Design Strategy, Product Design

How might we help college students understand the basic of personal finance?

Motiv is a 3 months client project from MFA Interaction Design program at School of Visual Arts. I worked in a two teammates group  to design a banking application for our client - Northwestern Mutual. The problem started from helping college students understand the basics of personal finance, and more, to engage their potential clients and prepare them to make financial decisions for their future.

As the stats showed, 76% of millennials lack “basic” financial knowledge. As a result, many millennials are unprepared to take off the debt associated with school, and 45% regret taking out as many loans as they did.


At the start of the project, we set the plan to manage our timeline for a limited time. In the understanding session, we conducted desk research to gather information to gain quantitative data and to create an interview sheet. Based on the data, we interviewed eight people to learn what they think deep in their mind about finance and a gap between financial experts and students. In the define session, we conducted KJ mapping(Affinity Diagram) to collaborate with all the findings and draw insights. After insights, we created a persona, prioritize the ideas for better brainstorming for our product. In the explore session, advisor, and I gathered and ideated to draw meaningful solutions for the problem. After sorting the ideas, we organized into the service flow and analyzed tasks for a better understanding of the user journey. To communicate, we draw wireframes to iterate and designed UI for suggestions.

1. Understand

Interview: the gap between students and financial experts

My teammate and I spent 20 hours conducting interviews with students and financial experts to understand what problems they have and how they feel about it. Financial experts were confident that students are well prepared for their financial future. Still, the story we heard from most of the students were different: they know that financial knowledge is crucial in their life, but all of them didn't seem like they are learning it particularly. They thought that learning is complicated and hard to learn and didn't feel a necessity to learn more about it.

2. Define

KJ mapping: Map based on proximity of information

My teammate had a workshop session to gather meaningful information from the interview and organize to narrow down insights. We wrote down intriguing facts from the interview, put them on the wall, clustered to a similar subject, and defined it into eight definitions and named: 1. Tech oriented 2. No plan needed 3. I want back to be clear 4. debts for independent 5. I chose it because my dad told me to 6. we always provide the best service 7. I don't want to talk except for my mother, and 8. hello financial world.

Key findings from kj mapping

My teammate had a workshop session to gather meaningful information from the interview and organize to narrow down insights. We wrote down intriguing facts from the interview, put them on the wall, clustered to a similar subject, and defined it into eight definitions.

Contrary to initial expectations, students were able to access a variety of financial information on their disposal. They just did not have the motivation to learn.

Every day in college is pretty much similar. They face repetitive plans such as the same curriculum, same restaurants, same assignments, and so on. All they have to do for managing their asset is to manage the monthly allowance. Also, the topic of money is stressful. They had a notion that finance is difficult to learn, institutions are unwelcoming place to access. This notion made them difficult to access to the financial world. But each of them has the desired lifestyle. They don’t usually think their goals are closely related to their budgetary plan. This idea might be an opportunity for us to let students learn about financial knowledge.

Narrowing Down insights to prioritize

Based on the eight definitions from KJ mapping, we narrowed down into what we can do to solve the problem students facing and prioritize to focus on the vital problem space.

"We decided to motivate them by showing that their aspirational lifestyle is closely related to their financial condition in a friendly and welcoming way."

3. Explore

Ideation: let student be attracted

My team members, advisors, and I had a brainstorming session and came up with more than 100 ideas. We all agreed to the notion that we somehow need a way to attract students' interest in finance and derived the concept through the process of converging and diverging ideas.

Ideas: Onboarding is the key

The current financial education system mostly focuses on education itself. But we thought that the major problem why students lack financial knowledge is they are not intrigued and did not motivate them to learn about them. We decided to focus on students' onboarding to the information and connect to their aspirational life so that they will feel the financial condition is closely related to their life.

We decided we can utilize Northwestern Mutual's Laptop, iPad, or Kiosk to install in the school campus to intrigue students to learn more about financial knowledge. These means will all lead to the mobile Motiv app so that they will have a longterm relationship and check their budgetary status or knowledge anytime at hand.

from ideas to the final design: service flow and wireframe

We analyzed tasks they will face, draw service flow, and wireframe to concretize the idea.

4. Communicate

Final design

Below is the final design for Motiv. It has five processes: 1. Intrigue 2. Engage. 3. Inform 4. Educate, and 5. Converge

5. Impact and Learnings

Impact: How it will impact both students and financial institute?

There are 17 million undergraduate students in the US. According to Granum law, for every ten contacts our financial representatives speak, they will deliver three financial plans, one of which will convert into a paying client. Based on this number, if we also get 1% of current college students to join as customers, we would have 170,000 customers when we first launch. Motiv will help financial institutions add younger loyal customers by introducing them to the institute as a trustworthy and reliable partner.

"If we could convert 1% of current college students, we would have 170,000 paying customers when we first launch."

How do students get intrigued?

What's the benefit of the financial institute?

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© Cheon Park 2020