KAUS Insurance
view live prototype
View live prototype
An Online hub for Sound Designers
Role: Product Designer
Duration: 12 Weeks
User Research
Lo-fi & Hi-Prototyping
Usability Testing
Interaction Design
Branding & Visual Design
“Best way to get out of a creative rut is to try new techniques and expand yourself.”
(Interview Participant #1)
Project Overview
RIIPL aims to fill a gap by providing beginner to intermediate level sound designers access to a variety of high quality visual material they can use to practice & learn about sound design.
view live prototype
The Design Process
  1. Defining The Why?
  2. Understanding The Users
  3. Envisioning The Solution
  4. Ideation: Gamifying Practice
  5. Crafting A Visual Identity
  6. Hi-Fi Prototyping
  7. Usability Testing
  8. Reflection
Defining The Why?
Sound Designers need to practice their craft but finding the resources to do so is a challenge.
Sound designers are creatives who craft the auditory experiences we perceive in media. Like any creative endeavor, practice is essential to a sound designer in order to improve. However, unlike more traditional art forms like graphic design/painting, to practice, sound designers require readily available source material to work with.
Outside of obtaining youtube rips of video games or doing actual client work there currently doesn’t exist an avenue for sound designers to obtain visual material to work with.
The Challenge
A very easy way to break out of a creative block is to practice something new. My  goal as a designer is to conceptualize a tool that reduces roadblocks to creative mastery by making it easier to practice the art of sound design.
A how might we statement to summarize the problem
Understanding the Users
What makes a sound designer tick? What is their process? How do they define success?
To answer these questions, I sought to understand the user pain points, stressors, and barriers to achieving desired creative results in the sound design process.
The process: 1:1 User Interviews
I arranged one on one user interviews with 4 sound designers. Two of which have more professional experience while the others have an intermediate level of experience.
Research Goals
  1. Understand user pain points and barriers to achieving desired creative results in the sound design process.
  2. Understand the creative process involved in completing a sound design project.
  3. Identify, if any exist, opportunities for innovation in the sound design tool market space.
  4. Understand how community plays a role in fostering creative innovation in sound, especially within the user's personal creative networks.
Key findings from user interviews
What does creative growth look like?
"A successful sound design session is one where I made sure I did something completely stupid."
Real success is personal. It comes from stretching yourself beyond current limits.
The value of community
"I feel happier when I'm around other creative people."
Community can provide to the aspiring designer feedback & critique, or inspiration and validation.
What makes sound design so interesting?
"In sound design, there are no right answers, it's a black box."
Sound being an abstract sensation allows designers to create compositions that compliment both real and otherworldly visuals.
Dealing with creative blocks
“I like to work on projects that force me to do things differently, but sometimes those are hard to come by."
One strategy to break out is to embrace the absurd and experiment heavily, another is to find projects that take you out of your comfort zone.
User Persona: Meet Kirk!
Kirk’s loves his job, and is extremely passionate about what he does. He’s mostly self taught in the practice and still considers himself to be an intermediate. He describes his process as emotionally driven and experimental.
He’s been working on podcast projects and a few visual idents mostly. He really wants to break into the video game industry but doesn’t have any prior experience to add to his portfolio. He doesn’t know much about video game sound design but wants to learn more and create pieces that show he’s capable of doing the work.
What Kirk needs is a place where he can obtain quality video game & 3D motion clips to practice, get feedback on his work and connect with others just like him to get further inspiration.
Envisioning the Solution
Sound designers work predominantly on a desktop, so it makes sense that my solution aimed at providing practice opportunities should be desktop web based. I ran through a couple of concepts for the design, but what i eventually settled on was -
A web platform that offers sound designers creative challenge prompts in the form of short, ready to be scored video clips
Sound designers would no longer need to rely on low quality youtube rips to practice. Now they have access to a wide variety of visual content to work with, giving them the ability to advance their skills in new directions that were not previously accessible to them.
An important challenge for me during this conceptualization phase was trying to figure out a set of core requirements that would guide the design phase going forward.
These key design requirements are:
RIIPL allows users to participate in sound scoring challenges to sharpen their skills, connect and casually compete with other sound designers. A user signs up for a challenge and is placed in a group of up to six members. Each member has to then submit their completed score before the time limit expires.
