Hiroo Aoyama


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This project was done during my graduate school with Yixin Duan under Dr. Wei Wang. Before we dive into the project, we wanted to thank our poets and participants who gave us ideas from the very beginning and tested our demo throughout the semester.


Why Poetry?

We chose to do a project in the poetry market, as it is one of the fastest growing market in this decade according to Forbes.

  • On an average, 16.64 million adults read poetry according to the Survey on Public Participation in the Arts

  • Instagram alone features 19 million posts with the hashtag #poetry according to Emma Smith of Trapeze

  • Poetry book sales have seen a 66% increase in the past 5 years (2012-17): over $14.5 million value of poems were sold and there’s no sign of any falling-off according to Andre Breedt, M.D.


What Happened?

Long, old fashioned, text only poetry format turned into short, easy-to-read poetry with illustrations that attract a lot of millennials.

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User Research

We then joined poetry community both offline and online - contacting poetry students/professors and joining poetry Facebook groups to talk with potential users. Here are our personas with findings.

Meet Jess and Tim (click for full size):


According to the interviews and above persona, we also created user journey map to see the pain points and gather feature list for our app.

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We also looked at our competitors to analyze pain points there as well. Click here to see our summary. From all the above research, we were able to start whiteboarding sessions with potential users and designing some ideas.



We took many tries to come up with our final design. Below is one example (Please contact me or Yixin to see other iterations).

This is 3 variation of our home screen. Home screen needed the following features:

  • Poems (includes time stamp, author profile, text, illustration, like and comment counts)

  • Like and comment feature



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Pros: We kept the screen very simple and clean, allowing full focus on the poem itself. We also thought about the reading experience and added “More in #relationship” to encourage readers to discover more.

Cons: There are no indication of what to do next. Users can get confused whether to swipe or scroll.



Pros: We implemented a scrolling experience to read more. We put the poem on top, as that is our main focus and what users preferred.

Cons: This style may not be accommodating for longer poems. Like and comment do not look interactive.


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Pros: We added a background image and layers to indicate the focus. We also added new interaction to swipe across poems from same author and scroll up and down to read from other poets.

Cons: Not every poem may fit in the square. In addition, some illustrations are bigger or in odd shapes, which may not fit well.


We considered all user research and product thinking from above to create our final home screen design:


Our focus includes:

  • Intuitive visual cues to indicate interaction and navigation to the next poem

  • Flexible interface to allow longer poems, while having a fixed space for illustrations

  • Topics to inspire writing (as you are reading, we sometimes present prompts so that there are sufficient content supplies)


How can we make money?

  • Poets are able to promote their book as advertisement.

  • These advertisements will appear in the home feed as users are scrolling.

  • Features include: book cover image, description, shop now CTA, and preview of several pages.

  • In future, test various ads including non-poetry books and beyond books.


Other Visuals and Interactions


If the GIFs aren’t loading, click here to see them.


What we learned.

  • User research is not only important to test our design, but also the essential part to shape our concept.

  • It’s important to include users from the very beginning till the end.

  • Thinking outside the box is great for designing UI. Create more, weigh out pros and cons, iterate... Push each other’s UI skills.

  • We LOVE product thinking and design. It was super fun creating a new app from scratch, we were reminded of why we chose to pursue this field of design.

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