Clink. is a physical social app that promotes genuine, in-person connections through the novel phone stacking interaction.
in class
Product Design
HIFI Prototype
My Role
I took on project manager role in this project. In addition to normally expected work, I was responsible in coordinating and quality checking our outcomes. Through understanding everyone’s strength and weakness, I strategically planned tasks best serving our final vision.
Nolan K.
Vivian T.
Jalen G.
Alek G.
Hanna B.
Secondary Research
Instagram Survey
Motion Design
Visual System
Concept Iteration
Ad Video
stacking phones together to view customized prompt
The prevalence of social media and digital content has created physical distance between individuals, resulting in less authentic human connections despite the benefits of increased convenience.
*Inspired by the documentary the Social Dilemma, we want to explore how technology has impacted human connection either intentionally or unintentionally. We want to see how design can be used in this situation.
Secondary Research
To contextualize, we conducted literature reviews regarding social changes in modern society and how technology is impacting socialization.

A general direction points to socialization problems among younger adults. We suspect that older adults developed social ability with little interference from technologies, such as social media, while new technologies prevail during the social development of people aged 18 – 24. Such technologies are designed to be addictive without considerations of physical connection.
to ignore (a person or one's surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device.
*Explanation from
College students said they need to socialize in order to thrive academically and that not having connections in their classes made it harder to reach out for help.
Strangers are not interested in spontaneous conversation.

Partly because people are skeptical of their ability to maintain these conversations.
*A recent study from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Primary Research
Understanding the need to help younger adults socialize in person, we first conducted 9 semi-structured interviews with participants of various age ranges 18 – 56 years old. We want to understand how socialization strategies differentiate and if we could learn from more effective paradigms.

While most of the effective social strategies involve simply putting yourself out there, we received various responses otherwise. To understand more about this divide, we decided to conduct an Instagram story poll. We designed the questions to evaluate both the willingness to talk to strangers and what drives a successful casual conversation.
*People are much more willing to participate in online activities, we received 75 responses within the first 24 hours of publishing the questions.
Young adults aging 18 to 24 have a stronger need for aid in social connection, whereas the majority of older people have already established a supportive community.

It’s more satisfying when people feel like they can contribute to the conversation.
*We conducted interviews with 9 participants.
"If the person is by themselves and looks like they’d appreciate some company, I would go up and talk to them."
*We received 75 responses from Instagram Story questions.
Based on analyzing the qualitative data we gathered in primary research, current social context, we came up with these insights.
Initially we strived for non GUI products because we want to ask our users to get off screen more. However, the deeper we went with that direction, the more convoluted our design become. We eventually steered towards a GUI but with some limitations of interactions, stacking the phones together.
Crimes of Technology
Inadvertently, technology combined with disproportionally advancement in education has caused immense social problems.

human connections are no longer authentic for the younger generations.
Less in Depth but Authentic
To create less in depth but authentic in person connections can be as simple as sharing interests.

Not all connections have to be of high value.
What is Proximity
Proximity conventionally conveys difference in physical position, however, feeling close to someone can be more than just being in the same place.
How might we enhance authentic connection in close proximity?
*We decided to set our targeted users to new college students, because they have most need for some help to connect in person.
Flow Diagram
We first crafted for the scenario where one user wants to join or start a group. We quickly realized this is a scenario with many prerequisites, in public space and have groups of people around, that most of the time situation doesn't permit. From that we explored options like wayfindings, similar alerts to give users a reason to consider clink whenever during the day.

We aim for the feelings of "I feel bored, I want to meet some new people, Oh yeah, clink got me!"
We took big turns from a strictly physical product to a SaaS product. The idea is still to encourage physical connections. Interestingly, the flow of mobile app we created varies very little from that of physical product.
Clink. is a physical social app that promotes genuine, in-person connections through novel phone stacking interaction.
Clink. in Real Life
From our research, we found that people always need an excuse to start a conversation even when they are willing to.

Clink. physicalizes such intention through the stacking of the phones.
This is my first time planning, recruiting, shooting, and editing an ad video with scene designs, script, and actors. Even though it's only a two-minute video, all the work that led to the shooting day was insane. I am glad we pulled through ; )
Phone Stacking
To encourage authentic connections, we want our users to put away their phones during the conversations. Thus comes the stacked interactions.

In this experience, users’ phones are stacked to make a centerpiece of the group. This renders the phone unusable, so all attention is put into the conversation. We want to reduce “phubbing” situations as much as possible.
*Coincidentally, Apple released similar contact cards sharing interaction between strangers three months after the completion of the clink. It felt kinda funny to watch WWDC of iOS 17 and prepare clink. for my graduation show.
Algorithm Against Phubbing
After a stack is made, phones in the stack communicate with each other via NFC connection to combine all interests from the group. These interests are then analyzed and taken into consideration along with other factors, such as time, date, and broad location, to create a conversation prompt.

The prompt stickiness is then measured to coach the algorithm to pick out a more interesting prompt for the group.
What if you don't see a group?
What if you can turn mindlessly scrolling of your phones into another fun encounter?
We spent quite a while debating how this feature could be delivered. On the one hand, we want to create a complete circular user journey. On the other hand, we need to consider very carefully about privacy, edge cases, false prevention...
Island Searching
In scenarios of users out alone, we don't want them to be stranded without any options. We added explore nearby feature as an active gesture.

On the home screen, users can initiate a search. Islands(stacks or individual persons) of similar interests will populate the screen. Users can then select interested ones to request clinking.
Safety Settings
From our research, a big concern in creating connections with strangers is privacy and safety.

We want to give people the choice of whether to be discovered on clink. Thus we created the privacy setting screen. Users can customize precisely how far and whether they want to be seen.
*Considering our targeted audience and identity authorizations, we require user authenticate with university emails to ensure physical safety.
Early in development, we also looked over history stack feature. However, the risk it pose to privacy and abusive potential outweighs the convenience it might bring to our users.
Setting the project apart from conventional social media apps, we want to break free from the modern rigid look of the UI. Instead, we wanted our interface to be organic and welcoming. Considering college life, or work life, is already stressful, we plan to make Clink an application of laid-back vibes.

What if the app is like a reminder of retreat? I took inspiration from photos I took earlier on a trip to Hawaii and created island visuals representing individuals. We like the idea of individual users having their own island, so they can do island hopping. When two islands decide to connect, clink is the tectonic force that brings people together.
Treating this project like a business pitch made me take much more responsibility than simply trying to complete a school project. A sense of goal and wanting to see the results propelled me through many difficulties.

Having to pitch to our VC (the professor) our slides has trained me confidence in speech and familiarized myself with how to convey ideas intriguingly.

As the PM of the project, I practiced a lot on dissecting complex goals into individually achievable tasks, and understanding the scope of the project, especially when certain things are needed to be done. I also learned a lot about managing workload across people and how to deal with problems when they arise.
Many thanks to our friends and instructors who helped in this project in our most need.
Nathan A.
Marie R.
Gino S.
Eduardo S.
Samantha Y.
Florent H.
Florent H.
Rhyan P.
Mikey M.
Riley Y.
Elaine N.
Kim L.
Christina W.
Nicole K.
Randy L.
Sabrina N.
After our final deliverable, we received more feedback from further usability research. From the concerns, we made a few more iterations of the interface.
Iteration #1
Some of our participants concern about their phones' visibility when within a stack. This may lead to awkward situations where one accidentally remove someone else's phone from the stack. Thus I developed an identifying component that shows clearly who this phone belongs to.
Iteration #2
Because we used unconventional visuals for our app, we should be extra careful on signifiers and possibly have redundant explanations on certain tasks.
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