Project COCO

Passion Project

How would you wish to be remembered?
How would you commemorate others?

Project Background

3 Months (Feb- May 2019)

Product Designer (Team of 4)

This project started from my personal habit of constantly updating “last word” for people I care about in case of any accident. It is a way for me to reflect on my currently relationship with people and it triggered me to think about: How people wish to be remembered? How people would like to commemorate others, also how current technology can facilitate such needs? Therefore, I initiated this project to help people perceive, understand and celebrate mortality, this nature of life, under the context of socialization to enhance the connections between human.

Design Overview

Mobile First

Social Connection

Design for Mortality

We designed a social network platform for people to curate and share their digital legacy and commemorate on people who passed away. It helps people reflect on their current status, cherish the moments of life and also memorialize people they want to commemorate.

Why is this

Lego recently launched a funeral set for the purpose of educating younger generation to learn, accept and celebrate mortality. This has been a lost part of a lot of educations in plenty countries and cultures, where people are hesitant to talk about and prepare for mortality which leads to serious regrets for both people who passed away and people who lived.

"Mortality is a fact of life and crops up in all manner of subjects – from literature to science. It’s something that inevitably affects us all and should be part of everyone’s education."

— Andrew Jones, The Guardian


How is it Currently Being Approached

Secondary Research

Competitive Analysis

Currently there are different kinds of digital ways regarding to the confirmation and personal information management after people's decease. By conducting competitive analysis and aligning with the question we had before, we decided to focus on #3 Share curated digital legacy and #4 Memorialize account.


Supporting Theories

Secondary Research

Literature Review

Mortality and HCI: "Thanatosensitivity"

To understand some previous exploration of the topic, we did literature review and secondary research through over 20 papers, books, articles and talks. From there, we started to learn about how mortality is related to the field of HCI and social connections.

Adam I vs Adam II

According to Joseph Soltoveitchik, there are two types of people who live up to different goals and he named them Adam I: Resume and Adam II: Eulogy.

🥇 Adam I: Resume

People live up to the resume means they have stronger ambition and desire to accomplish more achievements that can be written in the resume. They care more about personal success and power over other people.

💛 Adam II: Eulogy

People live up to the eulogy means they have stronger desire to accomplish more achievements that can be written in the eulogy. They care more about human connections and how other people perceive them.

It raises the question of how to design for both type of Adams? What is the universal balance between showing personal achievements and social connections?


Talking to Expert(s)

Expert Interview

Qualitative Research

Former CEO of WisdomBox

WisdomBox is a company that focuses on researching and designing for people who wish to pass their life wisdom to the next generation. We reached out to the former CEO of the company, Howard Simon, and asked about the motivation, research insights and challenges of the company's project.

Validated Needs

The desire of reflecting, generating and passing their life wisdom to the next generation especially for people who are older with inevitable illness.

Identified Challenges

Trigger of sharing the content and designing for seniors were the two biggest challenges back then.


Thanatologists are people who study death and mortality. We did contact several famous thanatologist in the field, however, due to the time limitation and also scheduling conflicts we were not able to interview any of them. In the future, I do believe that their feedback would be valuable moving forward.

Sensitivity of the topic
became the biggest challenge
to talk to users

The sensitivity of the topic has become a tremendous challenge for us to conduct further user research. Our instructor Prof. Geoff Kauffman suggested that certain percentage people might not be comfortable to talk about such topics which would not only cause harm to our participants but also bias our results. As human-centered designers, what is the ethical way to conduct research to avoid harm while collecting data with quality?


Metaphor is the Key


User Interview

The metaphor: "A Museum About You"

In order to help user present their personal identity, we wanted to touch upon the notion of "presentation of something". We decided to create some workarounds regarding to the sensitive topic by using metaphors instead of mentioning mortality. Some of the metaphors like "Wikipedia Page" popped up. However, the way Wikipedia is presenting ideas is still digital and two-dimensional, and we decided to use the metaphor of "A Museum About You" to help users to visualize more physically and think outside the box:

Interview and Survey Question

Imagine there is a museum about you that other people can visit. What would you present in there?

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We asked this question in the survey (n=105) with both pre-set options we provided and input text box for users to write down whatever they wish to present in the museum. Among the pre-set option selection, here are three top choices by our participants which would later inform our ideation and design:


My achievements
and creations


My highlighted
life stories


Music / movies / books
that I like

The idea of social connection stood out

We made a word cloud based on the free input from the participants, and we noticed a very interesting thing: the most frequent key words are family, friends and people. Our potential users have this desire to present their personal connections with other people.


Privacy Matters


Data Consolidation

Who can have access to your museum?

One critical question we need to think about is the privacy problem. In one of the questions in the survey, we asked "To what extent do you care about other people’s perception of you after you pass away?", almost 60 percent of the people expressed their nonchalantness regarding to other people's perception. This information is not sufficient enough to design for privacy.

