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School project @ Savannah College of Art and Design | 9 weeks | 2018

Overview: This is a project to explore opportunities in order to help non-native English speakers to overcome language barriers, improve their communication skills and build more confidence. Corner is the final design platform to create meetups for them talk, practice, and make friends in person.
My Role: I was in the team of two and responsible for the research, ideation, and, concept development. Individually finished the visual design and prototype.


Language barriers and culture differences result in misinformation and misunderstanding in communication. Conversations become hard to follow as these problems arise.

How might we help non-native English speakers to overcome language and cultural barriers in communication?


Solution Overview.

Corner is an App concept that creates small-grouped meetups to help people practice their communication skills based on individual needs by focusing on language, culture, and personal growth.

Initial Research.

Many international individuals have difficulties in communication

The number of international students in the U.S. has increased for 11 consecutive years. Those students with English as their second language often have some difficulties in communication. Overcoming language barriers and cultural differences can be stressful especially in both academic and daily life. For the initial research, we started by observing students in classrooms and interviewed 13 students about what difficulties they had in terms of communication.



8 international students from Asia, Middle East, Europe, and South America, and 2 U.S.  students 


Minutes/per interviewee

Interview was structured with prepared questions focusing on difficulties they had during communications and reasons behind them 


Field Observations

We chose the ESL center at Savannah College of Art and Design,  a graduate-level class with both international and local students, and a after-class group discussion to observe how students communicated with each other

English as Second Language Center's


2 groups in class at Savannah College of Art and Design

Left: 3 out of 5 are Latino

Right: 4 out of 4 are Chinese

Professor explains some abbreviations in English to international students


What They Say.

"Even though I study here, most of my friends speak in Chinese. So I don't have much time practice English. That's a really big problem for me... I want to make more native speaker friends."


Freshman, from Taiwan

"...try to stop, and make sure we are understanding each other. Let's say Americans, the speech patterns, how we brag? Our body language can be taken totally different from somebody else. That's how we really connect to people from those interactions."


Second year, from States

Research Synthesize.


The environment people live affects their language choices

What language people use most depends on the environment, which is who they spend more time with. Living with people who speak the same language makes life easier. The environment people live affects their language choices. 


Tone of voice and body language matter

People's tone and body language reveals information. Sometimes this misleads the audiences from different cultures.


Students from Asia and Middle East have comparatively more struggles

Students from Asia and Middle East have comparatively more struggles in English communication and getting used to the new lifestyle in the U.S. compared to students from Europe, India, and South America.


Design Implications.

Applying insights onto design direction


How might we create a relaxed environment that ...

  • allows people to meet new friends with the purpose of improving communication skills

  • interacts with each other with no time limits


How might we encourage some specific groups to ...

  • branch out of their comfort zone and learn about other cultures

  • verbally express themselves with more confidence

Cultural Probe.

In order to understand communication difficulties in a bigger scope, we designed a cultural probe with 6 questions each day for 3 days.  The pain points were confirmed by majority of the 7 individuals that participated and allowed us to gain the following insights specifically.

Key findings

Unfamiliarity with the content of the conversation caused uncomfortable feelings and confusions to non-native English speakers

When the audience is more considerate in conversations, such as checking if they are on the same page or explaining some phrases, non-native English speakers feel more comfortable and appreciated 

Visual communication might be a universal way to convey the message where verbal communication fails to do so


Personal Inventory.

Understand what's currently being used

In order to get an idea of what is currently being used to solve these problems, we conducted a personal inventory research. 15 non-native speakers were asked what apps or tools they used, and 13 out of 15 shared what they used.

Mispronunciation might hinder non-native speakers confidence 
Most second-language speakers use
Google Translate
Most Asian second-language speakers use supporting applications for translation 

Affinitize and Ideate.

Condensing large amount of information into insights and themes

Based on what we learnt so far, we created more WHYs and HOW MIGHT WE questions to guide us to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying the problem


Define typical user archetypes


Rapid Prototype.

Quickly wireframed, prototyped the solution, and tested it with several students


  • love the idea of connecting people just for communicationTesters

  • Testers mentioned they would use it when they travel in different countries


  • One user said they would prefer to see buddies and keywords flipped around 

  • Users felt the profile was lacking ....

  • Guest limitation in event went unnoticed or was misinterpreted as the event date

  • Plus symbol to create an event went unnoticed

  • Visual hierarchy on the search page needed most improvement

  • Users felt they needed a short walk through of the App before signing up

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