Names and Faces
At the beginning of each new semester or school year, teachers are faced with the challenge of remembering names for a large number of new students. Design an experience to help an educator match faces to names, with the goal of shortening the time needed to reach complete un-aided accuracy. Provide a high-fidelity mock for at least one step of this experience.

I know I have an unusual name. Wherever I meet people from work to the doctor's office, people have to pronounce my name. Then they would always ask "Did I pronounce that right?" When I say "yes", they would give me a satisfying look. While I was studying in grad school, so many of my classmates had unique names. I noticed instructors would ask us for a preferred name (which was new to me.) Some students, said an American name such as; 'Andrew' and 'Keith', while others said a nickname. For these reasons, I thought this is an interesting challenge.

Immersion and Research

The first step I did was to look at the current software that serves a purpose of memorizing names and faces. After I did a bit of digging on the I found a few useful apps. 

1/ Names and Faces: This app is a visual directory of people. The design is simple, clean and easy sign up. The user have the option to try out the app with demo company (which is the example I used below.) The user can filter from location and department. Favorites and recently viewed profile can be easily accessible. Each profile has a large image, contact information, bio, and the ability to add notes. When I tried to create my own directory, I kept getting a constant error 'Cannot read property 'id_str' of undefined'. 


2/ Name Shark: This app captures the name and image of people. There is no field for contact information. However, there is a field called details where anything can be added. The user can quiz themselves to help remember the contact information. This app serves the purpose of memorizing names and faces, but all the information needs to be manually uploaded to the app. 

3/ Remember app: It is also a visual directory of people that you meet.  Each profile is much richer with information. It displays multiple images, social media handles and where you first met them. *First-time users need to connect this app to their facebook profile. This hinders with the user's privacy and with no other option to connect.


4/ (Not an app) Carnegie Mellon University had an entire section on how to learn a student’s name. Some of their pointers were:  

  • Creating name tents and display it in front of the students,
  • Annotate the class roster with the students' physical features,
  • Use a seating chart and take polaroids.
  • Practice learning the names
  • Mnemonics, which means to associate the student name with a physical feature.

Then I asked these questions: Were these the right solutions? Should my solution be an app? Or should it be web based? Are instructors willing to download an app? How is the content being filled? Can I use an existing system?


User Interviews

Discussion guide

Discussion guide

With these questions in mind I started my user interview sessions. I interviewed with 6 instructors (full time and part time*) from the School of Visual Arts, Parsons New School, Northwestern University, New York University and Rutgers University to understand opportunities and current pain points and what is most important to them in this design challenge.

*The full-time faculty are instructors teach multiple classes each semester. The part-time faculty are instructors one class per semester and a full-time job in the relevant field. 

The instructors that I interviewed taught in Interaction design, Biology, Ethics, Urban narratives, and Information systems.

Key Takeaways

The user interviews gave me valuable insights. Since technology has grown so much today and there are so many applications out there to help with memorization of names and faces. Today, memorization of names and faces is not the most important thing right now. With such an international community the ability to pronounce the unique names and knowing the preferred names of the student is much more crucial. 

1/ Old Systems
Blackboard, Canvas, and Sakai are current CMS systems in schools to see student roster, track attendance and assignments are difficult to use. Instructors use 10% of the functionality, because of the design experience.

I have used Canvas and Blackboard and I hated them all. I wouldn't get enough information about the student and there are so many inconsistencies. 
Donna Lichaw. Author and instructor at School of Visual Arts
Instructors at Rutgers use 10% or maybe 15% of the functionality. Canvas in particular doesn't have a lot of editing tools. It's very technologically determinant. In other words, the technology determines what you can and cannot do as opposed to facilitating what I want to do from a design perspective.
Connie Pascal. Instructor at at Rutgers University

2/ New Systems
Across the board instructors take their time to create their own system in a spreadsheet or Google spreadsheets. Where they have more freedom to edit the students name, attendance and other relevant information.

I just use a google sheet, so it's a very ad hoc system. There's a tab for attendance and there is a tab that's basically just like a, like a rubric. Each column is set in the percentage and contributes to the overall grade in the class. It does the math and I know the final grade.
- Drew Cogbill. New York Times Producer and instructor at Parsons School of Design
I found a spreadsheet a lot easier to use than canvas or blackboard. I would use a google docs spreadsheet and just add everyone's name. 
- Donna Lichaw. Author and instructor at School of Visual Arts

3/ International Community
Across the board, instructors teach a more diverse and international student body. With that said, learning to pronounce the student name and explicitly asking if they like to be called in another name (preferred name) is significant.

To match a students name/face was a problem 20 years ago. The problem today is no one knows hows to pronounce the names properly. I would lose sleep over whether I am saying the name properly.
- Gary Chou. Founder of Orbital and instructor at School of visual Arts
I'm really explicit about asking you how do you pronounce your name? Which name do you prefer? You prefer your given name or a nickname and then like once I know that part I will be able to pronounce it.
- Munawar Ahmed. Design Consultant and instructor at School of Visual Arts

4/ Editable Version

Instructors want the ability for students to upload their information themselves; such as photos, preferred name, the pronunciation of the name, and interesting facts about them. In addition, instructors want a field where they could include notes, student characteristics and personalities of each student to better remember them. 

If the preferred names that the students could enter themselves, if it had photos they could enter themselves and somehow the system prompted me to add something interesting I would remember their names quickly. 
- Donna Lichaw. Author and instructor at School of Visual Arts
The first assignment that I do is to ask students to post a selfie, other pictures and a little bio on their blog to get little information about them. This would help me to get a rough idea of who they are and this was really helpful.
- Drew Cogbill. New York Times Producer and instructor at Parsons School of Design

5/ Visual Outputs
Multiple pictures (not just the headshot) of each student is important for instructors to familiarize with the student and know their name quickly. 

