Project overview

About the project

This is a project our team submitted for the Student Design Challenge at the Interaction 17 Conference. There are two parts in this project, 1. Initial idea - Telly, 2. Final solution - StoryLine. 

Problem: Older generations sometimes feel disconnected with younger family members due to the unfamiliarity use of technology or the lack of in-depth conversation. Hence, a lot of their valuable life experience get lost.

Solution: We proposed a smart device for the older generation to text and a act as a recording of their life story. For the younger generation, they could access through the StoryLine app to begin a collective storytelling experience. 

Outcome: Our team was awarded 2nd place in the challenge.

Timeline: 1 week for initial idea + 2 weeks user research + 3 days design challenge

My role: Visual design, user research & synthesize, industrial design, 3D modeling, UI design, video editing, animation.


the problem

Connect with my Grandma

The project started with a personal problem. My grandma has difficulties using a smart phone. The only way for her to connect with family members is a land-line phone. For me it is difficult for me to call her through a landline since I am in another country. I connect with my family through texting and group chatting. 

"What if Grandma can be in a group chat with us?" 

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We have to submit an initial design proposal for participating the Student design challenge. In 2 weeks, based on my grandma's need, we came up with an idea of a device with speech to text function. Grandma can see the texts on screen as well as record her voice through the receiver and automatically translate her speech into a text. 


initial idea


A device for grandma to be in the loop

With this question, I designed a digital device that model like an old phone so Grandma feels more comfortable using it. The device also has a simple touch screen interface for displaying text message, weather, time and photos.

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Selected functionalities

The idea is Grandma can use this device to be part of the group text so she can be in the loop and not feel left out. 

She can talk through the phone receiver to record her message and she can send it to the group.


the competition

3 Days design challenge

Tyler (my classmate) and I got into the finalist and got 2nd place in the IxDA student design challenge, and within the 3 days of the conference we have to prototype and iterate with the feedback from mentors.  With our initial design "Telly", a text device for people who is not familiar with smartphone, here is now we have evolved the idea.  

Here is a video of our final presentation presenting out final idea, "StoryLine".


research process

Interviews & User testing

Share screen phone interviews

Our initial idea is using the text machine to prompt the grandchildren to start a conversation with grandma such as "how are you feeling?" and they could respond with a prompt answer so to increase the micro-interactions between them. And by using the prompting function, the grandchildren can also ask grandma about their stories and that could be a recording machine to archive grandma's stories.

But after talking to several people we found that prompting is a very robotic response which is contradicting with what we want.

We have talked to 5 elderly people and done some share screen prototyping with them.

We have talked to 5 elderly people and done some share screen prototyping with them.

Synthesizing insights after talking to 5 elderly people.

Synthesizing insights after talking to 5 elderly people.


Field interviews

Understand how they communicate with their family members

Before the challenge, we have interviewed 5 folks ages from 65 - 85. We found that they are pretty good at using their smartphone and some of them are frequent users of social media because of the influence of their younger family members and peers. But using these platform, they can only talk about the present.


Also They agreed that texting is more effective for communication and they used it very often, but they still prefer talking on phone and see their family members in person. 

"I want my grandkids to know I was starred at a quiz show." - interviewee

We found that technology is not necessary the major problem in the communication but there is some opportunity in using stories to enhance the communication. 


Interview Grandchildren

Understand how they communicate with their grandparents

We talked to some grandchildren to have a better understand what is the major problem in the communication with their grandparents.


We found that technology is not the main obstacle in the communication, some of them even have a regular WhatsApp call or text with their grandparents. 

We found that it is rare for younger generation to ask about their grandparents life stories in a daily conversation. 

Sketch dA sketch during brainstorming, thinking about increasing the micro-interaction between grandparents and grandchildren. uring brain storming. The idea was to increase micro interactions daily.

A sketch during brainstorming, thinking about increasing the micro-interaction between grandparents and grandchildren. 


The challenge

Problem Statement

How can we increase the micro-interactions between younger and older family members by capturing and sharing their life stories?


research insights

Design opportunity 

We want to empower grandparents in the communication. Instead of waiting their grandchild to call or ask about their stories, they could be the center of the conversation.  

So we start to think, how might we use story to incentivize all family members to start a conversation?

Getting feedback from everyone including the lady who brings us drinks during work session.

Getting feedback from everyone including the lady who brings us drinks during work session.


the idea

Connecting family through story


Remark* The UI design is optimized for the video. 

How it works

Start the conversation with a photo or a voice recording.

Anyone in the family can start a story by uploading a photo or record a story. Then everyone can start the conversation or upload their photos that related to the story. We also want to provide a prompting features in the app to help grandparents to tell a more compelling story, prompt examples are "How was the weather that day?", "What kind of music is playing?". To help keep the conversation going and be more immersive with the story.

Family members share similar story in life

A photo of grandparents at a restaurant and other family members 's photos at dinner tables can create a library of similar events in life. For example, wedding, graduation, first born baby. The connection of stories of similar life events encourage sharing and create stronger bonding.

This is an illustration showing the growing of stories and sharing over time with similar life event.

Over time, different collection of stories accumulate and become a family story data base.



Test your assumptions

In this project, my grandma was the one that inspired me with her problem. I thought maybe other grandmas also struggled with the same problem; not familiar with technology or smart phones. But after our user interviews, I was surprised that some of the folks are in fact very active on social media and have no problem using computers. Because of that, we shifted our problem area in the communication instead of the technology.     


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