Crowd Money

Rohan Prabhu creates multiple-person bank account smartphone application during Design Thinking Week


At HPI School of Design Thinking's Design Thinking Week, Prabhu and his team six teammates began their research process with semantic analysis by dissecting each word in the design challenge and discussing the many different interpretations of the terms used in the statement. These different understandings and definitions showcased the many ways financial experiences can vary from culture to culture and person to person.

After meeting with the ING DiBa team and learning more about its definition of financial empowerment, the team used clusters and mapping to determine the most important aspects of the design challenge – trust, transparency, human touch, user perspective, simplicity, user spectrum and the design objective. 

For the interview step in the design process, the team brainstormed questions about financially significant life events and defined two focus groups to interview. Prabhu quotes Don Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things, saying the book best describes the design process as a series of two diamond-shaped phases – the first includes a divergence phase of ‘understand’ and observe’ and the second includes ‘ideate,’ ‘prototyping’ and ‘testing.’ The second phase encourages brainstorming as many ideas as possible for prototyping and testing.

“Following this thought, we decided to expand our sources of requirements by interviewing extreme users – young risk-taking entrepreneurs and risk averting senior citizens,” he said.

By clustering the information gathered in the interviews, the team was able to visually organize the results and come to the conclusion that trust is one of the most impactful components of a person’s financial behavior. By taking this a step further and asking each team member to nugget frame his or her favorite statement, the team gathered core statements and connecting elements from all interviewees. The team found that people want personalized, trustworthy, flexible banking experiences.

The team developed two product ideas, a temporary shared bank account and a multiple profile bank account, based on activity-centered design, a concept Prabhu discussed in EDSGN 548/IE 548 Interaction Design, taught by Scarlett Miller, associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering. This strategy has designers search for solutions that can solve a problem for a larger user population rather than looking for individual solutions for different types of users. Both product ideas focused on providing flexible banking through changing lives. 

“For a product to be successful, it has to be desired and accepted by the intended user. It is crucial to place the product in the life of the user and see how they react, respond and interact with it,” Prabhu said

Prototypes for “Banking Fair,” an interactive website with multiple profiles options for users and “Crowd Money,” a crowd-based mobile application service where temporary bank accounts are created for various purposes, were then created and tested. After receiving feedback from the testing phase, Prabhu and his teammates moved forward with their “Crowd Money” concept. 

Prabhu said the prototyping stage of the design process is very important, as it checks for a wide range of factors including usability, desirability and feasibility. He explained that it is relatively easy to build a prototype for a physical product, but developing a service prototype, as in the case of the Design Thinking Week challenge, it becomes harder to place the product in the life of the user. But, the rapid-fire, hands-on designing of the program provided Prabhu with new insight on how to approach a problem and what tools to use to create a solution.

“The hands-on project-based nature and the short duration, but high intensity of the workshop helped me experience a wide range of design tools that could be applied to the different steps of the process,” he said. “Also, the organic growth of the process, which was different for each team, helped me to understand how these tools could be used for any project we encounter in the future.”

The School of Design Thinking at HPI is directed by Dr. Claudia Nicolai. 


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Samantha Chavanic

“For a product to be successful, it has to be desired and accepted by the intended user. It is crucial to place the product in the life of the user and see how they react, respond and interact with it."



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