I am visual person. People are visual. It would actually be really helpful to have just more photos that create a richer profile of you [the student].
— Munawar Ahmad. Design Consultant and instructor at School of Visual Arts
There was a year when I think I did create a spreadsheet with images, because you can include images on Google sheet. So I did that a few years and it was fine.
— Gary Chou, Founder of Orbital and instructor at School of Visual Arts

6/ Get Personal
No matter the size of the class instructors want to have a personal connection with the student to remember their name. Both instructors and students need to be more engaging through email or in person.

If there are 100 students, the teacher won’t actively go over or calling out every single student. The teacher becomes a resource, where students reach out to teachers. They usually describes a problem or their projects. It’s build the relationship between the teacher and student.
— Ping Yi Wang, Interaction designer and instructor at Parsons School of Design.
When I dialogue with students by email or person I get to learn their name relatively quickly, but if I am not engaged in kind of a regular habit of dialogue and it is much harder.
— Gary Chou. Founder of Orbital and instructor at School of Visual Arts

From the instructors that I interviewed, I received a few screenshots of Canvas and MyNewSchool.


In Canvas’s attendance page, how can the teacher identify the student? They have listed the student's ID, which is irrelevant for the instructor to take attendance. 

Screen Shot 2018-08-04 at 1.36.11 PM.png

I manage to get access to my profile page of Canvas in the School of Visual Arts. I am able to update my photo and types of name fields. What does sortable name mean? And how is that different from the display name?


This is the faculty services homepage at Parsons. I don't see a global navigation, so moving from section to section is difficult. 


This is the student class roster at Parsons. The student pictures are the same as the ID pictures. This is an issue, because these pictures never change. Whilst the student will under go different changes with a new hair cut, hair color, make up etc.


Current Systems
Not having full access to systems that are currently being used today. Such as Blackboard, Canvas, Sacai, and My school (Parsons), this is bit of a knowledge gap. I do have access to Canvas, but not the instructor view. 

My time for this project is short. I need to do Research, user interviews, synthesize user interviews, wireframes, prototypes, and user testing in a very short amount of time.

New System
I don't want to create another app for the instructor to download, rather have solution that works with their day to day activities. 

Areas of opportunity

From what I heard from research is that:

  • Instructors have abandoned their school systems and are creating ad-hoc spreadsheets to keep track of student information and class progress.
  • Instructors want a system that can be easily editable for both the student and themselves.
  • The student body is becoming more international and pronouncing the student name correctly and knowing their preferred name is the highest priority.
  • Ability for instructors to get student information before school begins.
  • Instructors want more selfies and hobbies of students to know who they are in a visually.
  • Instructors should not have to copy and paste the class roster to spreadsheets.


From my research synthesize, I applied a few constraints for this challenge.

Not another app: I did not want to create another app for instructors to download. Its another cognitive load for the instructors to learn something else as they have shorter time.

Work with current system: With that said, I wanted to create an experience that works with the instructors systems, which means Google Spreadsheet. All the instructors that I interview, used a spreadsheet to keep track of attendance, grades, and even student preferred names.


Designing the Solution

I wanted to map out the current journeys (from research) of both instructor and student perspectives right before and after the class begins. This helped to identify areas to create a seamless process of the instructor's system (Spreadsheet).


The opportunity areas from the journey map:

  • Instructors copy and paste the roster to google sheet
  • Asks for preferred name during roll call, but would misspell item, when writing it down
  • Preferred name will not match to the school’s roster.

New Journey

By mapping out the current journey. I saw moments on how the process can be improved. I did a few iterations on the journey map. Below is the final version. 


The Form

Instructors must create a form and to students couple of days before the first class. Which gives enough time for students to respond before the first class. Instructors can give an incentive as this being part of the student grade.  I sketched out the form and made a detailed taxonomy, then I mapped out the steps of the two experiences, instructor and student using google forms.

Audio Form component

I was researching all the components that Google Forms had to offer and started to sketch out components for this form. I noticed there isn't an easy way of uploading an audio clip through the phone. I tried to upload an audio clip through my iPhone and it was a multi-step task.I had to upload the audio clip to iCloud drive and then upload to the form itself. The audio clips is important, because I use it as a pronunciation tool. I want the ability for students to upload upload an audio file of pronouncing their name.

To simplify this process I created a new form component called audio, which allows the user to record an audio within the field.

I first started to sketch the flow of the audio component. How it should interact when a user clicks on that field on the form. Once I figured out how it would work, I moved into wireframes. I clearly marked the step by step process when an audio clip is uploaded. 


[Include sketches of the audio component]

Rest of the Form Fields

At this point, it was fairly straightforward from the research the needed fields/questions to ask from the students. I wanted the process to be easy for both instructors and students. The form is asking for simple questions and can be filled out on the desktop or phone.

[Image of sketches]

After a few iterations of the form fields and language, I moved to wireframes. It was easier to move things around.

Taxonomy of the form fields

Requesting for their preferred name, pronunciation aid, more pictures and a fact that distinguishes you from other students will help the intrucor remember their name much faster.  

[image of taxonomy]

High Fidelity of the Google Form

[Sketch file]

Instructors experience

Instructor will create a google form with questions that he/she wants to ask from the student. A Google spreadsheet will automatically be created to collect the student responses. This avoids the tedious task of the instructor copying and pasting the names from the school system to a spreadsheet.


Wireframes flow [Creating a form]

Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 8.50.56 PM.png


Student experience


[Image sketch]



Strech Goal

USing G suite Classroom.google.com