Designing Meaningful Interactions – Counter Prototypes

For this assignment, I found both user scenarios (read below) to be different enough from each another that I created two different desk counting prototypes.

Marco’s Desk Counter

Maria’s Desk Counter



Based on my instincts, I felt strongly that the emotional states of limiting one’s diet versus anticipating vacation were different enough to call for unique prototypes.  I also based this decision on having read recent articles and books popularizing psychology and human behavior.

For example, I’ve heard that it is the positive emotion of anticipation that people most enjoy about vacations – not the actual vacation itself. Said another way, fantasizing about a perfect paradise is more fun than actually experiencing the realities of logistical hiccups or misunderstandings with travel mates. And when it comes to creating new habits to cut down on addictions, such as Marco’s coffee intake, I’ve read that the brain has only a certain amount of will power to spend each day …so you plan & better spend it wisely. Plus there might be negative emotions around having to restrict your diet, not positive ones like those associated with vacation.

With all of this in mind, I decided that Maria and Marco’s motivations are responding to really different emotions and possibly even reacting from different regions of the brain. Combining their needs into one prototype felt like I was simplifying their needs into a solution that wouldn’t help either of them. Therefore, I created different prototypes that played up different features to meet each of their emotions and needs.

Prototype #1

Maria’s prototype allows her to savor the anticipation she feels leading up to her vacation. As a break from feeling sad about work, each day she can get a quick high by revealing one small detail of a beautiful photo of her vacation destination. As she eats her lunch at her desk, she can remove one puzzle piece from the board, slowly but surely knowing that she is one step closer to her escape. This design allows her to focus on one small vision of her destination, encouraging her to support savoring and really enjoying her anticipation. As for fabrication, I’m imagining that in a final prototype the puzzle pieces are cut out of flat magnets so that they are easy to peel off from the printed photograph. Behind the photograph is another magnetized board. With this arrangement, she can easily replace the photograph and reuse the magnetized pieces.


Maria begins anticipating her vacation with a full puzzle covering up a photo of her destination. Each piece represents a day between her and her flight to Yosemite National Park. 


At this point, Maria is about two thirds of the way towards her hike through Yosemite. In a couple days she’ll be able to see the peak El Capitan.


Prototype #2

Marco’s desk counter prototype goes so far as to actually help him manage his coffee addiction. This magnetized board provides not only a method to plan his coffee intake but also track his progress. Knowing he wants to stick to 15 cups a week, he can put two, maybe three, coffee mug magnets on each day. As he drinks each cup, he flips them over to show that he’s enjoyed them (encouraging the action of savoring each cup, which might help him need less in the future). If he slips and has a third or fourth, that’s not a problem. He can take one or two mugs from later in the week and move them over. But that means no coffee at brunch on the weekend! Again, the fabrication would make use of flat magnets but that are printed on both sides to show an empty or full cup of coffee.


This design allows Marco to plan out his ideal coffee consumption for the week.  15 cups divided evenly is 2 cups for six days, and 3 cups on the seventh day.


As the week goes by, Marco can flip each coffee mug to reveal the full cup of coffee that he just enjoyed. If he has more than two cups of coffee in a day, that’s OK – he can take one from later in the week, but will clearly see he has to hold back on the weekend.


About Personas

I’ve heard about personas in the past, and have been suspicious of how useful it is to design for them. I myself can see that I spun a few stories above to persuade the reader that these prototypes will meet the needs of personas Maria and Marco.  I’m curious if companies typically invent personas, or base them on research?

Assigned Personas

Maria is a 30 year old PR Account Manger working at Havas. She finds her job boring and lives for her vacation. Some days she feels she cannot make it to 5pm without knowing that there is a vacation on the calendar. Maria is constantly tracking the number of days until her next vacation. She is looking for a fun way to motivate herself by tracking the number of days until her next vacation.

Marco is a Sales Rep for google. His job is stressful and he has developed a bad habit of drinking too much coffee. He is trying to cut back because he can’t sleep at night. This winter he is up to 4-5 cups a day. Jon loves coffee and doesn’t want to quit, he just wants to scale back from almost 30 cups a week  to a limit of 15 cups per week. marco is looking for a way to easily track his coffee consumption by counting the number of cups he drinks each week.