Completed scores are then reviewed by other members of the group, feedback is given and each score is rated based on four categories: creativity, technicality, storytelling & emotion.
Ideation: Gamifying Practice
The process of conceptualizing RIIPL was fairly straight forward. Based on the research, it’s clear sound designers are experimenters and adventurers at heart who need avenues to exercise their creativity. There exist no dedicated spaces outside of traditional social media for sound designers to meet, and currently no platform dedicated to offering a wide variety of high quality visual content for sound designers to practice with and enhance their portfolio.
The inspiration for gamifying the experience was born out of reflecting on what success means to a sound designer and the desire to utilize that to create an experience that adds noticeable value to their practice.
As a sound designer I feel successful when:
I try out a new technique and come out with satisfying results
I create something new without relying on any of my old habits or tricks
I’m excited to show the work
I have fun and strech myself creatively
Sentiments on success expressed by the interviewed sound designers
The solution plays out in four folds
  1. Provide a supply of visual content for users to experiment with.
  2. Frame the experimentation and sound design process as a creative challenge, providing constraints to further stimulate creativity.
  3. Bake in community involvement as a feedback mechanism and source of inspiration.
  4. Provide valuable metrics to users to track progress & rewards for sustained engagement.
User Task Flow
Task: Navigate through the RIIPL website, sign up for a challenge, & upload a completed score
To kick things off I started by creating a basic task flow of how the user would move from browsing challenges, to opting to participate and then submitting a finished score. I wanted to have a clear idea what the most essential pages are to accomplish this task.
Component level thinking.
Designing the core interaction points.
I decided to start off  wire-framing on the component level first to really nail down on the interaction points of RIIPL and test for usability issues early.
I focused on:
  • Rating a submitted score
  • Displaying open challenges
  • Displaying completed challenges by other users
  • Displaying badges & rating submissions.
A few (very) rough paper sketches of challenge card & rating components
Lo-fi Component wireframes
V1 lo-fi wireframes for the core components of the app
Putting it all together - Full Low-Fi wireframes
With the components in hand I set out to design the key screens for RIIPL. Shown below are the user dashboard screens & challenge page. I also designed overlay screens that are used for sign up or submission flows.
V1 low-fi wireframes for the dashboard and challenge pages of the app
I showed these screens to my mentor and a few others to get some early feedback in the process. I made some changes to a few of the components and layout. The screens below are V2 prototypes of RIIPL.
V2 lo-fi wireframes for the dashboard and challenge pages of the app
Rating a submission is a major feedback mechanism for all submissions uploaded into a challenge. This process needs to be intuitive and seamless for the user. The diagram below shows the rating component flow when a user clicks on the ‘rate’ button.
Low-fi wireframe flow of the rating component
Creativity, storytelling & technicality- Why do they matter?
Assigning a numerical rating to a subjective art form can be a tricky task and begs the question can & should the validity of art be determined solely on it’s empirical attributes? However, sound design in addition to being an artistic practice, exists to serve a functional purpose. Therefore, there must exist some way of measuring it’s success in serving it’s intended function.
The categories - ‘creativity, storytelling & technicality’ are assumptions I have made on attributes that provide the most useful feedback to a user on their skill level and also offers the least room for subjectivity when assessed within the context of the given prompt. In my user testing I validate this assumption to see how sound designers respond to these categories.
Crafting A Visual Identity
The goal of the RIIPL brand is to reflect the fun, playful nature that underscores most sound design practice. As a platform dedicated to learning and practice, RIIPL also needs to strive to convey a sense of functionality & utility without coming off as cold, intimidating or constrained.
An important design consideration here is that RIIPL plays host to a variety of visual content each bringing it’s own color palette. Therefore, RIIPL’s own base palette must be color agnostic and provide strong contrast to let visual content stand out with ease.
Hi-Fi Prototyping
For my Hi-Fi prototypes I focused on building out screens for three key flows.
I also designed a marketing/landing page that serves as user’s first stop when they visit the app without a pre-existing account.
