My Role

Project leader. I finished this project together with 3 teammates in design hackthon hold by TARGET. Leading and participating in the whole process of research, ideation and design, I was responsible for game design, prototyping (artwork) and final presentation.
Because of the limited time during hackthon, the style of our artwork is adapted from the Illustration on the Internet which allowed non-business use. Check here:


24 hours’ hackthon with 1 weeks’ research time ahead. After hackthon, we also improved our design by tests and iterations.


Game Design, UX Design, Social Welfare

Left-behind children are those whose parents go to big cities for better financial income and left them at small villages that they borned at. Their life and growth is a big problem in China. Many workers from TARGET factories in China are these children’s parents, therefore at this hackthon they invited us to find the solution and design a product for these children.


Before we started our design, we conducted a comprehensive research to know about the current situation of these left-behind children and their parents. Not only did we interviewed our target users, but also we talked with a variety of stakeholders including their teachers, grandparents, volunteers, NGOs and a sociologist from Fudan University.

Analyzing all data and insights gathered by us, we defined our target user with a story of their monologue. It’s shown below.


What contribution could we make?

The growth and happiness of left-behind children is a complex problem in China. Different stakeholders have made their own effort to help these children and their parents.
Therefore, We researched and analyzed the situation of current assistance system to find the where TARGET™️ could contribute as a company with social responsibility.

We found that all the existing help concentrates on children's life and education. However, they did not contribute to the fundamental point: the relationship between parents and children.
In our research, we found that because they are separated geologically, the relationship between parents and the children is relatively not so intimate. This not only results in some negative effect on children’s personality and growth, but also influence parents' work and life quality.

Therefore, we defined our design goal based on the analysis:

What do they need?

To help them establish such emotional bond, we referred to what our target users said during our interviews to find their needs for parent-child relationship. Analyzing about the current situation of their life, we also define the main problems that impede their emotional connection.

Other important findings

Other than their needs, we also found several important insights about our users from the research. These insights guided our design process to meet their expectations better.

1. They have different schedules so there’s little time for them to communicate every day.
2. Left-behind children are sensitive and dislike this ‘left-behind’ title.
3. Fathers of these children usually communicate and interact less with them.
4. Parents are always willing to do whatever for children as long as children are happy.

Synthesis: Design Principles

Based on all researches and analysis, we concluded the design principles. We kept them in our mind and followed them when doing our ideation and design.


Find the breakthrough: Connection Map

We started our brainstorming by listing all the people and things within parents and children’s reach. By making possible connections from parents’ side to children’s side, we ideated possible ways to help them to improve their emotional connection.

Storyboards: Design Alternatives

Based on the connection map and the possible ways we concluded, we further developed the ideas and chose 3 of the ideas as our design alternatives. I created storyboards for them.

IDEA 1: Smart Pillow
A smart pillow that could send light and warmth to the child.

IDEA 2: Story Tree
Parents could read stories for the child and let the family tree grow.

IDEA 3: Constructive Game
Parents and children could build and decorate their own house together.


During the competition, we invited our tutors who know left-behind children well to attend a voting session with us. Also, several online talks were made to our target users to get their preference and suggestions. Then we made an evaluation form of different dimensions including need-satisfaction, design, feasibility, etc.

Finally we determined to make ‘constructive game’ based on the result of voting session and evaluation.

Our ideation process


Playing games together seems like an attractive idea for both parents and children. These children are quite fond of constructive games like MINE-CRAFT and they showed huge enthusiasm about it during our user research and voting session.
Therefore, a constructive game where they build and decorate their own ‘house’ together could create together experience and common topics for parents and children.

But how could they play together?

Based on their needs, they both want to understand each other better, but they do not have enough opportunities to do so. Therefore, we planned to set a challenge for parents and children when getting materials to build their own ‘house’. We hope that only with the joint effort, they could get the things the want to construct their ‘wonderland’.
More importantly, this process should help them understand each other and make more communication and interaction.

During the competition, we came up with 2 options of this challenge: Match with me and You Say I Guess.

OPTION 1: Match with Me
Choose the decoration or furniture they like...If they get a match, they could get it and build their house.

OPTION 2: You Say I Guess
One could describe an object (building materials/furnitures/decorations) to another by voice message.
Another family member will listen to the description. If he/she could select the currect object among similar ones provided by the system, they could get it.

