How might we help young people develop creative habits in their daily lives?

Current status

We're currently prototyping a concept for collaborative asynchronous creation to help people to feel more connected with each other.

Zazzle is an e-commerce platform with annual revenues of over $250 million. My team is helping Zazzle expand its presence in the online creativity space.

1. Defining Creativity

There are many different definitions out there.

We wanted to move beyond our own preconceived biases and come up with a more inclusive and empirical definition of creativity. So we asked 70 people to give us words they associate with creativity. Here's what we got.

2. Mapping the Creative Journey

Creativity is a journey with many highs and lows.

We interviewed 20 people who practice creativity regularly. We used their insights to create a journey map of the creative process. Of course, this doesn’t reflect everyone’s process; these are a lot of variation here. But we believe that it's a useful snapshot of what the creative process looks like.

3. Addressing the lows

We came up with concepts to address the lows of the creative journey.

We focused our attention on the lows of the creative journey because we hypothesized that these represent places where people fall off the creative train. Here are some examples of the concepts we came up with.

Boost your Creative Confidence

A making-centered tabletop game where the tackiest creation wins.

Reimagine the mundane

An app to inject humor into the mundane objects that surround us.

Blend physical and digital

An app to transform images using textures from the real world.

Meet your creative counterparts

A network to meet people who share your unique perspective.

4. Creating a framework

Based on user feedback and a literature review, we created a framework to guide our ideation process.

Our preliminary user testing results were mixed. People generally felt that the ideas were cool, but they also told us that the novelty would fade quickly. They were unlikely to return after their first few experiences. We realized that we needed a more robust framework to retain users long enough to help them develop creative habits.

A good trigger

Creativity is a loaded word. How might we engineer external and internal triggers to get people started?

A creative act

The creative journey has highs and lows. How might we lower the barriers and enable more people to be creative?

A variable reward

People like validation. How might we provide both meaningful, effort-driven rewards?

Aggregating value

Investing time and effort leads to greater buy-in. How might we motivate people to become frequent users of our product?

5. Experimenting with Triggers

We focused on tapping into the most powerful motivations that might drive people to create.

In the next round of user testing, we focused on trying to understand why young people might be driven to engage in creative pursuits. We prototyped creative acts that might activate people's innate motivations.

Express yourself in real time

People like to express themselves through their accessories. Will they be motivated to create art that appears on the objects they own?


Although self-expression is a powerful trigger, the bar for creating something beautiful is still pretty high.

After attending the Women's March, the subject makes somehing that reflects her politics. Her work immediately appears on their smart mug.

Create meaningful memories

People care about memorializing meaningful experiences. Will they be motivated to create quirky artifacts to preserve their memories?


Although preserving memories is a powerful trigger, meaningful experiences don't occur often enough to lead to habit formation.

While visiting the Louvre with a close friend, the sbuject creates a version of the Monalisa that dons her friend's pink hair.

Feel connected to other people

People want to feel connected to their loved ones. Will they be motivated to create in order to strengten their bonds with others?


This is a powerful motivation that most people experience daily. The quality of the creation is less important than the underlying meaning.

The subject collaborates with her friend to give an interesting twist to a mundane slice of bread.

6. Current Status

We're currently refining the creative act to capitalize on people's desire to feel more connected with other. Stay tuned!

In its current form, our concept allows two people to collaborate across temporal and geographical distance to make associations between disparate experiences.

Mapping user flow and interactions in low-fidelity.

Creating medium fidelity designs to answer specific questions about usability.

User testing in high fidelity to capture users' emotional responses to our concept.

As prototyping lead, I led ideation, iteration, and the development of high-fidelity assets for user testing. The Untitled team also includes S. Das, C. Zhao, V. Zhao, and Q. Bian.