Senior Capstone Project
For my senior thesis project, I decided to explore the issue of abortion rights and the current lack of access poorer American women have to the procedure. Over the course of two semesters, I researched, iterated, and designed a "Trojan Horse" solution to a cause I care deeply about.
Final Video; Adobe Premiere Pro
What is Kitti?
On the surface, Kitti might look like a cute mobile game that any girl could have on her phone, but when looked at more closely, it reveals itself to be an app designed to subvert an oppressive system. While it contains many features, its main purpose is to use the technology of secret links and encryption to provide medication abortion pills through discrete mail delivery to people whose state prohibits them from accessing this care locally.
Take care of your pet kitty by earning energy points through completing the in-app modules Read, Quiz, Reflect, and Profile. Learn more about reproductive rights and healthcare through these activities.
Purchase products from the array of reputable pharmacies partnering with Kitti. Birth control pills and other healthcare products are delivered discretely and their sales fund the rest of the Kitti app.
Receive medication abortion pills through discrete mail delivery no matter which state you live in. Request an international tele-health appointment and prescription through an encrypted chat and secret link.
Toggle to a redacted version of this app that looks like a kid's mobile game to avoid having data leveraged against you in the case that your phone is seized and searched. In this state, all purchase/chat history and data is offloaded and locked. Returning to the main version would require a passcode, ensuring no one else can access your data.
Senior Capstone Project
Figma, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, ProCreate
Sketching, wire-framing, prototyping, UI/UX design, user testing, video editing, illustration, animation, marketing design
Senior Thesis 1 + 2, Aynne Valencia
9 months; September 2022 - April 2023
The overturning of Roe vs. Wade in June 2022 has brought the reproductive rights of American women under attack. A pregnant person’s access to a safe and legal abortion is now back up to the discretion of the politicians and lawmakers of individual states. Many states had trigger laws, resulting in the immediate criminalization of all forms of abortion and over 20.9 million women losing their right to bodily autonomy overnight. The people hit hardest by this ruling are those who cannot get an abortion in their state and cannot afford to travel for one.
The different directions a project in this space could go seemed endless when I first thought about it, so I took some time to do research and figure out where opportunities for design could be. The summer before the first semester of this project, I had noticed online that many women had started deleting their period tracking apps as the popular period-tracking app Flo came under fire for selling user data to Facebook about when a user was on their period or wanted to get pregnant. A growing distrust for what could be done with their data and how missed period data may be leveraged against them in states where abortions are illegal had driven many to leaving these apps altogether, so this seemed like a springboard for opportunity.
To narrow down on my project, I did some research on the issue. Reproductive rights is a widely documented and well-researched topic so I did not find it necessary to do any initial primary research on my own.
What does being denied an abortion mean?
I first looked into the dangers of a person being denied an abortion to completely solidify why the pro-choice movement is worth designing for. Here is what I found:
Childbirth is the only alternative to abortion and has a 14 times higher risk of death, which means denying someone an abortion forces them to assume a significant medical risk against their will
A UCSF study comparing the outcomes of people who were over the gestational limit and denied an abortion and those who were under the limit and received an abortion found that those denied were in higher levels of poverty, more likely to be unemployed, had lower credit scores and increased debt, and reported poorer physical and mental health
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country, with 3 in 5 of those deaths being preventable
I then looked into which organizations and platforms are used in this space.
Abortion Care Providers: Physician’s offices, hospitals, abortion clinics, abortion boats
Advocacy Groups: NARAL, ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights
Connective Services: Planned Parenthood, ineedana.com, abortionfinder.org, Red State Access
Delivery Services: Plan C Pills, Hey Jane, Nurx, Carafem, Aid Access, Pills By Post, Abortion on Demand
Period Tracking Apps: Health, Flo, Clue, Ovia Fertility, Eve by Glow, Spot On
Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok
Rallying, lobbying, and protesting
Hybrid media systems
Narrative-driven platforms like HerStoryTold
Online delivery resources
After getting enough insight into the problem space and current solutions, I put together a diagram of the actors in the system. Additionally, I created two personas, a few How Might We statements, and some brainstorm sketches into a slide presentation. View all this below:
The feedback I got from presenting this to my class was that the more outlandish ideas caught their eyes. I had stayed safe and thought of many social media-style concepts that created shared narratives, mobilized activists, or raised awareness, but did not venture into many ideas that crossed into legal gray areas.
At this point, I thought about what I was doing and why I was doing it. As people operating under an oppressive system that has been constructed to deny women our bodily autonomy, I realized I’d be doing a disservice to myself and my target users by continuing to be so guarded with my ideas. So I edited my HMW to include the problem I actually wanted to solve:
How Might We make abortion care accessible to people in all 50 states in a post-Roe world?
