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Design My Semester

October 2016 (3 weeks)
Class Project for Interaction Design Studio

Research UI/UX Visual Design


Getting an offer letter from your dream school is exciting, but the hype goes away as students start the logistical process of moving, doing paperwork, registering for classes, and getting onto campus.

The goal of this project is to improve incoming students' school onboarding experience. My role is to use research to identify design opportunities, envision the preferred future, and translate it into screen designs.

Final Design Overview



How can we improve HCI students' experience of getting to Carnegie Mellon?

This journey includes the work students do from the time they learn of their acceptance through the time they arrive on campus.

The journey

The journey from getting the offer letter to go to school is full of roadblocks. How can we make it better?


Conducting guerrilla research to understand the current state

We interviewed four representative HCI and design students to gain an understanding of the current state of the world. We used directed storytelling to elicit their stories, emotions, thoughts, actions, and pain points.

Based on our insights from the interviews, we came up with a journey map that serves as an abstract model of the current state of the world. Going from the positive and negative experience, we identified the breakdowns and opportunities in the entire journey.

Post-it notes map

Use post-it notes to visualize interview insights

Current Journey Map

I designed the journey map to visualize the abstract version of the current state.

The biggest design opportunity we discovered was course registration. From the journey map, you can clearly see that the most troublesome part of the journey is course registration and it highest impact on students' overall success at school.


Reframe the question

So we want a better course registration experience. The easy answer would be, let's make the course registration process easier. But, the ultimate goal for students is to learn as much as they can from the education. And course registration is an integral part of the education experience.

The reframed question is, how can we make sure students learn as much as they can from course registration process? How can we transform course registration into a learning experience?


The solution encourages informed decision making and relationship building

Other than logistical issues, students are not sure what classes they want to take, can't find quality information, and don't have someone to talk to directly about classes. The three-sentence course descriptions on the registration website and catalog are not enough to make an informed decision.

Our solution encourages students to make the best out of their CMU education in two ways:

      1. Defining their learning goals
      2. Mobilizing the alumni network

I designed the UI of our solution: Design My Semester.



In the preferred future with Design My Semester, students make better course selection decisions and feel more confident in their decisions. Their anxiety is alleviated and they are able to build valuable connections with alumni through talking about courses.

happy student


The most pivotal point of this project was when we reframed the question. We could have easily gone onto an easier route, by doing things like improving the registration process or implementing a time tracking tool. However, all these quick solutions will not have a significant impact on the students' learning experience. The process might be smoother, but the final outcome will be not much different than the current state.