Research & Experiment
MIMO: The Journey

This project contains different research methods, including field observation, quality and quantity research, interview, survey, user testing, experiment, case study and participant workshop study. (if you are here just to see MIMO Bank process you can jump to Phase 6 )

Phase 1: Where do I Start

Haruki Murakami is a well-known Japanese author who had presented us with his famous quote “small happiness.” I start off the thesis with this quote and attempt to showcase the meaning of happiness in relation to millennials. An in-depth analysis of this research study, it is revealed that millennials are actually facing more stress and depression than the older generations. For coping with stress, most of the young generation choose shopping as the means to relieve stress.

Initial Research Mind Map

Workshop - Research, Experiment & Interview

To study how millennials perceive money and happiness, I conducted a workshop and made the participants play a board game designed by me. The game followed the following rules:

In order to move forward, the player needs to correctly answer a question. If they fail to do so, the player must give up one round to roll the dice. The winner will be the one who hits the last question/block first. When the player moves on to the next question/block, they will earn one point even if they fail to correctly answer the question for that round. If a player correctly answers a question, they will gain three points. During the game, you can get anything from the reward box (included bubble tea and fries) without giving out points just by tapping the given card onto the phone or they can choose not to get anything. The winner will receive a prize.

There were 8 participants in the workshop with an average age of 24 years, and 75% of the participants used their credit card to purchase prizes before starting to earn any points.

I used everything I learned from this workshop to design a 300-participant survey, and here are the results from the survey:

spend what they have earned

use their credit cards before earning

use retail therapy to relieve stress

regret unplanned spending

Linking the problem:

Dopamine can lead to addiction. This is because when people feel stressed, they tend to find something to distract themselves from reality, due to which they become involved in smoking cigarettes, shopping, drinking, gambling, sex, and other. Indulging in all these activities can lead to addiction. For breaking this addiction loop, an alternative, which is strong and effective as well as less time consuming, and maximizes sensory stimulation, needs to be adopted. Finding hobbies and experimenting with excitement on making a discovery can also help people to raise their dopamine levels and provide them with a chance to reduce the involvement in activities that can trigger addiction relapse.

Microtransaction holds a contradiction between transactions with currency and virtual payment, in that it reduces the sad feeling one gains from paying with cash and makes one unaware of how much money one has spent. Our perspective of money shifts and reshapes with the advancement of technology. Furthermore, the growth in the number of online shopping websites and web-embedded ads has significantly changed consumer behavior and increased the probability of people acquiring shopping addiction.

Overall, the direction of the potential design direction can be narrowed down with three key points:

Credit Card Sinful Loop - Retail Therapy

Shopping nowadays is often perceived as a process of purchasing happiness. People are frequently overestimating the happiness to be gained from "retail therapy".

Phase 2: Initial Prototyping & Interview

In this phase, I interviewed 15 people with different ages and generation; here's one interesting interview I conducted that has a different perspective than my generation. With the initial research and experimentation, I created some tangible and digital prototype to express my research results. Moreover, I built physical prototype to develop a more dynamic ideation process. For this stage, the central theme surrounds the topic of addiction to using credit card and online shopping.

Interview Result Summary

Participant: Adam Oskwarek
Born in 1962
In my father’s generation, the credit card doesn’t exist, and money is not the only option, people prefer barter system, they will not complain about their life by earning just enough for the living. In my generation, when I was in ten years old, barter system still exist in a small neighbourhood, but people now prefer using money more than before. Then when I turned 20 years old, a credit card was a thing, but people are not allowed to get one until they get a job, and you can hardly find a store who accept credit card. When I was in university, my friends and I usually hang out in a movie theatre, hiking, fishing by a lake, picnic, etc.

I got my credit card when I was 30 years old, but it is still not a common thing for people to use their credit card, you can hardly hear of someone having a debt or hangout for shopping after work. It is also tough to apply for credit card at that time, so people don’t usually want to give a try as it is also not useful. (It is kind of sketchy
thing when it first came out.) In my generation, we earn what we spend, and saving is essential, so people take it as a habit.

I feel Millennial are more willing to spend their money than my generation. So after the 2010s, a credit card is now more like a product for a bank, they are selling their credit card targeting to your generation, for example, travel reward credit card, student credit card, more cash back credit card, etc. You can see now there are a lot of special sale events throughout the year. In my generation, we earn $10, and we will only spend $5, but in your generation, if you earn $10, you will more likely to send $30 because you can prepay everything with credit card. People who have no willpower will fall into this trap, their temptation trigger them to buy.