Back to Research
I went back to the drawing board and dug into any legal loopholes I could think of. Eventually, I found this service called Aid Access, created by a Dutch doctor named Rebecca Gomperts. How it works is a patient will fill out an online form and schedule a telehealth appointment with a doctor in Austria. That doctor can then prescribe them medication abortion pills if possible and will send it to a pharmacy in India to fill and deliver it through discrete packaging. This is technically not illegal, but crosses into a gray area. While shipping abortion products between states can be criminalized, as long as the FDA approves mifepristone and misoprostol, those prescribed medicines being shipped internationally is technically not criminalized.
I wanted to use a similar framework in my concept so I looked into some of the current issues Aid Access faces. Here is what I found:
Ranks very low in Google SEO due to it not being an American Health company
Few people know about it
Data can be traced back to users so there is still a lack of privacy, especially if a person's phone is seized and searched
Anti-abortion activists have been trying to get the service shut down
I started brainstorming again and landed on the idea of an app that disguises itself as something innocuous but actually is a platform for patients to obtain medication abortion pills. Creating a system which gives users extra padding and security while partnering with and elevating a reputable service that already has the infrastructure for the physical problem would be a sustainable solution to pursue.
Designing the Platform
I was inspired by the idea of virtual pets and kids games when I came up with the concept of Kitti. On the surface, it could look like a cute cat mobile game but unlock a mode in which the user can access the telehealth site through secret links and encryption. I also wanted to include educational features and ways for users to get involved in the reproductive rights space. These were the features I initially thought about:
Complete tasks, finish activities, and attend events to grow a relationship with a virtual cat
Gamify the experience so users earn points for interacting with the app
Write stories, reflections, experiences, and read those of others
Purchase health products and earn points for those
Donate to and volunteer for local pro-choice organizations
RSVP to protests and events
Share resources and information
Round 1 Wireframes (Link to wireframes); Figma
I did some user testing with 5 female participants aged 18-22. Here is some of the feedback I got:
Consider the ways this product could be misused
Consider reliability and pharmaceutical regulations
Cat's name could be used as a passcode
Bring location selection up to the front of the FTUE and have it be a manual selection so GPS data can't be tracked
Add second version of app that looks like a kid's game
My professor also encouraged me to scrap a lot of the community and action features to streamline the focus of the app, so I decided to dig deeper into the privacy aspect.
I wanted to further solidify how the app should be used and clarify to myself what the most important features would be, so I created a journey map.
User Journey Map; Figma
Additionally, I thought about the branding direction I wanted to go in. The tone needed to feel friendly yet reputable so I opted for clean yet soft visuals. In this round, the main features were the interactive modules, method of switching to a redacted "mobile game" view, and whisper.
Round 2 Wireframes (Link to wireframes); Figma
At this point, we'd reached the end of the first semester so I created a brief presentation detailing my project proposal.
I took the winter break to create my own illustrations, update the visual design style, and build some other pages that would be important to show, such as the specific module activities and extra caution measures around the redact toggle feature.
Kitti Illustrations, ProCreate
Round 3 Wireframes (Link to wireframes); Figma
I went back to user testing after completing a third round of wireframes which further fleshed out the feature ideas, included suggestions from past user tests, and had updated visuals. I asked 8 18-24 year old women to go through my prototype and give me any feedback.
Here is what I heard:
Sephora-style point system may overcomplicate things
Add a close option to category selections in FTUE
Add a way to save modules the user wants to return to
Make it very clear that location data isn't tracked
Make the progress bar the color of whichever activity was completed
Further emphasize "Don't use real name" in FTUE
Put less text on module button
Pink selection could look like an error message
Round 4 (Final)
With the feedback in mind, I created the final round of wireframes, fixing any potential issues or complications the user may run into and building out small micro-interactions that would enhance the overall experience.
Round 4 Wireframes (Link to wireframes); Figma
I wanted to elevate the playfulness of the app, so I decided to animate the illustrations using ProCreate. The animations would also bring more life and believability to the virtual pet concept.
While working on the main app, I decided to create some marketing materials. Because this project would be displayed in the 2023 CCA Senior Showcase, I wanted to include some supplemental items viewers could take with them, as well as material to accompany the project.
The "Whisper" feature is probably the most important part of the Kitti app, so I wanted to highlight this in a lighthearted promotional sticker.
Kitti sticker mockup; ProCreate
One of the most straight-forward methods of getting a message across is a poster, so of course I had to create one to communicate the purpose of the app. For part of the branding, I used a slogan frequently heard in pro-choice movements: We Won't Go Back. This phrase in conjunction with the cute cat imagery piques a person's interest and generates curiosity about what Kitti is.
Kitti poster; Illustrator
Kitti business cards; InDesign
For people who may not be up-to-date with the reproductive rights space, I created a video detailing the issue which would be played on a monitor near the rest of the exhibition. The video is made up of clips I found discussing the impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and what this could mean for our democracy.
Background video; Figma, Premiere Pro
For the exhibition, I printed out the poster, business cards, and stickers. I kept a phone prototype out for passersby to interact with and an iPad with my slide deck detailing the solution idea. On the wall was a monitor with headphones playing the background video as well as the app infomercial at the very top of this page. Here is what the final exhibition looked like:
Kitti Exhibition at CCA 2023 Senior Showcase