Stimu-love is a Black Mirror-inspired subscription service that bridges scientific capabilities with human psychology to guarantee love. This futuristic project taps into the "collective unease" that comes with the great potential of modern science by combining it with the abstract concept of love. Stimu-love offers to reduce if not eliminate the endless pursuit phase that is often followed by heartbreak. Don’t second guess your partner with a scientifically-backed solution to foster love. Stimu-love. The guaranteed way to feel love.
Methods: Market Research, Interviews, Usability Testing, Wireframing, Branding, Interaction Design
Timeline: 2 months
Tools: Adobe XD, Principle, Photoshop
Context: Senior Capstone
In my last semester of college, we were given free rein to design anything based on current trends. (Note: It is a unique opportunity to be given zero constraints in design school) I took this and ran 🏃.
I was inspired by subscription services, which are a source of recent marketplace changes. These shifts have large economic implications - in the five years leading up to 2018, the subscription e-commerce market grew more than 100% each year. If we’re talking specific dollars, the market increased from $57 million in sales in 2011 to $2.6 billion just four years later. [link to data]
The Goal 🥅
I set out to design a provocative subscription service inspired by Black Mirror. Although Black Mirror is a Netflix series, it embodies the goal of encouraging people to engage in dialogue and think critically about a societal trend. The subscription service design should follow the Black Mirror narrative arch and represent the dichotomic relationship of appearing both far-fetched and realistic.
How Might We...
I led qualitative 1:1 user interviews to learn about people's perceptions about subscriptions. I interviewed millennials because they are the most influential demographic in the subscription market. I learned that most people viewed subscriptions as a luxury. They believed subscriptions made life more convenient but were not a necessity (or a matter of life or death). People indicated that subscriptions made their lives easier and the biggest deterrent was cost. A key takeaway here was that convenience played a big role in determining a subscription's worth to people.
I sent out a survey to learn whether or not people would subscribe to a variety of concepts ranging from software to food to emotions to social interactions. There was much more willingness to subscribe to products and services that covered individual needs than social needs.
I realized a key insight: people's willingness to subscribe to things directly correlated with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People were much more willing to subscribe to physiological needs [food, clothing, water] than to the more emotional, such as self-esteem and self-actualization. The likeliness that people would be willing to subscribe decreased for each respective level up on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Subscribe to LOVE
What if in the future, the subscription model manifested into the higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy, despite the premonitions of people today? To really bring this question to fruition, I designed a subscription concept with the one idea that got the lowest percentage of yes’s: a subscription to love.
I based the user journey from the narrative arch of a black mirror episode. The experience should balance along edge of realistic and completely "Out there". What makes Black Mirror so successful and compelling is the added element of realism that comes with each scenario. The plot lines all seem as though they could exist in some future version of our current reality. I strived to emulate this Black Mirror experience through the design.
I researched love to uncover ways to turn it into a subscription model and create a level of plausibility. Interestingly, love can be broken down into hormonal reactions in the brain. This provided a scientific element to a seemingly abstract concept; the “formula” for love creates the perfect concrete element that grounds the concept back to reality.
Transforming the science of love into a subscription
Chemically induce the hormonal reactions associated with love in the brain
Neurologically Feel Love!
Design - UX 🖊
Object Oriented User Experience Design
*Tangent: In tandem with my senior capstone studio, I took at Object Oriented User Experience (OOUX) class outside of Georgia Tech. OOUX focuses on the translation from the real world to the digital world as design has evolved from 3D to 2D. It is a process to ensure "digital ergonomics". Essentially, I learned how to create intuitive, digital-based designs for users. For more information, visit this website.*
In order to create intuitive digital experiences, according to OOUX, designers must identify the main nouns, or real-world objects, related to a system. The initial process, called Noun Foraging, is a brain dump of all of the nouns related to the product being designed.
I thought about all of the different nouns related to "Love". I then prioritized the main objects in a process called Object Prioritization. I did this by reviewing the interviews I had initially conducted, the articles about Love, and the brainstorming sketches to find correlations and repeated objects.
The four objects identified in the object discovery phase created the foundation for the app. I then created an Object Map, which helped detail out the content and actions within the app. An object map helps explain the relationship between the main objects in an app. I outlined the actions that the user can take on each object [capabilities] as well as the elements that make up the structure of each object [content chunks and metadata].
I started out outlining the higher level Goal of the user: Sign up and Subscribe to Love. From there, creating the user flow helped identify the screens and actions necessary to complete the goal.
After identifying the information architecture through Object Mapping and establishing the necessary steps to achieve the user goal through the User Flow Chart, I started wireframing the solution. Outlining the "meat" of the app before starting the visual design ensures an intuitive solution for the user.
*Please note the carefully staged Airpods. Check out what I was listening to: https://spoti.fi/2Npdhl3 *
With increased fidelity comes more detail and thought process of the design. I referred back to the object map as I added different elements on the main 3 screens. Because I had already identified the "meat" of the app through the object map and user flows, the added fidelity to the wireframes was an easy transition from the rough sketches.
Design - Visual 🖌
I originally was going to create a co-brand between 23 & Me and E-Harmony. I created a color study to identify the key colors found when combining the brands. However, I realized that branding the project with an existing brand would contrast the Black Mirror experience that I was trying to achieve. Part of what makes Black Mirror so successful is the lack of specific identification to anything that really exists. The lack of existing branding allows for stronger emphasis on the experience itself. Given this realization, I created my own brand and Product Name: Stimu-Love
Creating the visual design was a process of bringing together the work I had previous done: branding + wireframes. Although I had originally started this project thinking the final solution would be strictly app-based, I created the packaging to further illustrate the design and exemplify how the branding would manifest in a physical platform.
Defining the direction, scope, and deliverables was challenging - and then COVID happened. The majority of this project was developed in the midst of the pandemic while quarantining with my parents! Despite the challenges and components that were out of my control, I learned a lot with this project. This was the first app that I had designed after taking an object-oriented UX course. It was very interesting and fulfilling to witness first-hand the benefit of spending the majority of the time dissecting what would go into the app before ever even laying pen to paper to wireframe. Figuring out the Information Architecture helped speed through the design phase and make the transitions from concept to wireframe to UI very seamless.
Maybe producers at Netflix will see this project and come up with a new Black Mirror episode!