Project Overview

How might we use digital tools to playfully bring residents together to build community resilience and stimulate inclusive collaboration?

Open Up is a project developed together with the Digital Society School, Delfshaven Digital, De Middellander het wijkbedrijf, and Stichting CAATS. They are currently up for the award of City Design 2020.

Aligned with 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, the project aims to create a digital social network connecting residents of Middelland, a neighborhood in Rotterdam.

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Sustainable Development Goals

My challenge as a designer was to create resilience within Middelland and motivate the community to come together. The success will be measured by the number of residents registered and active in groups or events.


UX Researcher, UX Designer & Interaction Designer


Ini Kong (Research), Krista Agbayani (Research), Richie Elia (UX Designer) and Youngji Cho (Coach)
Illustration made by Diana Canales


User Interview, Competitive Analysis, Affinity Diagram, User flow, Wireframes, Moodboard,User Journey, Figma, Miro & Agile Development


20 weeks


Following the design thinking approach, we performed interviews with leaders of initiatives and residents. Empathizing with them, we could understand the community's behaviors and pain points. We also perform research looking for demographic information. Here we found the following:

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Key Insights

Looking into the research, we tried to understand the primary motivators and barriers when bringing residents together. Our team has gathered several insights about Middelland and have divided it into four different themes:

key-insights affinity-diagram

Problem Statement

By analyzing the data, we came up with a problem statement that we used to formulate the solution. We applied the “Jobs to be done” framework, “How Might We” approach, and used the research data as input.



Open Up is a playful, digital tool to help you get to know your neighbours. It is a safe, virtual community where you create your avatar, find your strengths, connect and engage with others! The application gives residents the freedom to find activities, events, and other like-minded people around them. Supporting community building and inclusivity is a long-term process. Open Up aims to kick start that process. We hope that the application is sustainable, easy-to-use, and fun for the residents of Middelland.

Wireframes & Prototypes

Based on the double diamond principles, it was our goal to learn, prototype, and measure to come up with satisfactory results, both in design and information architecture. Tests of our wireframes and low-fidelity prototypes revealed the need for better storytelling and copywriting. We weren't able to clarify for users how avatars would work inside the app.

To solve the problem experienced by users, we reviewed all text, made it clearer (especially in the onboarding process) and hired an illustrator to develop the avatars in our color scheme and pre-defined mood.


High Fidelity Prototype


The use of avatars offers playful elements to our prototype. The avatar can be customized to the user's liking and creates an informal way of engaging residents. The use of avatars creates a safe space to eliminate discrimination one might experience when using a real-life picture.



To ensure that accounts are created by actual residents and to minimize fraud, there is a verification process that requires your postal code and phone number is accurate. Each neighborhood has its own code that provides location-specific features.


Group Finder

Group finder allows residents to connect with others who have the same values and interests. This fosters a sense of belongingness and provides an opportunity for residents to find a use for their skills within their neighborhood.


Information Support

The map provides residents with up-to-date activities that are happening in their neighborhood. In addition, collaboration with the Vraagbak offers a place of support for residents who have questions regarding the neighborhood.



You can check out the video we created to present the process and results.

Feedback & Next steps…

The prototype version was delivered to our client after more than 15 user tests with residents. Overall, the feedback was extremely positive. Most testers enjoyed making avatars and discovering new events and activities.

We also noticed that users want a better overview of the content so that they can decide whether to join and share their information. This information has been shared with the client, which will improve it in the product.

The client assistance during the research was essential. Giving the lockdown in the Netherlands, our team would not be able to find and talk with residents without their help. Adhering to social distancing was one of our biggest challenges in this project. We overcame it by finding online tools that allowed us to perform interviews remotely.

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Product Designer