Prototypes - tapping addition and online shopping

One of the understandings that can be gained from the second workshop relates to the fact that, as a few participants mentioned, when they got their first credit card, they felt extremely excited and could not wait to use it every day. Although this emotion may suggest satisfaction and stress relief, it also implies guilt. In addition to credit card, online shopping makes it even worse, like fast progressive marketing strategy with arthrogram.
Tangible prototypes:
Digital prototypes:

Phase 3: Prototypes & Field Observation

In this section, I chose three prototypes out of the five I created during gate 2. Moreover, I made some refinements to those three. Then, I conducted a field observation in order to find some real-life scenarios that can help me to better develop research synthesis for designing the first iteration of physical product prototypes.

Prototype Refinement

Based on my primary and secondary research and initial prototypes, I chose a few approaches for further refinements which will help promote more idea generation and present my research with tangible objects.  

Black Friday - Mall Observation

I went to a few malls on Black Friday to observe human behavior during this huge sale event. I acquired the following insights:
  • Impulsive shopping spreads socially. In several stores, I heard conversations between/among people suggesting that they saw a discount sign and had asked their friend/relative also to get one or influenced others to buy one as well.

  • The sale tag was red in color and displayed in a really obvious position like a bait such that, 75% of the people who walk by stop and check out the product and 85% out of them stay behind to check out the shoes.

  • I had a few casual conversations with people and most of them concurred that they are not just buying the item itself, but it is more like they are buying the feeling of “saving” and “discount.”

  • Retail stores within in a mall is always very noisy, but outside the store it feels as though the vast open space in the mall can absorb the noise and one is in a vacuum environment like the space and each store is like a planet.

  • Most of the stores implement sensory marketing and uses strong smell of fragrances, bright light, vivid color, and loud music inside their store to attract people.

  • A lot of young people hang out at the mall during this sale event

  • People generally fight for a seat to rest in

Phase 4: TODO Exhibition & Prototyping

In this stage, our class showcased the process of their thesis work at Toronto Offsite Design Exhibition. We had collaborated with a graphic design student and organized an exhibition called “Off Course. Research direction,” and prototypes were refined according to the final direction with ideas gained from the observations from malls as mentioned above (sensory marketing). The final design direction for the phase has been presented below:

Sit Down & Breath: 
Proper lighting and aroma were used to ease people’s impulsive shopping behavior. Moreover, I could notice there were a lot of people gathering in the seating area of the shopping mall. Designing a relaxing section in a mall near the bathroom area, putting blue light and the smell of Yokukansan medicine, and creating an “impulsive easing section” can help sell the mall as “a place for the customer to relax.”

Do you easily get the impulse to make a purchase? How about you shop for your friend and your friend shops for you? By shopping for others without carrying your own money, you can still enjoy the feeling of shopping without getting the urge to impulsively shop.

MIMO Robot:
A little robot will keep tracking your monthly spending and make sure that you won’t have to face any issue due credit debt. It will be harsh to you if you exceed the monthly saving goal which will be set by you in the app like a gym trainer.

Note: I read about a smell treatment in a Chinese medical dictionary and interviewed two Chinese doctors. They confirmed that this method actually works, and it’s possible to turn Chinese herbs into essential oils. And since I want to change mood, not treat any illness with the herbs, the smell treatment works well for easing impulsiveness. One of the doctors gave me a yokukansan recipe (as known as 抑肝散).
System Map:

Rough Prototype

After the first rough working prototype for testing the usability of my design, and getting feedback from user testing, I started to plan my exhibition setup for TODO.

TODO Exhibition - OFF Course

Process making high-fid prototype:

Exhibition setup:

From the TODO exhibition, I was able to successfully obtain reviews from a lot of stakeholders. As with those working prototypes, I was able to get many participants to user test my products and acquire feedback from industry professional. (View the link of my exhibition informational panel.)

Phase 5: User Testing, Experiment & MIMO

After the TODO exhibition, I took all the insights from the visitors for my new research and all of their outlooks for idea revisions. This led to more experiments, user testing, and idea formation for the MIMO bank.

Verbal Comments:

  • How about turning MIMO to a pet feeding machine, you feed it with money like a money saving tamagotchi

  • You could create your own illness terms rather than using impulsive shopping to make it more funny

  • I feel like advertising company is the one who create illusion of happiness

  • Smell of Yokukansan remind me if my mom, it bring me a sense of comfort

  • Can you make the chair portable rather than put it inside the mall?

  • Relaxation section is so calming - I would rather out it in my house

  • When does human entitlement start?

Online Comment:

  • Buynary is brilliant! My spending habits surpass impulsive. These are incredible tools and Buynary is something that is beyond intriguing and useful. Looking forward to see the final product.

