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USU Heart


Timeline: 3 months (February 2023)

Collaborators: Vincent Plater, Irene Clare

Tools: Canva, Miro, SketchUp, Figma

Design Methods: Interviews, Questionnaires,

Contextual Observation, Personas, Empathy

Mapping, Affinity Diagram.

Project and Proposal overview

This project was for a design studio unit at University which took the entire semester and my first major UX design project.


The aim is to create an engaging and interactive experience centred around an identified problem in a chosen public space. Your final design solution must have digital, spatial and physical components, which encourages people to engage, interact and play, rather than just providing a one-way digital information channel.

We had four options on what our public space was and decided to focus on the issue of community connection on USYD campus. It was an apparent issue that covid impacted social and society life at USYD and therefore wanted to find a solution for this issue. 


This project was completed over three different assignments, the first was regarding our research, the second for our mid-fidelity prototype and the third for our final prototype. The walk through of this project will therefore go through a similar process. Different group members were responsible for different sections on this project, for the most part the tasks were shared and when I go over areas I was not involved in I will state so. There will be a drop box and links at the bottom of the page to see our work better.

Let's Get Started!

Exploration of the problem area 

Post covid University wellbeing and belonging in Australia was at a low and stress was at a high. Furthermore,

well-being of university students seemed to improve with group membership (Dingel et al, 2022). It was apparent both from personal experience and research that there was an issue we can solve with University culture. This set the foundation for our research statement and aims.

Research Problem Statement: To develop an understanding of the indoor plant market, discover the target audience, identify the target demographic’s behaviour and journey when using plant-tending applications, and, finally, understand the successes and failures of competitor applications. 

Research Objective: To develop an understanding of the indoor plant market, discover the target audience, identify the target demographic’s behaviour and journey when using plant-tending applications, and, finally, understand the successes and failures of competitor applications. 

Primary Research Summary

We formed user testing protocols to match our research objective, with all members equally contributing to gathering data through Contextual Observation, Questionnaire and Interviews. 

Contextual Observation

  • Where? Observation of Cadigal Green

  • Why? To understand what university students do in between classes and on campus

  • 6 observation periods over 3 days​


  • Who? USYD Students

  • Why? To understand how students felt about community and connection at USYD.

  • 30 participations and 21 (mostly) closed-ended questions


  • Who? College, International and Domestic USYD Students

  • Why? To understand what impacts a student's experience of culture and belonging at USYD

  • 9 interviews at a duration of 10-20 minutes

Analysis findings summary

Notable trends

  • Most USYD Students do not socialise on their break - most will sit down outside and be on their phone.

  • Cadigal green is a high foot traffic area with ~200 people walking through at end of class peak hour (15 before and after each hour). Seats are usually taken up after 10am until 2pm

  • Majority of students struggled to make friends, valued social interaction and education equally, and there was was a low sense of belonging.

  • No clear patterns between people's answers and their demographics and personal attributes, with the consensus being that USYD did not have a strong community.

  • Most students look forward to and want to meet new people and socialise at university.

  • Domestic College students had a stronger sense of community, belonging and culture.

  • Some students have no desire to make friends or socialise at university due to external factors (already have good friendships, have many external commitments)

  • Culture shock for international students was a significant factor impacting a sense of belonging and community at university.


  • It can be difficult to know when society events are - different societies use different social media platforms which some students do not use regularly making it easy to miss out of events.

  • It is hard for students to motivate themselves to go on campus if they have no one to socialise with.

  • Struggle to attend society events without someone to go with


  • Outdoor environment and fresh air in between classes

  • Less intimidation to socialise

  • Easy way to discover, locate and sign up for events and societies at USYD

  • Make friends in your degree to study and attend degree related events with

Affinity Diagram

For our analysis of our primary research we chose an affinity diagram. We triangulated our data through a combination of qualitative and quantitative data formed from our Questionnaire and Interviews with USYD participants. I gathered relevant data from the questionnaire and interviews for one of my group peers to use and form the affinity diagram. The main insights have been noted above in Trend, Pain Points and Desires.

Affinity Diagram Insight summary

Affinity Diagram of Questionnaire and Interview Data


User Personas

Contextualizing the target audience's struggles with belonging and connection at university and how a potential technology that meet their desires and needs whilst meeting the strict design requirements of digital, spatial and physical. Formed strictly from my research and interview quotes, I synthesized two user personas which represented the different demographic groups which both struggled with belonging and connection at university in different ways.

George Sloan Persona Chart

Georgia Sloan is one of the user personas. She is a 3rd year domestic student living on campus. She overall has a good experience of community and belonging but is often excluded from social events by college peers

Michael Feng Persona Chart

Michael Feng is one of the user personas. He is a 1st year international student originally from China living at off-campus accommodation. He has struggled with culture shock and only connects with similar students.

Empathy mapping

After forming user personas we further synthesized the findings into manageable reference points, with an empathy map for each persona. Created from interviews, secondary research and observational analysis, the empathy map helped contextualize future users' encounters.

Georgia Sloan Empathy Map

Geogia Sloan is one of the user personas. This empathy map captures her emotions and actions through 'Says, Thinks, Does, and Feels' - She overall has a positive experience at University and makes friends easy

Michael Feng Empathy Map

Michael Feng is one of the user personas. This empathy map captures her emotions and actions through 'Says, Thinks, Does, and Feels' - She overall has a positive experience at University and makes friends easy

The differences between the two personas shows the disconnect at the University of Sydney. With a strong sense of belonging for domestic college students and a almost non-existent sense of belonging for international off-campus students. Their empathy maps depict the different experiences, emotions and actions which can both be helped through Universe.

