Final Project Report
Experience Design – Baumgart - DMBA - CCA
Technology is disrupting the way in which we create and disseminate information about events and shared
social experiences that run the gamut from large to small. Digital and mobile technologies have become
the conventional form through which users generate invitations and correspondence around events. To get
an idea of the current rate of adoption and pervasiveness of such technologies, Eventbrite, one of the
most ubiquitous of the online ticket sales start-ups, currently provides event recommendations to 20
million of its users. With the increasing popularity, convenience, and accessibility of online stationary
tools, web-based ticketing platforms, and text messaging, the de facto channel of communication between
the host, invitee and other respondents, typically is confined to digital/mobile platforms and solutions.
We have identified a major experiential problem in this ecosystem when users are faced with having to
decline an invitation or are unable attend an event. Through the process of discovery and exploration
around internet-based services with a correlation to the event-sphere , we have found that here are no
existing means of issuing an authentic empathetic response where human emotion can be clearly discerned
by the intended recipient. These new standards of modern correspondence lack integrated multimedia
capabilities that would amplify the user experience under the condition that the user would not be able
to be present at an event. The emotional experience of guilt is often associated with being unable to
attend important gatherings or milestone events. Existing resources don’t take into consideration this
powerful human emotion.
Our solution, Toast, is designed to ease the emotional experience of guilt by equipping socially active
individuals with the convenience of expressive communication tools in order to help sustain meaningful
personal connections with the people they care about when unable to attend an event. By leveraging video,
voice recording, and timed-release technology, Toast delivers an effective message of apology through
virtual means with the purpose of preserving an important relationship with an individual who will be
affected by the absence.
With the continued democratization of event-creation in parallel with technological advancements, event
organizers and attendees should not be relegated to passive apathetic forms of digital dialogue, as the
fidelity and legitimacy of communication between the two should be held in a higher regard than the event
itself. While many platforms are transforming the world of events and facilitating gatherings, it is critical
to keep in mind those users who are unable to share in those live experiences, and still provide those
key stakeholders with the opportunity to be expressive and keep a strong bond with their respective
The content of this document includes the roadmap for the tactical and strategic approach towards the
creation of an experience around the assigned domain of mobility.
Discovery and Observations:
The initial question we asked ourselves as a group at the beginning of the project was what gets people
excited to get together? It was this question that caused us to diverge in our thinking process and serve
as a point of departure to generate some broader-based ideas to explore. From our early research, we
established that the family dinner was disappearing as a social/cultural trend. From this assessment of the
current reality we developed some insights about worst-case scenarios of what would happen in the event
that family dinner time completely disappeared from the fabric of society.
A society in which there was no existing transference of values from generation to generation?
Complete loss of community, diluted sense of identity, or vanishing of culture where the globe would
become a “pangaea” once again?
By establishing this frame, we set out to engage in some contextual qualitative research by conducting one
on one interviews asking about the relevance of shared and collective experiences around food and music
and how those events enable the transference of values and culture.
Through 25 interviews of individuals ranging in age, cultural backgrounds, and geographic locations, we found
overall that communal family events around food and music are critical to life experience. We determined
that people felt as if their psychological culture and formative character are largely shaped and
influenced by their parents, relatives, siblings, and friends. These forms of interactions are paramount in
defining who we are and who we become as individuals. It is through sensorially rich traditions, such as a
meal or a concert, that become vehicles through which we shape and crystallize our standards of behavior,
norms, and principles.
Another critical key learning we uncovered through our interviews was the fact that people tend to get
frustrated and feel they are missing out when they aren’t present at a family gathering. There is a strong
association with the feeling of guilt around not meeting other’s expectations or being unable to participate.
The emotional experience of guilt of the stakeholders we interviewed seemed to be magnified around
important shared experiences and events.