  • Shopping for me is like Trogan Horse, the danger is hiding inside a pleasant gift, and you are blind with your decision making unconscious about the surrounding.

Throughout the exhibition, the visitors informed me about one of their main concerns as to how a user of my project can get in touch with the artifact designed by me: “Do they have to buy the tool, or will they get access from other sources, such as bank, charity, mall, and others? The potential weakness of my project is preparing a proper business plan for defining how the system will be sustained in a loop, and how the user will enter and promote my product’s journey.

Moreover, for the Seat Down and Breath projects, visitors were confused about the location and the context of the design. Most of them asked a common question: Why does the chair need to be inside the mall?


Trip to Japan:
After OFF Course, I did many experiments and conducted several observations to refine my ideas. During my trip to Japan, I found out that most of the sale sign in Japanese stores were in solid red colour, and in their bookstores, they have a section dedicated for sensory marketing strategy. Colour usage of flyer, lighting colour/brightness, and the colour of plates in their restaurant have been provide with a lot of attention.

Additionally, regarding the blue light effect, I noticed that the aircraft cabins (777-300ER for Air Canada AC001/AC002and EVA Air BR035/BR036) change the hue of the light to blue in a regular pattern after it takes off, during the flight, and before it lands. The airplane lights are designed to calm down the passengers or refresh their mood, since different colours have different effects on a person’s mood. From inducing deep sleep to waking the passenger up, lighting plays a significant role inside the aircraft cabin. The blue light acts as calm lighting to relax the passengers and also to ease their nervousness after the plane takes off.

Herb oil:
I had conducted a semi-experiment for making essential oils for the OFF Course exhibition. However, I only managed to prepare an infused oil, but it did not spread the smell I expected it to. So, when I went back to Taiwan in December. In Taiwan, I visited an essential oils company and got some information on how to make essential oil from Chinese herbs with a special tool.

Retail therapy:
I have come across different hypotheses and scientific research on how stores manipulate customers with sensory marketing by triggering the impulse to shop, psychologically or biologically. Then, I did a little experiment by tracking my friends’ heart rates while they were shopping.
One of the participants was a friend of mine who works at an advertising company; she volunteered as she was also interested in getting a better understanding of sensory marketing, and she admitted that she is a serious impulsive shopper. I measured her heart rate near Eaton Centre’s south entrance before actually starting to shop, and it was around 96 bpm.

With the insights I acquired from Japanese malls, I realized that stores in Toronto also use red as the primary colour for a lot of their sale signs.

Prototype Improvement After OFF Course

Here are some of the refined ideas I attained after the OFF Course exhibition, which I participated in parallelly with my experiments and research work: A sale sign filter that can screen out red sale tags. Taking the idea from Set Down & Breath, I transformed my idea into a mask that people can wear on their face. A wearable shopping bag that turns your friend into an annoying shopping bag.

Among the user testing I have conducted for the refinement of my prototypes, one that involved testing out Buynary bag and wearable shopping bag provided me with a really interesting insight:

The result of this finding was that the participant felt extremely happy by shopping with other people’s money because she could enjoy the feeling of buying stuff without using her own money. However, she also felt insecure and unhappy when she saw something that she wanted to buy but could not as she did not have money. Nonetheless, she found that impulsiveness only lasts for less than 3 minutes, and as soon as she walked out of the store, the feeling of desire disappeared.

According to the participant, she mentioned that often need someone to help break her habit of unconsciously making a purchase, and the human shopping bag helps accomplish that, as another person will carry all your stuff with the small capacity bag on their shirt. Moreover, you definitely feel the pressure when someone keeps asking you, “Do you really need it?”, “Why do you want to buy this?”, “You don’t have enough space to store this item.”, and other questions like this.

Weak Point:

  • Buynary still need some sort of system to support with not only how the user can obtain it, but a more structural system to entice more user to join

  • The wearable shopping bag is not as functional as physically; there is a need for some mechanism embedded and a more structural system.

The Idea of MIMO Bank

After my refined product ideas, I was really at a loss in terms of finding the best suitable business plan that aligns with my products. After a while, I had a crazy idea: why not design a banking system that might best suit all of my design ideas and also more design approaches that could be added to the system. So, I subsequently asked a few different bank tellers from three banks in the USA as well as Canada, and I acquire the following insights:

Anonymous bank teller A:
The bank uses the liquid cash from the savings and cheque accounts to generate income such as lending that money to other clients with interest. For approving loans and assigning credit cards, the bank collects a client’s usage data to understand where the trends lay in order to create their marketing strategy. Furthermore, the bank uses the money from other clients to lend it to other clients with higher interest for generating income. Therefore, the bank will need its clients to not only save more money, but also use their credit card more often.

