UI images for the croissant app

Tools Used


My Role

January-April 2020

Laser cutting

Katrina Behnke
(Product & fabrication design)
Daniella Sapiente
(Visual designer)
Product designer


The Challenge

Parents often have difficulty engaging their children in learning French outside of class time, and keeping this learning effective & fun over time. How might we help parents guide their children's language learning at home?
Key focus: keeping the learning going for the long-term, and keeping children engaged through physical and digital systems.

Overview and context

This project is a speculative, exploratory product design process, centred on children's learning & interaction models. We worked in three rounds of product delivery to build prototypes and systems concepts that explored language learning and ways of making this more interactive and multi-sensory.

How might we build off & expand existing learning models?

Before diving into user research, we wanted to get a sense of the current educational landscape: what are the current methodologies for teaching children, and where might there be gaps in the traditional educational model?

We conducted secondary research to better understand the primary education space.

Key Findings:
  • Children may not be interested in completing a half finished lesson, or may not be able to leave a lesson incomplete to come back and still learn half way through.
  • Children learn and grow when systems reward process and progress instead of always rewarding the right answers,
  • Visualizations are helpful for symbolizing rewards/success throughout, rather than relying on only audio or text as an indicator

User research process

We used two main research tactics: primary research, via surveys, and secondary research on teaching methods and children's learning.

  • Building out the different components of the site as custom features would be overly complex, and would also add too much complexity to user on-boarding.
  • Integrating existing platforms e.g. Google Hangouts, Skype, would make the site leaner to develop, as well as provide familiarity to users.
"Reading stories in the new language"- A user when asked about the enjoyable parts of learning a language
Some of the survey insights we gathered from the long-form answer questions

Developing a product concept

"Coming up with a good sequence of when to learn what"- A user when asked about the difficult parts of learning a language

We first determined based on our secondary research that a physical product would help keep children engaged, and incorporate different senses in the experience

Here is some of our brainstorming for the physical product.

From there, we developed a framework for the digital companion app, and how this could best integrate with parent and child needs and combine well with the physical product.

After identifying through secondary research some effective frameworks for learning, the different user needs and corresponding functionality were mapped out

The solution concept

A physical product in the form of a block-based, fill in the blanks story builder, & a digital companion app with additional games and real-time feedback for learners

The user journey: how can language learning be enjoyable enough to keep pursuing?

Once we had a rough framework to work from for what the digital & physical systems could be, we used our research (primary & secondary) to establish a clearer picture of the user journey during the experience.

A journey map for the child's experience
This journey map represents the movement through the experience for the child, to identify design opportunities and areas to mitigate pain points.
An empathy map to identify parent thoughts and feelings
Above is an empathy map, used to identify parents' needs and pain points in the learning process.

Experimentation & development

When creating the digital app, we focused on features that would provide clearer feedback than what was possible with a physical system, and features that would encourage children to explore the French language.
These are some initial wireframes that eventually got scrapped, because they were a more confusing learning model. Using a block visual in the interface confused where user input should take place. We refined the digital system to be mainly oriented around feedback, keeping the physical system focused on user input.

The final outcomes

The end product for Croissant is a tablet app & a connected IoT / physical product, designed to offer physical play with an optimized, personalized digital response.

The app has two modes:

1) Lesson mode
, which integrates with the physical product to teach through story making
2) Game mode, which allows children to choose which words to learn by holding up objects or photos to their web cam

System map

This system map displays how responses and user input move through the integrated physical game and digital app. The physical game can also be used solo, with audio feedback.

Physical look-&-feel prototype

These are the blocks and story base we prototyped, using laser-cut wood and card stock.

Hi-fidelity app mockups

These are some of the mockups created for the digital interface, including home page, other game experiences, and the integrated physical game.
The screens above demonstrate some of the purely-digital experience touch-points: the home page and games page, where children can hold objects up to the webcam to learn the word.
These screens are examples of the visual feedback displayed to users. This feedback depends on their progress in placing blocks into the physical product.
These screens show the beginning and ending states of the interactive story application

Key takeaways & challenges

  • Learning for children differs significantly from adults, as does design for them. We learned that we needed to continually rework the design to ensure messaging was clear, and there was minimal on boarding and set up needed, to retain a child's interest
  • Ideating on integrating a physical & digital product require establishing strong patterns for what points users will give inputs to the system and receive feedback.
  • With physical products, the materials are as important as the functionality of the system: the feel and warmth of the product can do a lot for retaining engagement long-term