To augment our customer interviews, we conducted some secondary research in order to identify some more
opportunities and problems as well as validate some of our underlying assumptions and unearth some of
the underpinnings about why the emotional stakes are much higher in the context of collective
experiences. Particular occasions seem to elicit visceral reactions from people and this was worth digging
into. We wanted to understand the psychology and theories around collective behavior, delve into the
evolutionary origins of music, as well as achieve a better understanding of the cultural structuring of
Emile Durkheim’s theory of collective effervescence played a significant role in the development of our
desired experience. The theory of collective effervescence is a perceived energy formed by a gathering of
people. Durkheim established this theory around the turn of the 20th century when observing a sacred
ritual of Australian Aborigines known as a corrobbori, a ceremony which marks the rejoining of Aborigine
groups after periods of nomadic separation. Strong emotional reactions, energy, and sense of electricity
were evoked as a response of the group coming together. There were palpable feelings of exaltation and
pure euphoria, with a compounding intensity as the ceremony progressed. Durkheim observed it as a
transformative experience for the tribe members. He firmly believed from his observations that it is rituals
analogous to these where we obtain our reverence for society, a respect that can not be attained in
isolation or autonomously.
In our research on the evolutionary origins of music we discovered that there is a strong connection
between emotion and music that goes much deeper than what we see on the surface. In a concert or club
setting, people are experiencing emotions that are contagious in that we respond to a prevalent mood
which influences one’s own interpretation of the music. Much of the value of listening to music is derived
from being in a communal and shared environment.
With regards to the importance of shared dining experiences and their influence on human behavior, we
discovered that food preparation, distribution, and consumption authenticate our social and moral beliefs
and values and also promote a sense of continuity across generations. In many cultures, food is highly
symbolic and people tend to imbue particular varieties of food with sentimental, moral, religious and
health-related meanings. Adults and children alike tend to associate food with a communal identity and can
be attributed to affirming or diminishing affection and social bonds. What’s more, family mealtimes tend to
be used to recount narratives that convey moral messages and it is storytelling that becomes the central
facet of the dining experience.
Durkheim, Émile. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, (1912, English translation by Joseph Swain:
1915) The Free Press, 1965
Overall, we noticed the great potential for us to innovate in the sphere of shared family experiences
because of the richness and breadth of the desired core meanings. Additionally, it was a space that was
ripe for analysis because of the perceived imminent erosion of values and traditions due to the lack of
time being dedicated to gatherings, especially the family dinner. Our secondary research findings validated
that events of a familial nature are emotionally charged and activate certain latent feelings that we don’t
typically experience on a consistent basis. Through these shared experiences specifically, we identified that
the emotional stakes seemed much higher, which could be responsible for triggering the significant pain
points in the stakeholder journey.
Since food and musically-oriented experiences are integral in facilitating the transmission of values and
help define the family as a social unit, our initial inclination was to redesign the family dinner experience
which encompassed a variety of potential options.
How do you bring families back to the table in a compelling and innovative way since family dinners have
declined by 33% over the past 20 years?*
Can we re-define what the dining table is?
How do you reduce the feeling of guilt around someone not being able to attend an event and still
facilitate that connection under the condition a person is absent?
How do we leverage future technology, environments or spaces to deliver a collective family experience?
CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT – PHASE 1
We then modeled the experience in alignment with our primary and secondary research findings. As a group
we felt we had identified parts of the user experience in the context of a family dining event that we
needed to focus on and enhance. We moved forward with the design of a creative concept for a restaurant.
To complement our intended solution, we also drafted a storyline for context and to highlight the
The restaurant idea was designed to elicit the core meanings of community, beauty and creation through
the delivery of an authentic family dining experience that would be engineered based upon a family’s unique
shared memories and compelling history. It was meant to be a customizable, immersive and emotionally
charged event that allows patrons to explore the transformative powers and origins of a cornucopia of
tastes, smells, sounds, colors and textures that can be crafted and inspired by cuisines from around the
world in a familial and historical context. This was designed to be a dynamic way for families to rewrite
the past, live in the present, and preserve the richness of the future.
CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT – PHASE 2
Ultimately, what we realized is that this potential solution was especially feature-heavy, amenity-rich and
over-complicated, diluting our intentions and overall it wasn’t necessarily solving the right problem.
Subsequently, we went back to our research findings and revisited some of the key stakeholder pain points
in the shared experiences journey. We arrived at the consensus that we were neglecting a substantial data
point that came up in many of our interviews. It was the feeling of guilt when people missed out on
events that deserved more of our attention and presented a more substantial opportunity to deliver
In order to progress with development of this new concept we needed to research the topic of guilt in
more depth. It was also essential for us to understand how people effectively cope with the feeling of
guilt to guide us further towards our solution space.
How is guilt defined?
