Bank of America + MHCI Capstone Project


Bank of America came to Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute with a very open problem statement. They were ready to push personal banking to the next level, but they weren't sure what that was. Over the next 8 months, we researched and designed a solution to bring emotion and social connection to people's personal financial journeys. 

Design Process:

  • Started our research with a competitive analysis, where we looked at 6 direct competitors.The opportunities that arose from this also led us to explore applications and services in parallel domains, such as photo sharing, social media and goal setting 
  • Reviewed 108 literature sources, including published papers, articles, established blogs and books
  • Divided our users into 5 groups based on age and stage in life, and started conducting user interviews. We designed an open-ended script, and got a whole lot of people to talk to us about their finances, families, future plans and insecurities
  • Carried out the following design exercises with each interview:
    • People mapping: we wanted to learn about how close they considered different people in their lives, and how they broke up their different social circles
    • Draw your journey: we gave people just a blank sheet of paper and asked them to show us pictorially how they saw their own financial journey
    • Diary studies: we wanted to find out how often they shared things with people, what platform they used to do it, and who the audience was
  • Created an affinity diagram for each user group, and then combined them to identify larger trends. Staring at the data for as long as we did made us see much more than individual data points
  • Carried out an interface comparison exercise where we showed our participants a bunch of different interfaces and asked them to rank these in terms of how good, trustworthy and interesting they looked. We then asked them how these would change in the context of a banking app
  • Conducted a visioning session where we threw very open ideas out and started filtering them. Once we were happy with the list, we started very low-level wireframing
  • Speed-dated these ideas with people, refined and narrowed them, and repeated over three testing cycles
  • Carried out three rounds of testing each with mid- and high- fidelity designs, refining both feature set and design approach with each round
  • Presented the final interactive prototype to Bank of America at the Research Center in Charlotte, NC. 12 patent applications were filed based on our work on this capstone project

While I am not at liberty to host any of the final designs online, I'd be happy to walk you through some of them and shed more light on our process in person. You can find my contact info here

Lessons that made me a better designer:

  • What people say they want and what they actually want are usually deeply connected, but completely different
  • It is crucial to approach design with the broadest lens possible. Great ideas don't boil up till okay ones are ruled out first
  • Expanding competitive research beyond immediately relevant domains is key to innovation
  • User-centered design is extremely hard work, and completely worth it

 A consolidation of all our results from the 'Draw Your Journey' exercise

A consolidation of all our results from the 'Draw Your Journey' exercise

What a fun affinity diagramming session looks like:

Affinity diagramming of notes from 5 of our 25 interviews