Redefining the problem statement

The research at the beginning of this project was very thorough and helped us a lot in out later stages. We formed a design problem statement from our research which will influence our decisions in our ideation and prototyping stages.

Design problem statement: Students at USYD, especially those who live off campus are impacted by a lack of belonging and connection to the university caused by the lack of initiatives and opportunities run by the University and the lack of access to existing intiatives. This impacts university experience and individual well being highlighting the necessity for action in this area.


To aid in the ideation to form conceptual ideas which helped strengthen the sense of belonging and community to all University students whilst addressed attributes of the user personas storyboards were formed. The user encounters a problem in relation to university which is solved through a product. Multiple storyboards were formed and the two provided helped developed the final concept.

'No Missing' Storyboard

'No missing' Application - Irene​​

Features an application you can download which is designed to make it easier for more students to get involved in events through showing when and where all upcoming events are, users can share events, add to calendar and are notified.

Michael makes a friend storyboard

Michael makes a friend - Emily

Michael is one of our personas, he is bored and alone waiting for his next class and he spots a 'gaming kiosk,' Michael starts to play chess with someone on another gaming kiosk across campus, and they connect and become friends.

Finalising concept

In the end, we combined these two concepts into one solution. Our solution is a multi-functional community Kiosk with three different sections.

  • Profile: Users can log-in by scanning their student card and can see people they have connected with and liked events.

  • Map: Showing university buildings, other kiosk locations, and locations of upcoming events.

  • Games: Users can play against people across campus on other kiosks and choose to connect with one another. Here is a 3d model of our kiosk we completed to help visualise our physical prototype.

Rough 3d Model to conceptualise the physical aspect of the product

First Prototype

Our first prototype included three different aspects:

  • Digital: the UI interface developed in Figma, participants will interact with this prototype on an iPad.

  • Physical: the physical cardboard prototype of a kiosk.

  • Spatial: the kiosk's location in the university environment and act of using a student ID to login.

The first prototype was mid-fidelity and rough, we wanted to know how to best meet our user needs and increase the learnability. Watch the walk-through video below.

User walk through using cardboard prototype and figma

User testing

We completed user testing for our initial prototype. Our participants had to be USYD students, and therefore we conducted user testing on campus so our participants would suit our desired persona. Here is a our summarised user testing plan:

  1. Think Aloud user walk through of prototype with tasks (similar walk through as video prototype)

  2. Semi-structured interview

  3. SUS Survey 

  4. Conduct unstructured interviews for more information on SUS answers.

Quotes from User Testing

Our participants were extremely helpful with advice and comments which aided our design decisions later on, here are some of the quotes which were later incorporated:

"seeing people's faces or profile pictures would increase connection"

"could add a news feature so I can see what is happening around me"

"I would stand here if it was covered."

We had a lot of other quotes, especially during the Think Aloud walk through which showed us there was issues with both the quality of our prototype and our UI design. Many people had issues recognising icons or features due to unfamiliarity. A lot of people also indicated the design was not that playful itself. These are all examples of issues which were improved upon in later prototype iterations.


To Start, our SUS score was 74.16 with the average usability score being a 68. Although this was above average this was not ideal. From my observations and the comments and quotes from participants, it was clear our next focus would need to on completing changing and taking our user interfaces in a different, more playful direction. We also had to focus on functionality and familiarity so it would be easy for users to adapt to this interface and recognise icons and features.

Figma UI Prototype

Based off the results of our user research, it was clear that we needed to adapt our UI to fit the design brief better and improve features to make it easier for users to navigate and identify features. Our next prototype had a completely different style, with different typography, colours and shapes.

User testing

We completed user testing for our initial prototype. As our user testing plan included Hueristic Evaluation, our participants were fellow design students and academic tutors. Here is our full user testing plan.

  1. Think Aloud user walk through of prototype with detailed tasks (without help or interference from testers) 

  2. Notes taken from testers on how user navigates without guidance

  3. Hueristic Evaluation form

  4. Short three question semi-structured interview


With only 4 participants we had a small scope of data. However, there was still clear commonalities particularly with participants struggling to navigate a unfamiliar UI. From our heuristics we knew our next focus will be on improving; 

  • Help and Documentation

  • Visibility of System Status

  • Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

  • Error Prevention.

Figma UI Prototype Video

Final Product

After a few iterations of our Figma UI, being assisted by our tutor we finalised our visual design and style which you will see below. Here is a quick summary of our changes!

  • To add onto our spatial elements, our physical kiosk will display the top player of the leader board and light up when someone surpasses number one. 

  • Bubbly style remained but colours changed. The background is now tan, primary is still orange and the secondary is blue

  • Altercations to leaderboard display on screen

  • Profile page was simplified to make it easier for students to see their next class location

  • Improvement to visibility of system status with confirmations for actions being clearly visible.

  • Sign out button moved to bottom of profile page 

  • News is now specific to USYD campus news and has a QR code

  • Advanced prototyping for animations across Figma frames

  • Ping Pong loading animation 

My role for the Figma UI development was in redesigning the navigation bar, the news pop up, the profile section, the loading / log in screen, and general animations whilst my peers worked mostly on the map and games page.

See below to read through our poster to see more information about our design solution and see our final prototype!

UniVerse Poster
UniVerse 3d model
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