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Family Stories Time Capsule

A research report on how people can preserve their family stories, and why that matters.

Project Summary

Project Type

UX Research; Visual Design

My Role

I conducted & analyzed all user research, proposed a research-driven digital solution, & designed the final report.

Recognition

PrintMag Awards
2022, Third Place

AIGA Student Awards
2022, Honorable Mention

GDUSA 58th Annual
2021, Winner

Duration

10 weeks in 2020

Organization

SCAD University, User Centered Strategy and Process

Team Members

Professor Louis Baker

Project Details

I began this project during the 2020 pandemic as the world hunkered down and hugged their loved ones a little closer. While staying with my parents, I listened to stories about their upbringing that I hadn't heard before. These cherished moments—which suddenly felt so rare—ignited a simple question that I wanted to research: Do people still care about knowing and preserving their family stories?

To answer this question, I conducted secondary and primary research to understand the topic better, synthesized the data, and proposed a digital solution based on the findings. Finally, I packaged the data and the product recommendations into a compelling research report. The report takes the creative form of a time capsule so that stakeholders can grasp the concept and the data tangibly and personally.

Research Question
Do people still care about learning, sharing, and preserving their family stories? If so, do opportunities in the digital market exist to help them do that?

Secondary Research

I started the project by conducting quantitative and qualitative research on people's attitudes toward family stories and preservation. I assumed that there was less interest in family connections compared to prior generations. But, I was delighted to discover how wrong I was. Surprisingly, people of all age groups and demographic backgrounds are interested in understanding where they came from. It's global and human nature.

I also learned that discovering your family story is not only fascinating but also excellent for your mental health—especially in teens and senior citizens.

Below are some interesting facts from the research.

The Growing Interest in Family Stories

2/3

People want to understand where they came from and think it's more important than ever

x2

Between 2008-2014, the interest in family history has doubled and is predicted to double again by 2025

62%

People from 18-24 are becoming more interested in family history and getting to know their family

The Mental Health Benefits of Learning and Sharing Family Stories

Image of a statistic.

People who have learned about their family history say they've become a wiser person

Image of a statistic.

People 65+ say sharing their stories made them feel closer to younger family members

A picture of quotation marks.

Learning about your family history helps you better understand your past, including the triumphs and struggles your ancestors went through, and provides crucial context about who you are and where you came from.

For adults at midlife and older, passing down lessons and values through stories enhances a sense of well-being.

Adolescents who report knowing more stories about their familial past show higher levels of emotional well-being, and also higher levels of identity achievement...

Key Insights

01

Learning family stories is still a high-interest topic—even in western societies, and its interest will continue to grow.

02

Learning and sharing family stories benefits people of all ages, and is good for health and well-being.

Because our families are among the most important social groups we belong to and identify with, stories about our family tell us who we are in the world, and who we should be.

Robyn Fivush, Ph.D.

Landscape Analysis

After secondary research, I knew this topic worth exploring further due to its high interest and positive health benefits. I investigated existing companies in the market to understand what options people currently have to learn and preserve their family stories. I captured the information using a landscape matrix, and pros/cons sheets.

In-Depth Interviews

Now knowing what products existed, I wanted to talk to people who had used them. Since most services are fee-based, I wanted to understand what motivates people to pay for these products and actively choose to learn about their families. What is this experience like for them? What is rewarding or frustrating about it?

I conducted three in-depth interviews, each lasting between 45-60 minutes. With permission from each participant, I recorded the sessions. After a few ice breaker questions, I asked about 15 questions related to their research goals and general interest in family stories.

Questions asked in the in-depth interviews included:

  • What made you interested in learning your family story?
  • Have you faced any obstacles in conducting your research? If so, can you explain?
  • Did you learn anything about your family that was particularly interesting?
  • If so, how did you feel after discovering this about your family?
  • What aspects of your family story would you want to preserve? Can you explain?

Patricia

  • Lives in Houston, TX
  • 44 years old
  • Married with two children
  • Active member on Ancestry to research her family's history and connect with new family members.
  • Interview conducted on zoom
A picture of quotation marks.

I think losing a person that’s close to you…you can’t talk to them, you can’t hear their stories, and you want to get as many of those stories now before those people pass away and record it so that you have it forever.

Claire

  • Lives in Sydney, Australia
  • 42 years old
  • Single
  • Previously used Ancestry to learn about her ancestors, and enjoyed discovering her great uncle's journal entries from the war.
  • Interview conducted on zoom
A picture of quotation marks.

You just feel like you’re there because that’s your family. It makes everything feel really real.

Valerie

  • Lives in Los Angeles, CA
  • 35 years old
  • Married with one child
  • Previously used 23andMe to learn more about her parent's ancestry and DNA.
  • Interview conducted over phone
A picture of quotation marks.

Ideally I would want them preserved in audio. Because I feel like it’s not only the facts of the story, but how people tell it.

Surveys

From the previous research and class discussions, I accumulated a handful of ideas for a product used to collect family stories, but I wasn't sure which ideas were the most beneficial or attractive to potential users. So, I created a 10-minute survey using google forms in order to find out. It included a mix of open-ended and multiple-choice questions. Fifty-eight global participants between the ages 18-65+ participated.

Below are some results from the survey.

What information would you want to collect from a product designed to help you build your family story?

56%

Photos

58%

Migration Maps

58%

All options listed

What artifact would you like to create using information about your family?

