Fall of 2022, I enrolled in the Human Centered Design course at Pratt Institute.

The Happygotchi prototype was a semester-long collaboration with my project partner. After framing our design challenge and conducting extensive research, we decided to create a product to help students form healthy habits in a fun way.

Together, we designed an ecosystem focused on both forming and maintaining healthy habits in users in a fun, engaging manner.

Framing the Design Challenge

For this class, students are asked to investigate a design challenge over the course of the semester.

From the beginning, my partner and I were interested in creating a product to promote a healthy lifestyle. As people who suffered various mental and physical health problems, this area was near and dear to our hearts. Because the problem we wanted to address was so broad, we needed to conduct user interviews to narrow our focus and create a targeted solution.

Since the user base we could easily interview consisted mostly of graduate students, we decided to center our serviceable obtainable market (SOM) and ecosystem map accordingly on university students.

User Research

Over the course of 2 weeks, we conducted 10 user interviews to uncover themes, from which we could gather insights.

Impact-effort mapping our insights allowed us to step back and understand where we could make the biggest difference for our core users.

Creating user personas and a user journey helped us imagine what kind we needed to consider in designing the user experience.

At multiple points in the journey, people used to their phones for various needs, so we knew that a digital component was necessary. Yet, our research told us that digital reminders were ineffective in creating habits. By adding a physical element, we could remind users off-screen while maintaining a centralized digital management platform.

We created a user journey map and service design blueprint based on our research to better analyze how we could tailor the experience to keep users on track to forming and (eventually) maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

This map allowed us to see the repeating pattern of students alternating between going to classes and hanging out with friends. This insight became a driving force behind why we wanted to create a hybrid user experience with both physical and digital aspects.

Designing the Ecosystem

Because students are often glued to their phones, we understood the importance of having a digital component in our service design. On one hand, our mobile application became the central nexus for data aggregation/visualization and social connections. On the other hand, we used physical components to extend the experience to  remind users of their health journey as they go about their day.

From these ideas, we created a 4-part ecosystem comprised of a starter pack, a mobile app, a connected keychain, and a smart water bottle.

Due to the limited time we had in the course, we focused on creating a prototype experience that included the app, the keychain, and the bottle.

Our keychain references the popular 90s toy, Tamagotchi, a digital pet on a keychain that people had to keep alive by feeding it, playing with it, etc.

Our ecosystem allows users to hydrate their Happygotchi character by drinking from the Bluetooth-connected smart water bottle. Our app  also requests users to feed the pet by taking photos of their real meals. The keychain ensures users could keep an eye on their needy pet.

In this way, the Happygotchi ecosystem enables users to keep their pets healthy, thereby keeping their own selves healthy.

Prototyping + Testing

Looking at the wellness app landscape, we saw that most brands took a minimalist approach. Apps such as MyFitnessPal and Fitbit ended up being a sterile, unengaging experiece.

Our user research showed us that people often started using apps because their friends are on it, but they fail to continue with the goals because they lost interest. It was important for us to not only onboard users, but also keep them engaged with an seductive interactive experience.

Throughout our research and ideation process, my partner and I had a strong vision of creating a cute visual identity as an homage to our own love for cute creatures and characters.

As we progressed into field testing, user feedback indicated a strong affinity for our brand direction, which we were ecstatic about. We also learned about users’ desire to have more interactivity with their pets. As a result, we added a point-based rewards system where users would gain points by keeping their pet healthy for days at a time. Users would then be able to purchase items to customize their pets over time.

This not only allowed us to reinforce habit-building, but also gave us an opportunity to introduce an additional revenue stream through lifestyle and sport brand partnerships.

Our app features a page where users and see the statuses of their friends’ pets. They can also dive in and send suggestions. This social component came out of our research showing the importance of getting friends onboard to create a micro-social health movement. People are more likely to continue using an app if their friends are on it.

It was also important for us to have an education section because our research showed that many people do not know where to start with their wellness journey. There is also a lot of misguided understandings of activity and nutrition, so we wanted to a way to offer users inforamation in a fun, digestible manner.


For me, this project gave me an opportunity to refine my user research skills and build a fun product. I really enjoyed creating a visual experience that diverged from the typically minimalist designs of tech products and brands.

This course really showed me how to analyze a problem before even coming up with a solution, building on my prior knowledge about fostering innovation through design thinking that I gained through the Harvard Business School certificate program. These two learning experiences have given me deeper insight into how design can be used as a tool across an organization, not just in the design department.