Therefore, in order to know people's preference of privacy setting, we asked the question of "Who can have access to your museum?", the result appears to be a bit diverse:


Everyone in
the world


People that I know
or people who know me


Only close friend
and family

The results shows that people have very different needs when it comes to privacy problems and also privacy matters. The diverse informed us a lot in the later design phase of how to design the setting.


Filtering Users for Further Research


User Interview

What is users' comfortable level?

To get participants for further qualitative research, we wished to filter out potential users who are comfortable of talking about such topic. therefore, we asked the question of "Are you comfortable with talking about sensitive topics like death?" in our survey to see people's general perception and also to filter the percentages that are qualified to be our future participants for interviews:

To our surprise, almost 80% of the participants (#3 and #4) are comfortable with talking to such topic. Among those people, we filtered out people who chose #4, and reached out to those who are willing to conduct further user interviews with us.

What is users' expectation for others?

In both the survey and the user interviews we asked people what do they expect their love ones to leave for them if they are leaving or passing away. We received following feedback:


Last words
especially for me


Some of
their belongings


(User Interview)

We can see that human connection is still a huge part of this. People do not only want things that belong to the loved on, they also want things particular for them to show more intimacy and affection. Those shared moments and special words are the powerful artifacts that connect people.

How would users like to commemorate others?

In the interviews, we asked our participants to talked about how they usually commemorate people who left them, we got some really moving and informative answers.

All the answers are valuable for us moving forward. Currently people are having a lot of physical and digital ways to commemorate others, the challenge for us is how to facilitate different ways naturally for people.

Designing for mortality
and social connections

After gathering the information and data we need, how should we design for mortality and also incorporate social elements with all the insights we got from research? How should all information come together in a mobile application which would prompt the user to keep reflecting and updating their life, and also help them to perceive other people's legacy and memorialize them?


How Might We...

Check our full ideation document ‣

Based on the information and insights we got from the interviewees, I lead a How Might We (HMW) ideation session with the whole team to think about how to use design to fulfill the needs that people expressed and the process that needed to be completed. Our ideation session mainly focused on:

  • How might we confirm one's decease?
  • How might we help people create their digital legacy?
  • How might we help people commemorate others?
  • How might we incentivize people to keep updating their digital legacy?


How Might We


Mapping Ideas Out

Site Mapping

Information Hierarchy

Lo-fi Prototype

Making site map: two kinds of states and needs

After our ideation session, we put ideas into a site map to map out the structure of our final design. when we are organizing the information, it is interesting that everything has two states: alive and deceased and so do all accounts, therefore when alive accounts are using the app there are two different types of content they are interacting with which brings two different needs.

A simple prototype for validation

One core idea of our design is we want our user to reflect and summarize their lives on a daily bases so they will keep on updating their digital legacy. Therefore, we decided to take a mobile first approach to make sure that people can have access to our solution whenever and wherever. So to move on, we designed the lo-fi mobile prototype based on our site map.

Later on, we put this prototype into InVision and conducted task analysis, which validated our main concept and usability of the product.

Crafting the final
product design

The coursework actually ended here since this is a psychology-focused HCI class and the project was meant to be more research-oriented. However, as a project that I initiated with passion, I do think crafting a hi-fidelity usable interface would be valuable to convey my idea and the value of the product. Therefore, I spent some time refining the final design on my own and the I am still in the progress of making it a more complete experience.

A social network platform for people to create, to share digital legacy and memorialize others

Moving Forward


How Might We

Talking to more experts

Due to time limitation, we did not hear back from most of the thanatologists that we planned to interview with, to move on I do think it is valuable to get feedback from them on such topic.

More testing with potential users

Since the coursework is more research-oriented, we did not get to thorough testing with our prototype. Therefore moving forward I would like to see more testing happen with potential users on the features , user interface design, and also how each interaction should be crafted in order to provide a fluent user experience.

References and Special Thanks

Site Mapping

Information Hierarchy

Lo-fi Prototype


[1] Tuerk, A. (2013). Plan your digital afterlife with Inactive Account Manager. Google Public Policy Blog.
[2] Williams, B., & Williams, B. (2017). After a death in my family, I now understand why we use social media to mourn.
[3] Buck, S., & Buck, S. (2013). How 1 Billion People Are Coping With Death and Facebook.
[4] Wilmot, C. (2016). What Online Culture Needs to Learn About Grief.
[5] Massimi, M., & Charise, A. (2009, April). Dying, death, and mortality: towards thanatosensitivity in HCI. In CHI'09 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2459-2468). ACM.
[6] Massimi, M., & Baecker, R. M. (2010, April). A death in the family: opportunities for designing technologies for the bereaved. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing systems (pp. 1821-1830). ACM.
[7] Brubaker, J. R., & Callison-Burch, V. (2016, May). Legacy contact: Designing and implementing post-mortem stewardship at facebook. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2908-2919). ACM.

Special thanks to...

Thanks to instructors, Prof. Geoff Kaufman and Felicia Ng for their indispensable guidance.
Thanks to Mr. Howard Simon, the former CEO of WisdomBox for helping us with initial research.

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