Usability Testing
After I had designed my screens and prototyped the flows, I conducted usability tests using both in-person moderated interviews and remote unmoderated testing via Maze to gather user feedback.  During testing I had users go through four scenarios and recorded my observations:
  1. Reading & comprehending the copy on the landing page
  2. Browsing & joining a challenge
  3. Submitting a completed score to the challenge page
  4. Rating the completed score of another member of the RIIPL group.
Key takeaways from usability testing
Thoughts on RIIPL Concept
Interviewed users loved the idea behind RIIPL and expressed excitement towards it, claiming it felt new and innovative. Beginner and intermediate level sound designers also expressed they could see themselves using this platform a lot.
UI & Visual Style
Users expressed admiration for the UI, claiming it felt fun and engaging and reminded them of a video game or community based platforms like ‘Discord’.
Understanding the landing page
Some users didn’t fully understand the concept behind RIIPL based on the copy on the landing page. After seeing the other pages they got a better understanding of how it works.
Signing up for a challenge
Some users had trouble with the primary CTA for entering a challenge. The copy was “Sign up” which casued users to hesitate thinking it meant sign up for an account.
Going through overlay flows (challenge sign up & submission)
Users found these flows very straightforward to use. There a few moments were users missed critical information like the presence of a ‘re-do’ action when rating or the copy that informs them that they are only allowed one submission before completing the flow.
Rating a submission.
Some users struggled with locating the CTA to begin the rating flow, instead they would click the numbers thinking that was the affordance. Some users also expressed that they didn’t know they had to provide a rating for each category before beginning.  

A few users raised concerns about the inclusion of numerical ratings while others were more perceptive to it and found it to be helpful.
For my  next round of iterations I focused on improving user experience in three key areas:
Ratings & Feedback mechanisms
Goal: Update the rating a submission experience to be more cohesive and include a subjective rating mechanism.
From my user testing, I realized some users especially beginners may find the idea of a purely numerical based rating system to be demoralizing, especially when they get a bad rating. Hence, the motivation to encourage more subjective forms of feedback in the flow.
Instead of two separate actions ‘rating’ & ‘commenting’ as it was in V1, in V2 these two are encapsulated under a single interaction called ‘Review’. By making both of them required it ensures that a user on the receiving end always gets the subjective feedback to complement the objective.
Snapshot of the Mood tab
I also added a ‘Mood’ tab for users to share what kind of emotions arise when they hear the sound score. The idea is to provide to the user, valuable insight on what sound choices/styles evoke certain emotions in listeners. Information which can then be used to inform the work they do for clients.
Snapshot of the Details tab
The ‘Details’ tab is for those users who get particularly nerdy about sound design tools. Remarks from my tested users indicated that they like learning about tools and software as part of the insight into someone’s process.
Entering into a challenge on the dashboard.
Goal: Improve the affordances provided to let users participate in a challenge.
V1 of user dashboard.
V2 of user dashboard
In V2, I reduced the amount of vertical space the challenge tracker occupies in an empty state, as well as changing the component style into dashed stroke, no fill to emphasize that it is a default state.
I added a black panel that houses the timer & CTA on hero banner, this is to ensure that these elements remain visible no matter what background image it’s placed against.
Finally, I updated the button copy from ‘Sign up’ to ‘Enter Challenge’ to better convey what the expected are results upon interaction. I also added an alternative entry point into the challenge sign up flow where users can view all open challenges, not just the newly added ones in the hero banner section.
Landing Page Copy
Goal: Improve the understanding of RIIPL based on the landing page copy.
V1 of the landing page.
V2 of the landing page with updated copy
The previous version didn’t have enough clarity on how the platform works. I also wanted to update the opening paragraph to actually state the purpose of RIIPL.
Discovering a passion for designing for creatives.
The goal I set out to accomplish when starting this project was to create a tool that helps sound designers. I found myself really enjoying learning about their process, seeing where there was common ground and where methodologies diverged. I became deeply invested in their success and the process of finding out how I help can contribute to it.
I found it incredibly rewarding to hear these users respond so positively to RIIPL and envision how it could be of use to them. This is what made it click that designing for creative types and endeavors can be a deeply fulfilling task for me. It made me want to invest more energy into making RIIPL better and I have some ideas on future improvements.