Life tends to get in the way of learning new things.

Odyssey is a digital app that tackles the challenge of learning new skills amidst the chaos of everyday life. Odyssey helps even the most ambitious individuals build a life-proof plan to develop any desired skill over time. 

Dive into the case study below.
Or, explore the final prototype here.


UX Designer
User Researcher
Visual Designer

UX Research/Testing
Education Design
UI Design

2 UX Designers
1 Copywriter



Transformative learning, disguised as a whimsical journey

By immersing users in a compelling narrative, we integrate evidence-based learning strategy and self-reflection in the construction of a personal self-development plan. This journey is further grounded in educational psychology and tested for maximum efficacy by busy undergrad students. 

Onboarding unfolds in just 5 steps:

1. Defining the Goal

Users are encouraged to get clear about what they want to achieve through time-based constraints and future-self visualization. Self-reflection increases motivation by aligning users with their inner values and what really excites them to start this journey.

2. Breaking Down the Goal

Users are guided through deconstructing their long-term goal into milestones and tasks, step by step. Milestones anchors the journey with measurable, intermediate actions crucial to acheiving the desired skill.

Each milestone is achieved through completing smaller tasks, symbolized by flowers, and engaging in routine practice sessions, represented by petals. As users track their progress, the blossoming flowers serve as a satisfying indicator of their growth and effort.

3. Anticipating Setbacks

After planning the itinerary, users construct a robust support system prompted by self-reflection. In their readily-accessible virtual notebook, users can note prior concerns and explore potential resolutions. This emotional scaffolding proves especially valuable during challenging phases of the learning journey, where users often face setback and give up.

4. Integrate it into your Daily Schedule

With all aspects of the journey considered, Odyssey seamlessly syncs with users’ daily schedule through Google Calendar integration. Its built-in intelligence ensures that practice sessions fit into the user’s existing life, with additional customization capabilities.

5. Embark on your Odyssey

The main dashboard becomes the user’s eyes into their journey: consisting of a short-term and a long-term view for users to stay motivated and focused on practicing, with adequate perspective.

The daily view allows users to log practice sessions, especially as it relates to the relevant tasks and the current milestone. The map view presents a full depiction of the journey and how far they have progressed.

Daily View (short-term)
Map View (long-term)

You’re never alone during your Odyssey.

Meet Tori, the wise tortoise. Tori removes any ambiguity in the process by providing definitions, examples, and advice in the form of accessible tooltips and popups.

Peek into our process in creating Odyssey:


What is an appropriate scope for the meta topic of lifelong learning?

Our team came together with mutual interests in lifelong learning. 🤓 We first crowd-sourced diverse questions and mapped them into high-level topics. We were initially curious about how people discover their interests and how they might sustain their learning through different strategies like self-discipline.


As it turns out, everybody learns.

Surprise! A recurring challenge our team faced was setting appropriate constraints for a topic area that pertains to everyone, literally. By breaking down stakeholder categories and mapping points of affinity and opposition, we eventually narrowed down to undergraduate students as our focus area.

College students strike a happy balance between (1) younger students who are more reliant on structured pedagogical systems for growth and (2) adults out of school with challenges in balancing multiple priorities.

Our first attempt at framing a HMW question:

How might we empower undergraduate students to pursue their personal interests by learning to better plan their schedule?


Initial interviews reveal pain points and importance of leisure time.

In the continual search to define the problem, we conducted 7 initial interviews to understand students’ relationships with a personal interest. We used affinity diagramming and bridging current/preferred states on our virtual whiteboard to define their struggles. Though seemingly interconnected, the pain points were generally too vague for productive ideation.

The interviews challenged us to get more granular about our definition of “personal interest,” as almost all our interviewees brought up leisure time like “watching Netflix” or “working out” as necessary, though they didn’t actively contribute to any longer-term goal. This encouraged us to investigate everyday, short-term factors that may prevent students from making progress on longer-term pursuits.

We narrowed on 3 “learning gaps”, or the most relevant pain points to lifelong learners


Understanding how learners learn to start constructing a framework

A lot of great learning resources already exist. We did a deep dive on educational research and learning theories to flesh out solution strategies.

Although it was unclear during the process how it would all come together, building foundational knowledge of evidence-based learning psychology brought us closer to definining our final problem statement.