49%

Family Legacy Website

39%

Annual Book of Media & Stories

33%

Family Tree Poster

How much would you be willing to spend on a product that does this?

A picture of a chart that shows most people are willing to spend up to $10 a month on a product like this.

Participant quotes on what they think about the current products on the market:

A picture of quotation marks.

They are all pretty confusing to tell you the truth. They require a lot of work on the user. I tried using ancestry.com and My heritage and felt discouraged.

The weakness is that records do not tell stories and that people die without writing them down or recording audio. One thing that needs to be offered is help with this.

The cost of using these sites while still doing a lot of the work is also discouraging.

Affinity Mapping

After collecting approximately 300 data points in the previous research methods, I conducted an affinity mapping exercise to help identify similarities and relationships between all of the information. Professor Baker suggested running through the activity more than once to recognize that the possibilities for grouping information into patterns include more than one outcome. Using Miro, I ran through the exercise twice and found the second round to be much more organic and insightful.

Key Insights

After compiling and analyzing all of the data, I identified a few key insights.

01

Several products exist for DNA matching and ancestry research. But not many focus on capturing today's family stories from living members.

02

Time and cost both play an essential role in whether people are willing to put in the effort. The easier the product is to dive into and the more affordable, the better chance of long-term retention. There is a consensus on this across demographics.  

03

The product must be attractive and user-friendly for a broad audience—from tech-savvy teens to older generations. 

04

A powerful insight was that people wish their ancestors left more behind—like hearing or watching them tell a story or reading something they wrote.

Media is a powerful form of storytelling, but none of the existing products offer all options. With media so easily accessible today, we can use it to preserve today's stories for future generations. 

05

People usually share stories during family gatherings like Thanksgiving and reunions. But, there is an opportunity to create story-sharing moments in everyday life. Questions and prompts can make it easy to keep people engaged without requiring too much effort on their part. 

06

Stories of migration are familiar and appeal to people who wonder how and why their family members moved from one part of the world to another. Maps can be a compelling way to visualize a family's story. 

Problem Statement
Family members need a way to preserve their unique stories and traditions today in order to leave an elaborate memoir behind that future generations can connect to and cherish.

Product Proposal

Develop an interactive website or app that families can regularly use to build their story using features like question prompting, timelines, maps, multimedia file uploading, and journal entries. The app empowers family members to easily build a media-rich collection of their lives on an ongoing basis, that families today and in the future can cherish and learn from.

The MoSCoW Method

MUST HAVE
  • Photo & document uploading
  • Audio recording
  • Video recording
  • Journal Entries
  • General question prompts
  • Capability to create and send question prompts to members
  • Reminder notifications
  • Milestone timelines that include individuals, family members and historical events
  • Migration map creations
  • Family tree with individual family member profiles
  • Family holidays/events calendar
SHOULD HAVE
  • Legacy website capabilities
  • Family tree posters
  • Album/book designs
  • Rituals & traditions section
  • Skills & crafts section
  • Language & idioms section
  • Religious practices section
  • Recipes section
  • Family values/slogan section
  • DNA/ancestry partnership
COULD HAVE
  • Scanning services
  • Public records search and document integrations
  • Documenters & editors
  • Photo restoration tools
    or services
  • Built-in scanner
  • Picture & document tagging
  • Tape converting
WON'T HAVE
  • DNA kits
  • DNA matching
  • Genealogy research

Ideation

The project's objective was to conduct research, identify market opportunities, and package the findings. During another excellent class session, Professor Baker facilitated an ideation session in which we all conceptualized distinctive ways to deliver our research to a potential team of stakeholders. The ideation session was quick but fruitful, spurring ideas that went beyond a typical PowerPoint presentation for each of us.

Image of sketch ideas.

Initial sketch ideas that derived from class brainstorming session.

The Final Report:
Family Stories Time Capsule

Learning your family story is a process of discovery. With every new artifact you find, you feel more inspired, more curious, and more complete.

The idea of discovery and piecing stories together is the inspiration behind this creative direction. Each artifact is designed to imitate an object someone might find in a time capsule (like a locket, old letter, or newspaper), and provides an essential nugget of research that tells a bigger story.

The entire collection of the family stories time capsule. All of these artifacts would be mixed together in a box. Stakeholders can randomly pull and read the data, or choose to organize it into a linear fashion by putting the artifacts in order by date.

The design is cohesive enough to work as one entity but varied enough to make each artifact feel like a one-of-a-kind piece. In this unique and compelling delivery approach, stakeholders get hands-on interaction with the research and the enchantment of discovering something new.


The diversity in the photos is an intentional design decision used to help the stories and stats feel as universal as the feelings of family connection and storytelling. I thank my family and classmates for contributing their beautiful family photos to my project, which made the designs feel authentic and original.

Image of the design work. A series of artifacts from the Family Stories time capsule. A series of artifacts from the Family Stories time capsule. A series of artifacts from the Family Stories time capsule.

Conclusion

From this project, I learned the business value of UX research. It was only by researching the topic that market opportunities were identified. By setting out to answer a few simple questions, a new and unique product idea was born, with a large and growing user base ready to adopt it.

Ideally, I'd like to continue working on this project's digital completion and pitching the idea to a company like Ancestry. I imagine this could be a sister product to their existing services—an extension to their offerings that retain and invite new members to join.

This project's outcome has been well-received, and has earned a few awards within the design community. I dedicate this project to every family's unique story, and I hope my idea would provide everyone a space to share and preserve it.

Project Bibliography