This was my graduate thesis project from May 2014 that was the culmination of a year of research, user interviews and prototypes. Below is a short description and you can learn more about this project and its process at engauge-app.com, view the process book here, or watch my thesis presentation here via YouTube.

user problem

Do we really need our smartphones every time they end up in our hands? Smartphones provide many benefits like social connection and information, but unintentional or habitual use can distract, interrupt, and separate us from our surroundings.

“Mobile users reach for their phones an average of 150 times a day.”

— Kleiner Perkins 2013 Internet Trends report

Cue, routine, reward feedback loop.

Cue, routine, reward feedback loop.

This project concept came from a series of conversations and anonymous surveys that I'd conducted on the topic of habit as it relates to our smartphone technology. When asked if there were any habits that people associate with their smartphone, the idea of checking the phone, even when there's no need to, was a repeated statement. Some of the most compelling anonymous quotes from participants are below:

“Checking- I’m constantly checking my email, or even turning it on, just to turn it on.”
“Checking for messages/notifications when I feel like it’s been too long since I’ve looked at my phone, even if I’m with someone or in the middle of a conversation.”
“But once I’ve sent a message, I expect a response, and I will check regularly - even though I know it will vibrate - or light up - to tell me I’ve received one.”
“I’m always checking email and Facebook ... But I feel bad about my compulsions, especially when it’s obvious the bucket is empty, but I am still clawing.”

User distraction due to smart phone use.


Engauge combines a mobile app with an interactive phone cover that together track, and make the user aware of, the quantity of smartphone use sessions they initiate throughout the day. The goal is to limit the habit-driven impulse to check through raising the individual’s awareness around each smartphone interaction. Engaging in only mindful smartphone use that is driven by intent will decrease our daily use count, ensure fulfilling on-phone experiences, and give us back just a little more time each day to be more present.

User flow diagram

 A counter on the lock screen keeps track of how often the user has opened their phone so far that day.

Hardware on the phone would allow users to see each other's phone use. 

Research & PROTOTYPes

The thesis process took place over a 14 month time period. WIthin that time I pursued 3 different prototypes, conducting user research throughout, before arriving at my current thesis prototype. Below is a gallery of some photos of my process throughout that time from concept, through prototype iterations to now. You can also view a pdf of my full process book at the following link: Engauge Process Book May 2014 



Thesis, SVA MFA iXD


September 2013 – May 2014

Project Roles:

Owned all parts of project from concept, research, prototyping through final design and presentation