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Designing an MVP for Comet Academy - a school aiming to teach children the skills of the future.

Comet Academy in an ambitious edtech startup aiming to teach children a wide range of future-proof skills such as programming, design and entrepreneurship. The founders invited me to work together to help them shape their initial brand and designs of the MVP site, which was accomplished in less than 2 months.


The first step was to create foundation of a brand that could resonate with students (8-13 year old children) and their parents alike. To accomplish this, I have set up a series of interactive online workshops with the team, first addressing topics such as brand positioning and personality, and later shifting to brand identity. It took the team some time to achieve alignment on the hard questions, such as ‘why does our brand exist’ and ‘what problem are we solving and for whom’. Getting there required nudging the team to take a brave step away from trying to get it perfect the first time around, and adopting a more agile mindset of experimentation. But once everyone started to feel free from the pressures of perfectionistm, ideas started to flow easily.

 A part of working materials from the branding workshops.

Once the team had aligned on the brand personality (I always enjoyed using a list of brand adjectives from Elise Epp), reference sites, desired tone of voice and feeling, we were ready to start exploring the brand identity (the visible elements such as color, design and logo, that identify the brand in consumer minds).

For that we looked at a range of competing services, as well as some inspiring designs from unrelated fields on Pinterest. Soon a picture started to emerge that the core defining elements of our brand identity would be color, typography, illustration. Working closely with the stakeholders, we landed on a pastel/neon color palette that differentiated the service from competition, while giving it a modern edge with a universal appeal.

We then used a similar traditional-yet-quirky criteria to select the appropriate typeface. After evaluating dozens of typefaces (some team members even had an outing to an art museum where they got temporarily obsessed with Alloy Grotesk by Kirjatehnika), the team settled on Roobert, a quirky sans-serif that also came as a variant font. It meant that we could do lots of cool in-code typeface manipulations such as this

For the illustrations, the team decided to go with a style that seemed polished, yet drawn as if it could have been made by a child (approachability and friendliness were one of our core brand personality traits). To produce the required artwork, we partnered together with Sasha Mitkalova, an illustrator from St. Petersburg who came highly recommended and who’s style we immediately liked.
As the team was still not sure about the name, we called it project Comet, as a placeholder name. With the key brand ID elements in place, we were ready to jump into design of the user flows. 

Designing the user flows

I started by working together with the PM to collect and prioritize all the key user flows that should be included in the MVP for both user groups - the kids and their parents. After that we continued working in iterative fashion, getting regular feedback from the team (that included the PM, CMO, CTO and CEO) and creating new versions of designs on a daily basis.

As I was creating the designs, two additional artefacts were produced - a Design System and a detailed Interaction Design library. In some instances, I would make a prototype in code to easily communicate it to developers.

Finally, once all of our collective imagination and vision was included in what we felt was possible for the MVP, we created a clickable protoype in Figma and did an async usability test using Userfeel.com. Overall, the user reaction to designs was highly positive and they could accomplish the required tasks without much difficulty (average SUS score of 96).

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