To tackle such a problem, I must look beyond screen-based interactions - How can a personal finance solution seamlessly and systematically integrate into the students’ lives?
The result of the project is a financial ecosystem that involves three parties: A) the college students in debt; B) the financial service providers; C) the loan providers. The system goal is to save money for students to proprietarily repay student loan after graduation while improving their financial health over time. Whereas the secondary systems inside create loyal customers for service providers and incentivize loan providers.
April 2019, 4 Weeks
I did a key person interview with a final year college student whose tuition is paid for through a student loan, to learn how students manage their debts. The pessimistic tone of the conversation really disturbed me - I witnessed a huge gap between the anxiety a student feels about their debts and the very limited actions they can take to relieve that stress. In short: managing student loan sounds ironic, as they barely have any power to manage it.
With these observations, I modeled a college student’s current financial ecosystem in terms of managing (stressing over) their debt. The key finding is: The last-minute anxiety that won’t hit until graduation season makes students feel unmotivated and powerless about loan repayment during school years, and extremely overwhelmed toward the end.
This project is the final assignment of a course called Systems. If you ever wonder "how can a credit card change student loan," you are in good company. As pointed out by project reviewers Hugh Dubberly and Eric Knudson (Design Manager from QuickBooks Design System), the system goal of my design was unintuitive, and the storyline was not clear.
It was a tough critique, but a very helpful one. It taught me the unquestionable priority of positioning my design in a way that speaks to the audience. Given the above feedbacks, what might actually make more sense is to position Vault as a solution to college students' financial crunch, that helps them transition between school and work.
For the next step, I would like to collect feedback from more students to test how motivational really is the system. This leads to a very interesting and challenging research topic: How to distill insights on a service that’s designed as long as 4 years? A similar problem arises in terms of product strategy: How to launch this product with a small group of students to kick-off, given that the course is 4 years? I will pay attention to industry practices and I’m looking forward to sharing my learnings in the future.