Referenced learning theories from Dirksen + Ambrose

Customizing learning theories towards our problem space and user needs


Synthesizing quantitative survey responses to define problem space

Our second round of user research gave us much more clarity about why long-term goals are hard for students to achieve. We did this by ruling out areas students felt confident.

Unexpectedly, participants scored themselves highly on self-efficacy towards goal achievement, self-awareness of personal needs, and frequency of self-reflection. Lack of knowledge about time management was not a problem either. There wasn’t a need to teach these skills outright.

There also wasn’t a need to remind participants of the importance of pursuing long-term goals, as the majority of participants (16/27 or ~69%) scored the importance of their long-term goal 4 or 5, out of 5.

Still, lack of time and lack of priority are main factors that challenge students to progress with long-term goals. We determined that the struggle lies in the ability to apply and integrate long-term goals into their daily life.

Our final HMW incorporates sufficient specificity from our research and positions us to move forward with ideation.


Building frameworks that support long-term and short-term perspective

Previously, our team came up with design ideas that helped students reframe their mindset or remind them to pursue their long-term goals. We especially liked the idea of physical postcards or modular posters that reward progress—physical representations of progress as a means of motivation.

Because research revealed a need to better connect short and long-term perspectives, we ideated solutions that bridge the everyday perspective of our users with their grander goal.

A promising direction was using a journey metaphor with calendar integration

A few other design concepts we later tested with speed dating!

Here’s an overview of our user research and testing process. All instances helped us move the needle forward in defining the problem, solution, or choose between ideas. In retrospect, I wish we did research earlier! It would have helped contextualize our learning theories.


Finalizing our design direction with the user flow

Speed dating led us to pursue the Google Calendar redesign—we intended to infuse more guidance into a familiar interface. Does the calendar format leave room for imagination and reflective behavior?

Our learning framework naturally came together at this time, and we found similarities between pedagogical cycles/processes and the flow of a typical journey. We had a lot of fun thinking of ways we can reword “textbook” concepts into something more immersive, and potentially more actionable. For example, instead of engaging in a cycle of practice and feedback, we’d call it a singular orbit around a planet, or the blossoming of a flower.

We referenced this user flow diagram to ensure we were incorporating all learning strategies and insights gathered!

There’s a lot of richness in our custom learning framework that was difficult to integrate into Google Calendar. Moreover, it felt unnatural to ask reflective questions in a productivity-coded interface. We ended up pivoting back to the journey design in order to preserve the essence of what we hoped to teach—helping people better themselves through understanding their reach goals, and figuring out how to get there.

With the eventual success of this pivot, we learned that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our mission just because another product does a desired feature well! 


Content-driven design, brought to life with imagery

We committed to refining our messaging and storytelling to the last word. We played around with different metaphors to articulate a journey, such as space, clouds, and even a staircase.

In our later iterations, we experimented with illustrations and systemizing our metaphors, ensuring consistency and logical flow.


Friendly and supportive, with a touch of whimsy

We used a precise combination of rounded visual motifs in corners and the serif display typeface, with clean layouts and natural tones to blend content with our illustrated environments.

Dive into our interactive prototype here.

Also, more research/theory exploration documentation here.


Our biggest takeaways from this journey:)

Despite the ambiguous and meta challenges we faced during the process, our team was determined and inspired to reframe big goals to be achievable and thereby promote a positive feedback loop of greater self-confidence, self-efficacy, and a stronger sense of identity.

Tori made an appearance at our final showcase 🐢💛

Some great learning moments:

People know learning is important. We spent a lot of time strategizing how to communicate that self-development is important. With research, we realized the biggest learning gap was making time for and recontextualizing a long-term goal.

The power of narrative. At first, we wanted to take the “easy way out” by improving Google Calendar. Pursuing the journey direction helped us realize the efficacy of a story that resonates, especially when combined with researched and tested tools. It was wonderful to witness the power of a less-direct, playful approach to learning.

When in doubt, research or test. 
Self-explanatory :’)
If given more time, I would:

Build out & test the dashboard experience. The real test for onboarding efficacy is how it lasts weeks and months into an odyssey. I think the 2 view-states is a good start, but I’m curious how we could incorporate reflection and rewards to build out a more robust dashboard UX that compounds the prep work.

Explore personalization. We did some experimentation with writing style, but we can’t guarantee the same examples and style resonates with everyone. It could be fun to see how increased customization can promote more autonomy and motivation in the process!