Service & iOS App DESIGN

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The Challenge

There are 12.7 million obese children in the United States — these kids and their parents have very few tools to help them be in control of their life. While there are a few in-person programs that focus on children, they rely heavily on maintaing a written food diary and cost thousands of dollars. Unlike other adult-oriented tools that focus on calorie-counting, which can be dangerous for children, Kurbo is a comprehensive program designed to empower and encourage kids to make healthier lifestyle choices. 


The final design was developed, almost verbatim, into a working app that makes it simple, fast, and fun for kids to track their food and establish healthy habits. This opened up accessibility to management tools to any child with access to a smartphone and a few minutes.

Initial prototypes helped Kurbo win angel funding and entry into the Rock Health program, where the company received an additional $5.8MM in Series A funding. After the three month trial period, 85% of kids were successful in reducing their Body Mass Index (BMI) and over 90% continued on with the program. The app has received national attention via Time Magazine, CNN, SF Gate and ABC's "The View."

🏆 Winner, IxDA16 Award in the Optimizing category. Finalist in the Empowering category.


Using participatory and persuasive design techniques, I quickly identified user patterns and motivations of kids who would use the program, as well as the parents who would play a supporting role in helping their children lose weight. Working in close collaboration with the Kurbo engineering and product teams, I worked with a design partner to create a series of designs and prototypes with increasing fidelity, conducting lightweight testing and iterating to perfect the interface and progressively clarify our understanding of users. 

The Stanford Study

Kurbo is based on 30 years of long-term research at Stanford University used to develop the most effective, safe, and healthy techniques for helping obese children make healthier choices. Weekly live meetings with a trained coach were combined with lightweight tracking that assigned all foods a red, yellow or green value—known as the "stoplight program." While effective, the program was not scalable considering the one-to-one nature of the coaching, and not financially accessible since participating in the program cost parents thousands of dollars. Kurbo set about to change that.

Qualitative User Research

I kicked off by performing qualitative, ethnographic-style user research with a set of kids and parents. Following this research, my design partner and I synthesized our findings and discovered age, motivations, and situations played a role in how the kids engaged with their individual challenges. Those patterns drove the creation of a persona set that we would leverage over the course of the project.

Participatory Design Workshop

After identifying some baseline design principles, we facilitated a participatory design workshop with kids—some of whom were in or had graduated from the Stanford stoplight program. We came up with fun and approachable exercises to guide conversations that helped define the Kurbo brand and coaching tone, as well as understanding the kids' motivations and goals


Design Framework & Iteration

Immediately following the participatory design workshop, we came up with our design framework—outlining key elements and workflows for our personas. Over the next few weeks, we went through several cycles of progressive-fidelity user flows—starting with rough sketches, moving to wireframes, and finally to a pixel-perfect prototype—using lightweight user testing to course correct our designs and our understanding of our users. In the later stages of the design process, I oversaw the application of the visual design and refined interaction elements.




Throughout the project, I captured our research and designs in a Lean-UX-style online documentation built progressively on a wiki. This allowed for a living documentation that reflected our current thinking and allowed for immediate feedback from the larger product team. It also allowed for a seamless handoff to the client's budding design team once our consulting engagement was complete.