Guilt is an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes that they have compromised their own
standards of conduct and bear a significant sense of culpability for the offense. Guilt emphasizes what
someone has done wrong and tends to elicit more constructive responses, particularly actions where we
seek to mend the damage that has been done. We tend to inflict self-blame on ourselves if we don’t have
the opportunity to compensate when we have deviated from our ethical or moral code. When we see others
suffer because of something that has been done, it causes us pain and this constitutes our powerful
system of empathy which kicks on like an internal thermostat. It is in our altruistic nature and adaptive
need to maintain connections to those we are close to and rectify a certain situation in order to coursecorrect. Since guilt has this inherent adaptive quality to it, we immediately are driven to fix our
relationships and restore equity to them however what we have realized is that we do not have all of the
necessary tools readily accessible to satisfy our needs for instant gratification or in this case instant
Modern relationships now have a more dynamic dimension to them because of technological developments and
tools. Empathetic gestures and coping mechanisms and their perceived effectiveness is directly tied to
easily discernable human emotions in order to gauge authenticity and validity. In other words, in the
scenario of offering an apology to someone, a text message or email should not suffice and should not be
used in lieu of or even replace the opportunity for human connectedness. An emotive interpersonal
exchange constitutes seeing someone’s facial expressions and hearing the tenor of someone’s voice.
EXPLORING OTHER SOLUTIONS
Our intended solution sits at the intersection of shared live experiences and mobile technology. The
supporting research illustrates that gatherings are emotionally charged events and critical to shaping our
identities and forming our communities. Even the journey from the inception of event-creation to the
actual event itself is comprised of an incremental build-up of anticipation and emotion and when certain
expectations can not be met or obstacles inhibit someone from being present, there is a precarious and
tenuous situation awaiting. Our solution is designed to equip people with the tools that fortify them
against tension before it festers into a situation fraught with interpersonal conflict or emotional distress.
The home screen of the application we designed was meant to be a portal that reveals the overall
functionality and key features of the solution. This first iteration of our prototype was intended to be
integrated with a time management/calendar web application such as Google calendar or Microsoft Outlook.
In this screen the user would see the events that they have accepted the invitation to and the events
they have declined.
If an event was declined, it would be migrated into the raincheck section where the user would see the
invitations that they had to turn down. The user would then be prompted to select which event they
declined and then be guided to a screen that showcased options (capsule recorded video message, text
message, e-card, personalized written card, or custom gift suggestions that would be generated from
partnerships with e-commerce sites) for ways to communicate with the host or other stakeholder and
present opportunities for the user to redeem themselves.
Since users today are typically more engaged through gamified interactions and tracking their own
progress, we incorporated a tool where the user could follow their progress through a progress bar that
indicated how well the user was following through with responses for declined invitations or rainchecks.
While the platform’s primary goal is to provide users with an authentic opportunity for redemption that
diminishes the emotional experience of guilt, in parallel it was also supposed to function as an event/life
management solution that is meant to modify people’s behavior and program them to be more engaged with
their social community.
We ultimately received feedback from 17 respondents with a mix of both positive and negative opinions of
the prototype. The overall premise of the concept was very well received. By observing various people
engage with the prototype screens of the application and acquiring immediate user experience criticism, we
were able to achieve a good understanding of how we needed to reconfigure the sequence of screens in
order to make the overall utility of the service more logical and intuitive from the customer perspective.
A majority of users showed an affinity for using the video message feature and immediately were drawn to
its benefits if they were in a scenario where they had to decline an invitation or had to cancel on a
friend. Additionally, most prototype-testers thought the features such as the gift-shop, texting, e-cards,
and the progress bar to be less important and detracted from the overall product experience.
Our next step was to simplify the prototype in accordance with user feedback and in tandem work on the
brand strategy for the application covering positioning, identity, competitive audit, messaging pillars,
operational recommendations, and brand architecture.
Features & Functionality
Toast is meant to be simple, useful and thoughtful. By integrating the Toast API with your personal
calendar or a personal time-management application, any time you cancel an event you would be given the
opportunity to send a meaningful empathetic response. With just a few clicks, the system will guide you
through the motions of crafting a media message that will bring you closer with the person who is being
“cancelled” on, instead of allowing room for there to be a noticeable distance and potential tension
between the two parties.
Our App, with its intuitive design and step by step guidance will let you craft and deliver a meaningful
and effective apology.
