémon on top of the box evolves. When it reaches its final evolution, Christina can then choose to reward the students.


    Here are some insights we've gathered from our interviews with Christina:


    She is a part of ANOVA, an on-campus organization that mentors students on computer science.

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    She's passionate about helping and teaching kids, and she encourages group works, and having class/group competitions. However, sometimes she struggles with engaging students in class. 

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      A teaching tool that she found worked well is a simple point/reward system where the kids get to hold onto a poker card whenever they answer a question to symbolize a point earned. She also told us that students like holding onto something physical.

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      She enjoys anime (especially Pokémon), cosplaying, and cute things like eggs.  




      We came up with a few different ideas after brainstorming, like:

      • A personalized mannequin for her to make cosplay costumes
      • A custom stamp for her to grade assignments
      • Small gadgets to help her dog get on the chairs in her house


      Our final idea is a personalized teaching tool, with the following goals:

      • Help Christina to engage her students in class
      • Incorporating her personal preferences, making it uniquely hers


       sketches for the initial idea

      sketches for the initial idea

      the product

      Pokebox: How it works

      Christina may choose to use the tokens to symbolize class participation.

      1. When a student answers a question, he/she receives a token.
      2. Students deposit the token into the Pokébox at the end of the class
      3. Tokens start to add up and fill the first tick-mark on the front of the box - Christina can then evolve the Bulbasaur into Ivysaur.
      4. Tokens start to add up and fill the second tick-mark on the front of the box - Christina can then evolve the Ivysaur into Venusaur.
      5. When the box is all filled up, the Pokémon has reached its final evolution, Christina can reward the students with a pizza party.

      objective: STUDENT ENGAGEMENT

      1. A reward system to encourage students to participate in class.
        The idea is that there would be an immediate reward (egg, sound and lighting effects), and a long-term reward (evolving the pokemon) for the students (from the book 1-2-3 Magic Effective Discipline for Children 2–12).
      2. Physical objects as token.
        From our interview with Christina, we've learned that students enjoy having a physical object to hold onto. We decided to make a box that can be filled up by tokens shaped like Pokemon eggs, which can be earned in class through activities like answering questions, handing in exit tickets, or acing a quiz/project, etc.

      objective: PERSONALized PREFERENCES

      1. Christina enjoys anime, especially Pokemon.
        Our box is Pokemon themed. We also chose the Pokemon Bulbasaur, because Christina likes the original Pokemons, and her favorite type is grass type.
      2. She loves cute objects, especially eggs.
        She told us that she likes cute things, and she find eggs especially cute. So we made the tokens in the form of Pokemon eggs, which also goes with the theme of evolving the Pokemon.


      Since our product is highly interactive, sketching really helped us understand the mechanism as we designed different components of the box. We made multiple sketches, and kept improving the design as we prototype and iterate.


      Started with a low fidelity prototype made from cardboard, we had several iterations as we improved our design. It helped us understand the relative sizes of each component, and how they would work with each other. It was a long and arduous process, but we were happy with our final result.

      We made our first low-fidelity prototype out of cardboard for easy troubleshooting and adjustments like the size and the basic mechanism of the box.

      Then we made our second prototype with laser-cut plywood and acrylic, adding electronic components  so that we can test out the interactive parts like the limit switch and LED.

       first prototype

      first prototype

       second prototype

      second prototype

      In our third and final prototype, we made final adjustments to some components of the box, and improved the visual appearance of the box before bringing it to Christina.

       high fidelity prototype

      high fidelity prototype

       Christina with Pokebox

      Christina with Pokebox



      Initially, we were intrigued by her pet dog Jojo (who is absolutely adorable by the way, and you can find him on instagram @jojothepembrokecorgi), but from interviews, we've learned that that her true passion lies in teaching and helping children to learn. Being able to understand her struggles and passion in life, I feel like we've grabbed hold of something that core to her life, and I'm glad that we were able to reach that stage and really get to know her.

      The best part was watching her reaction when we gave her our final prototype. She was so excited that she took it around to show her friends, and she was able to explain exactly how it works in less than half an hour after she received the product herself.

      It was satisfying knowing that we were able to design something that truly made sense to her, and that she would use in her classroom in the future.


      I wish that we had finished prototyping earlier, so that we can present it to her before we had our provocation critique and iterate further based on her feedback. While we have finished the project for the class, we will continue to improve the prototype for her, and we are excited to hear her feedbacks!

      additional info

      Watch a video of our prototype and Christina's reactions!

      Critical Practices*: A studio design course where students work at the intersection of technological innovation and socially engaged art.