Anonymous bank teller B:
If you want to open a bank that only promoted saving and wanted to spread the idea of smart consumption, meaning that it will not be profitable, I will suggest you to try to conduct some case studies on the credit union and the community bank. I have never heard that any bank was a non-profit institution or promoted smart consumption. This was because a bank is a listed company, which means it has to find a way to maximize its profit. Bank will analyze credit card usage to see what the trends state and provide their analyzed data to the stores or service companies as rebate.

Anonymous bank teller C:
The main difference between a credit union and a bank is that a bank is for profit and a credit union is not. The concept of credit union was created in a time when people were still living in small towns, and different towns could work together to connect with each other’s credit union and consider them as branches. TD was a credit union before they started growing more clients and decided to become a bank. Some credit unions only serve a specific group. The credit union is similar to a smaller scale bank. Thus, the main difference for me will be the convenience factor.

Anonymous bank teller D:
We see Meridian as a competitor since it is not for profit, and so, they don’t have to deal with taxes. Thus, for mortgage, credit unions usually provide better rate than banks. Moreover. young people don’t care of physical banking, they don’t need any branches, all they need is the internet. Therefore, if there is a credit union that fits the necessities of millennials, it will become a threat for us. For credit cards, we want our customers to not pay their bills so that we can make them pay-off their interest. However, we also want them to save more money and deposit it to our bank so that we can lend loans to other clients. We are still trying to find the balance.

Then suddenly, I decided to open a bank called MIMO which stands for “multi-input and multi-output.” It connects client to other clients and spreads the same ideology of smart consumption.
The current system is affecting our behaviors:
Consumerism has become the mainstream culture, companies are using more advanced marketing strategies that include technology and science-based methods to trigger consumption among customers. Such strategies could trigger the impulse to shopping more often, which might result in unplanned spending. In addition, overconsumption will also lead to the result of waste products that will impact our environment. I have learned that throughout my academic program of Sustainability minor, it's hard to convince people to initiate eco-action. With MIMO, people can conserve the environment by reducing waste production, saving their money and together making banking mean more.

The following questions arise: Do banks help us save money or lose money? In this massive consumerism society, are we helpless? What will happen if we could use a self-helping tool to help people to reduce their impulsiveness?

MIMO Branding Process

User Testing

Phase 6: Final Prototyping

During this phase, I started to work on the final prototype for my graduation exhibition and thesis presentation. I explored technology that can help better express my design idea as well as pop-up bank design idea in order to bring the idea of MIMO to life.

The final product has narrowed down the direction on the map. Users will be provided with a start kit while purchasing with MIMO that contains the debit card, Buynary (works with the MIMO app), and a wearable shopping bag. Then, users can use the MIMO App and MIMO website to download the plug-in that can manage online-shopping impulsiveness and manage their accounts. Another self-helping wearable idea came from Sit Down & Breath chair, so I basically broke it down and turned it into wearable concept. Users can wear my product around.

Customer Journey Map


Scent Mask:

Scent mask was the improved version of the diffuser of the Sit Down & Breath chair. I used the essential oils I made during the last phase and embed them into the recyclable scent paper. I reused the directions I received from my instructor at the beginning of the thesis year.

MIMO Wallet Lock:

The wallet lock used a Bluetooth shield that can connect to a servo motor in order to interact with the MIMOLOCK app.

MIMO Machine Decoration for Exhibition Setup:

The MIMO machine was a decoration robot that I made for my graduation exhibition setup. The machine contained an mp3 shield and responded to a remote.

The Hat:

The MIMO hat used touch sensor that can be triggered just by touching the surface of the light holder.

Sale Sign Filter:

The sale sign glasses were made using a 3D model and were 3D printed. It was tested by users around the mall and was able to filter out most of the sale signs within Eaton Centre and all the sale signs in The Bay. The final product list has been presented below:

Exhibition Setup Planning:

Phase 7: Graduation Exhibition

The MIMO pop-up bank was showcased in the OCAD University Graduation Exhibition for five days. It showcased all the MIMO products, and the audiences were allowed to interact with each functional prototype. MIMO Bank also received the Industrial Design Medal Award from OCAD University.

The MIMO pop-up bank was showcased in the OCAD University Graduation Exhibition for five days. It showcased all the MIMO products, and the audiences were allowed to interact with each functional prototype. MIMO Bank also received the Industrial Design Medal Award from OCAD University.

The exhibition was designed into a real experience for the audience to explore the banking feature, with a MIMO bank teller to guide them through the details. The audience could also get their name customized on MIMO debit cards as a little take-away gift.

Phase 1Phase 2Phase 3Phase 4Phase 5Phase 6Phase 7