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App mockups

DWR Selections


Project Description

DWR Selections is a digital application that allows potential customers to discover and learn about the stories of each authentic piece of furniture through a series of curated educational tours in Design Within Reach's retail stores. It allows first-time users to draw inspiration and discover their personal taste in furniture.

As the team's lead designer, I was in charge of the UX and visual design; creating wireframes, building high fidelity mockups, writing content, and prototyping. I helped form the initial idea and refined the details of the app features and design.

Team: Danny Blackstock, Gary Li, Malcolm Kutar, Valerie Cheng

Tools: Sketch, Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop, Flinto, Principle, Keynote

Type: Academic Case Study

Project Length: 4 Weeks (Fall 2016)


Business Problem

Design Within Reach is a high-end, designer furniture retailer that specializes in selling authentic modern and European designs in North America. In the early 2000s, the company was known as the leaders of design education and taste making. However, due to mismanagement and poor leadership, Design Within Reach began selling knockoff products and plagiarized designs which ruined their reputation and trust with the design community.

Although the knockoffs have discontinued, leadership has changed, and time has passed, Design Within Reach continues to be seen as a brand with a tainted reputation, diverging from their core value of authenticity. As a result, we asked ourselves: How can furniture retailers stand out and stay relevant with changing consumer and technology trends?

Problem quote

Brand Insights

In the DWR ecosystem, education and learning is the key area we are focusing on. From our research of Design Within Reach, we synthesized their brand values and attributes into a cycle with 3 key factors of authenticity, storytelling, and education. Two major insights we realized was that:

(1) We can leverage their brand promise of authenticity to tackle the business problem, thereby rebuilding consumer trust.

(2) DWR’s current platforms for storytelling (website and catalogue), which leads to education and tastemaking, are not effective.

Experience cycle diagram

Consumer Research

Everyday shoppers don’t know why these products are special and why they stand out from knock-off brands. How can we educate customers about the values of design through a digital medium by shifting the focus to the designer rather than their products, thereby increasing brand awareness and building a connection with potential customers. Ultimately, how do we convert window shoppers who are curious about design into loyal customers?

With these questions in mind, I set out to find user data, surveys, and statistics that would help us understand modern shoppers and their habits. I came across a study by Think with Google (2013) which higlighted the painpoints of shoppers. Their results showed that consumers are utilizing their mobile devices in-store while browsing to find further information such as customer reviews, picture comparisons, and similar items.

Statistics diagram

User Persona

Based on our research, our target audience are consumers who are unfamiliar but interested in design. Our proposal would be targeting people who walk by Design Within Reach retail stores regularly but have not heard/unfamiliar with the brand or entered the store. We want to help Design Within Reach attract new consumers and transition them to loyal return customers which would help revitalize the company's brand. Here is the ideal persona that we created:

User persona

Product Ideation

Utilizing the sprint process, our team mapped out the business and brand problem using sticky notes and markers on a whiteboard. This exercise allowed us to highlight the various "actors" and map their interactions within the DWR ecosystem. Through this, we were able to determine where we could improve the business model.

Mapping exercise Team mapping Infographic diagram

Next, our team sketched out a variety of ideas ranging from VR showrooms to tour guide apps. We wanted to explore different ideas to generate potential openings quickly and be creative with our solution to the business problem. We sketched out user scenarios detailing the experience, use case, and technological specifications.

Sketching ideas

Once we had a solidified idea, we decided to do a case study on a similar project from a design agency called Method. We looked at their work with Lush where they proposed a redesign of the company's website and experience which showcased the company's values (transparency, ethical sourcing, fresh handmade) through visual storytelling. Inspired by their success, we incorporated this concept of education and storytelling to create a more engaging dialogue with DWR customers.

Brand study Brand infographic App features diagram

User Journey Framework

With the framework we constructed for our target user, we looked at the journey of the customer experience in DWR’s retail environment. We identified the key frictions and potential touch points for intervention, specifically in the first interactions with products. The major painpoints of the retail experience are perception of overpushy sales associates and the lack of storytelling.

User journey framework


Selecting a Curated Tour

Once the user enters the store, they will be handed a mobile device with the DWR Selections app pre-installed. Users will be prompted through a quick onboarding to show them how to use the app. Once completed, users canbrowse through various curated tours categorized into three types to help DWR highlight different types of products.

"Best Of the Month" is specifically created by DWR to inform and inspire customers about latest design trends. This allows DWR to prove their reputation as tastemakers and educators of modern furniture.

“Our Top Picks” is curated locally by in-store employees to highlight their personal tastes/style and showcase their knowledge. This affords a dialogue between employees and the customer; users can potentially connect with someone who shares similar taste in design. It also makes it easier for people to approach sales associates for help when needed.

“Exclusive Products” features DWR's continued relationship with the design community where they highlight new and upcoming designer's works to customers. Customers can find new pieces exclusively sold at DWR.

Tour mockups

Navigating In-Store

After selecting a tour of interest, users are guided by a wayfinding map (via iBeacon technology) to make finding these products more accessible. By curating their products, DWR is able to create curated collections of information and products which reduces the paradox of choice (cognitive overhead).

Navigaiton mockups

Product Story

Once the user has arrived at the right area, the curated product's story will popup and provide a narrative that illustrates the design, process, and behind the scenes. Users can save any of the tour products that interest them to their collection.

Product story mockups

Snap an Object

The user may see an object that catches their eye that is not a part of the tour they are on. The camera scanning functionality allows them to quickly find information about the product and save it to their collection.

Photo mockups

End of Tour

At the end of the tour, the user will be prompted to register their email to receive their saved collection. This keeps the consumer within the DWR ecosystem; they can continue their browsing and shopping experience at their leisure at home.

Email mockups

Browse at Your Leisure

Once the user receives the personalized email, they can continue researching and browsing the products that they had saved in-store. They can also create an account to permanently save their bookmarked items. This provides DWR another channel to attract new customers and bring them to their e-commerce website.

Web email mockup

Ending Thoughts

At the end of the project, we went down to Inform Interiors and interviewed the store staff regarding our pitch and solution. Through our discussions with the staff, we reaffirmed our painpoints and frictions that DWR and similar high end furniture businesses face. We realized that the right target audience for our project would be first time customers because it would remove the perception of "aggressive sales" people and encourage people to learn more about good design.

In order to create unique, memorable and personal experiences you have to make emotional connections with people. Through rich storytelling, we are able to engage the consumers in ways that connect the designers to the consumers. Our proposal seamlessly integrates into the existing ecosystem while providing mutual benefit to the company, brand, and customers. We want to redefine the retail experience through a curated approach. I believe that DWR Selections will help regain the brand’s value of authenticity, enabled by our in-store curation experience resulting in a greater appreciation for exceptional design.