We think we know how to say “I am sorry”, but in reality, there are many ways to express one’s apology.
Our mobile app is equipped with a quick tutorial/wizard to help you create an optimal response by utilizing
the tools of technology.
Design and interface:
The intuitive toast themed design eliminates the formality of crafting an apology, making this more of an
enjoyable process with some levity to it. Quirky or not, providing an alternative channel from a traditional
method of message-creation and delivery will also help ease and diminish the negative feelings or
monotony typically associated with such actions.
Finding the best medium to deliver a message can be hard and confusing. We believe sms and text messaging
can be superficial and incomplete ways to really transmit an apology. By providing an opportunity for a
rich and powerful media message via video or just audio, one can express much more that just a few
typed-out characters. Video lets people use their surroundings, body language, sound and intonation of
voice to make a greater impact on the intended recipient.
Features & Functionality
Crafting and sending an apologetic message isn’t just a one-way street. The effectiveness and measurable
outcome of the power of such a tool is predicated on a feedback loop between the person who generates
the apology and the individual on the receiving end. Our solution is meant to elicit an emotional response
from the end-user, where they are compelled to send a message in response to the apology, ultimately
bringing the two stakeholders closer together.
The circumstances surrounding the apology are also important, and should be carefully planned and
considered. An expression of apology or empathy can be that much more powerful and resounding when
delivered within a closer time frame to the actual event that is being missed, instead of being delivered
well in advance or after the actual event. We know that this is rather subjective, but giving people the
control over when the message can be delivered will make for a more poignant outcome. Users may not be
able to control whether their apology is accepted, but they can control its quality. So we encourage
users to make an effort to control what they can. We believe that this will increase their chances of
feeling good about what they have done with their apology, instead of feeling bad about having to do it.
Toast is designed to ease the emotional experience of guilt by equipping socially active individuals with the
convenience of expressive communication tools in order to help sustain meaningful personal connections
with the people they care about when unable to attend an event. By leveraging video, voice recording, and
timed-release technology, Toast delivers an effective message of apology through virtual means with the
purpose of preserving an important relationship with an individual who will be affected by the absence.
Future Plans/Monetization Strategy/Plans:
After achieving our initial goal to deliver an effective message of apology through virtual means with the
purpose of preserving an important relationship with an individual who will be affected by the absence.
We plan to expand Toast’s offerings with a marketplace where our users are able to choose from a well
rounded list of options as a way to really emphasize their apology. This will include making make up
dinner reservations, buying gifts, amazon, etc. This is one way in which we plan to monetize Toast. Another
way we plan to monetize is through strategic partnerships with certain key affiliates in our mobile apology
marketplace such as Amazon, OpenTable, EventBrite, Paperless Post, and Google through a revenue sharing
deal which has yet to be negotiated. Our ability to leverage our value proposition when monetizing in our
next v.2 launch is based on the fact that there is no application out there like us currently and we feel
that in launching and getting there first, we will have the ability to capture a good amount of attention
and users to solidify our presence.
Collectively as a team we feel like we uncovered a powerful pain point in the customer journey around
shared experiences. As members of the DMBA community and as design strategists we are purveyors of
empathy first and foremost. “Humans first” is what we were reminded of in the first residency when
given the domain of mobility and it was the pivot in the midst of the semester when we revisited that
design principle to pursue a different direction as a team. This served as our north star and compass
throughout the journey of this class and exploration of this new discipline of experience-design. Our
solution for the final deliverable only scratches the surface and we know that there is much more to be
uncovered and unearthed. The various tools and resources we were provided with during the course of the
semester, will undoubtedly help us become practitioners and evangelists in this essential field of work.
Our solution targets stakeholders and users
across two different axes. Apathetic to empathydriven and passive to socially active. As the
diagram indicates below, we separated the
personas into four different quadrants.
Essentially, through our solution we want
individuals to become inhabitants of quadrant 1,
ultimately, becoming more altruistic and
community-centric through the use of such a
tool. However, there are also opportunities for
others to be able to leverage the Toast solution
to become more empathetic individuals and we
believe we can equip these people with the
capability to leverage our technology to become
more empathy-driven with their community.
Quadrant 4 is meant to provide some comedicrelief, as of course there is hope for those
stakeholders to leverage the utility of our
service model to engage more actively with their
friends, family, and those who they are close to.