At first, we chose 'Match with Me' as the challenge for parents and child. They should guess each other’s preferance and taste to help the house to get more decorations. This is benefical for them to better understand each other. To get decorations they want, they may communicate more to get a match.
We made a demo video to demonstrate this concept:


But soon we found that there are 2 fundamental problems of 'Match with Me':

1. This challenge could not cause direct interaction and communication between them.
2. They may just get bored soon because the process of this is more like a social APP, rather than a game. It is not interesting enough to raise constant interest.

Therefore, we changed the design to 'You Say I Guess'. Below is the whole game process that we designed.

'Send Presents to each other'
According to famous psychologist Prof. Gary Chapman,‘Sending presents’ is a language of love. So we enbale them to choose fancy building materials and decorations and give it to other family members as presents. This could improve their emotional connection.

'Play via voice messages'
Parents and children could have communication during this process and the description of a certain decoration is a good topic to start a conversation. It's quite warm hear each others’ voice every day. Also, they would be more familiar with each other in this saying-listening process.


Detailed Design: Mid-fi Prototype

We finished the detailed design in a mid-fi prototype. To make this game more enjoyable and playable, we added 'Pets' to their house and family members could feed, tease and clean them. This could give a more interesting emotional bond among family members.

Also, since the target users of this mobile game are mainly workers and their children from TARGET company. Therefore, we created a digital community inside the game to help their family to not only have fun themselves, but also play with acquaintance and friends.

Hifi Prototype & Conceptional Video

We created a high fidelity prototype and utilized it to make a conceptional video.
We made some amendments and added up several speacial settings in the game based on feedbacks of Mid-fi prototype from our competition tutors. These settings enables the game to be more interesting and warm.

Because of the limited time during hackthon, the style of our artwork is adapted from the Illustration on the Internet which allowed non-business use. Check here:

Demo & Evaluation

After the competition, we utilized Unity & Android SDK to realize a demo on the phone. With it we did some tests among families.

We invited parents and children to experience the whole game process and score the game features comprehensively and each step sepertedly. According to them, we obtained many insights for the future development of Wonderland.

Our evaluation/test process

What went well:
1. Cartoon interfaces that are fun and inspiring
2. Impressive ‘together experience’ which could be a good topic to communicate
3. Interesting game experience with family that could inspire creativity

Even Better if:
1. More games and challenges that could create continuous interest and freshness
2. Better guidance to explain how to play this game
3. Limitation of children’s playing time to aviod their addiction to games and mobile phones


Challenge the ideas again and again...

It was my first time to attend such an hackthon, I felt so excited about it. One of the biggest impression that it left me is when we were doing our design, our tutor kept asking ‘why’ again and again about our design thinking which drove us to challenge myself continuously. It was a tough process but really helped us to deepen our thought.
For example, when we decided to use a constructive game as our medium to enhance their relationship, I questioned myself about whether it could really improve the communication of them. But soon I found that it can’t. We got stuck then cause we cannot find a better method to enhance the communication between parents and left-behind children.
In this way we turned back to the initial goal that we decided: improving communication and also started to challenge this orientation of design. Then we realized that such an objective is questionable: communication is a self-initiated process so there’s few way to drive people start a conversation. Therefore, the former direction is unpractical even though it seemed like a reasonable one and in consequence, we changed our approach to 'improve interaction'.
Challenging the logic behind our design directions and choices repeatly is the best way to overcome randomness in the design process. Such importance is proved in this hackthon.

Our amazing team with tutors from TARGET and design field

Think broader to guide users’ thought and behavior

In this hackthon, other teams’ ideas are also awesome, but many of them just provided a 'solution', not a reasonable product. For example, one team provided a lot of parent-child interactions in their final APP and also, asked the TARGET company to set rules about their year bonus money to force employee’s interaction with children.
I admit that It’s a useful solution. However, will our goal of enhancing their emotional bond achieved? I don't think so, probably finally such an application only becomes a way to get more money. Could people’s motivation to use it originates from themselves rather than external stimulation such as money? There’s a principle that I always kept in my mind during the design process: design is not only about providing direct solutions, I also need to create a mechanism to have the pain points healed by users themselves.
In other words, a good design should not only be a tool, telling users: Do this, your problem solved! More importantly, it should provide a dedicated designed system to guide users’ thought and behavior and let their problems solved naturally. That’s why we choose to go with ‘constructive game’, having the parents and children use this product with curiosity and love, rather than financial benefit or something like that.



Yizhou Liu


Nemo the talking fish