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Fostering a new way for families to stay connected

September 2016 - December 2016
Client: ELMOOD/ GBDA 402 course

My Role
Product Designer: UI/UX, user-research, market research, user-testing, prototyping

The Team
Austin Fisher - Business Development
Amina Musa - 3-D Modeling
Lori Fung - Illustrations/Branding
Michelle Kostka - Business Development
Sydney Gringas - Business Development
Toluwa Awodiya - Product Manager


For my fourth year design project, I worked in a team of seven to integrate The Internet of Things with a bookshelf by ELMOOD, a furniture company based in Hong Kong. The Cubby hopes to inspire stronger relationships between family members as an IoT integrated shelf that encourages interactions and activities through a mobile app.

3-D Model of The Cubby created by Amina Musa

3-D Model of The Cubby created by Amina Musa

Illustration created by Lori Fung

Illustration created by Lori Fung

When the child returns home, their parent receives a text notifying them that their child is home. When the parent comes home, a light turns on in the child's room and the parent receives a suggestion for activities to do together. Through these micro-interactions we hope to facilitate more moments of connection for families in Hong Kong. 

Defining The Problem

This project was unlike most that I’ve worked on in the past. It involved creating a provotype (a provocative prototype), viable prototype and usable prototype. Each prototype challenged us to find a social issue in Hong Kong and to address it through our designs. For our final usable prototype we discovered that

Children in Hong Kong grow up feeling disconnected from their families

We also found that this was linked to lower self-esteem and poor social development skills in children.

Ideation for our viable prototype - a medidative workspace

Ideation for our viable prototype - a medidative workspace

Exploring the problem

Exploring the problem

Sketching potential solutions to our defined problem

Sketching potential solutions to our defined problem

During this project, I learned the importance of collecting design traces and documenting key moments that occur during development. Inspired by this newfound awareness, I created a booklet during the viable prototype cycle to document and explain our group’s unique design journey. The booklet outlines key toolkits, design methodologies and research questions that lead us to our solution.


Wireframe & Interaction Design

I collaborated with my team to come up with the flow of the app and translated key insights from our findings into sketches and wireframes. Developing these initial designs helped us work together to debate certain features and understand how users would interact with our product. 


User Testing & Feedback

For our initial prototype, we envisioned having NFC tags on the bottom of people's bags because we assumed that each family would come home and need a place to store their bags. However, we observed that when people were interacting with our physical prototype it wasn’t natural for them to place their bags on The Cubby because of the height and most people wanted to use it as a shoe shelf. We pivoted and incorporated the NFC tags on the shoes to follow user behaviours. 

Created a prototype of the bookshelf out of cardboard. Setting up for user-testing.

Created a prototype of the bookshelf out of cardboard. Setting up for user-testing.

During the first iteration, I realized that designing an onboarding experience was crucial since The Cubby introduced new technology most people aren't familiar with. Feedback from users also showed that the lack of contrast in colours made the user interface confusing and I incorporated more vivid colours into the second iteration of the prototype.

Sync Shelf

Onboarding instructions for users to pair their phone with their new Cubby Shelf through bluetooth.

Register & Sync Shoes

Users tag their shoes with the provided NFC tags and then register their shoe into the app by assigning a name. Once the shoe is tagged and registered, placing the shoe on the shelf will beginning syncing. 

Sync Lights

Families who purchase the Cubby receive a Phillips hue light bulb for their child's room. Below are steps to sync the light through their phones. 


Final DesiGN


Families can track the amount of time they've spent together and observe past trends. Recommended activities appear as suggestions for possible activities to do together.


Families can browse and select an indoor or outdoor activity to do together. They can choose to favourite the activity or schedule activities for a later time.

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Families can actively keep track of future activities as well as past activities. Rituals are daily, weekly or monthly activities that become an integral part of family life.

Activity Tracker

This is a fun addition to the app which allows families to easily record the activity and amount of time spent together.

Family Account

This shared account stores photos of past activities through albums. Families can add photos and notes inside of these albums. Each family member can also customize their individual profiles.


Key Takeaways

Through this project, I learned how to think beyond designing for digital screens to imagine interactions with a physical object such as a bookshelf. I also realized that although we like to think that technology provides "solutions" to problems not every product needs to follow this model and can serve a different purpose. Cubby doesn't necessarily "solve" a problem but is meant to be a tool that inspires and encourages new kinds of behaviours through fun and seamless interactions. Through these interactions, people might choose to incorporate new behaviours into their lives.