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Design Workshop Thesis

Research, Web Design, Front-end Development, Design Thinking

8 Months

Shital Desai

Tools Used
Miro, Google Forms, Google Sheets, Figma, Bootstrap 4, Brackets, Adobe Premiere Pro

“Our current problems are the direct consequences of earlier solutions. These problems must now provoke us to generate new solutions at a higher order of complexity: that’s the optimistic part. And our next solutions will produce a whole new class of problems.”

Bruce Mau, MC24 (pp.77)


The Call to Action

The pandemic has caused a disruption across the world, never before has the world been so connected and disconnected at the same time. Different cultures, ethnicities, races, genders, etc. All have something very similar in common now, surviving the pandemic. This pandemic was a call to action for new design solutions. This disruption allows us to see problems we didn’t know existed. Whether these solutions are directly related to the pandemic or not it’s an opportunity to improve the current solutions. "It’s our responsibility as designers to recreate and redesign the world for sustainability" (Bruce Mau, pp.63).

Covid-19 & Intimacy

We are social beings we require conversation we require touch and we require intimacy with each other. That was pulled to a halt all of a sudden because of covid-19. The idea of temporariness is the only thing getting us through this uncertain times. We say okay yea I’ll avoid people under the impression that it will only be for a little bit. After being in quarantine for so long, it feels wrong to see and hug your friends, going on dates feels criminal. Whats the point of going out and meeting someone new if all you can do now is Facetime and have socially distanced dates? Intimacy as we used to know it feels forbidden and guilty, even as things improve.


Mind Map


Literary Review (Click Here)

From my literary review I looked into several sources that talk about how school institutions have adapted their learning methods for a remote landscape. I also looked into several sources that talk about how students mental health has been impacted due to the pandemic. One of the study's finds that the increase in screen time and decrease in time outside has a direct link to depressive symptoms.

The Demographic

Post-Secondary Students

From study sessions in the library with your friends to breakout rooms over Zoom. Student life has drastically changed overnight. The social aspect of university is a vital part of the university experience. It’s what makes it actually tolerable. The school scene has changed to fully online. Students are expected to adapt to a new system of schooling overnight and still maintain the same grade point average. Studying and learning strategies that have been personally adapted and mastered over years of schooling now have to be changed and adapted to a whole new climate.

And along came my research question....

How to facilitate social intimacy in remote post-secondary students?

The Research Question

How to facilitate social intimacy in remote post-secondary students?

The research question is looking for ways to bring back the intimacy in remote and online learning, so it’s important to find out where its first lacking in the current environment. From there I can look into possible solutions and ways to improve the intimacy and hopefully answer my question. By conducting semi structured interviews I hope to get more emotional and personal answers that can help me understand what is working and not working for current students. I will then look for themes and patterns and potentially use that for my final solution. It will be good to get a diverse amount of people of different ages and different universities to hopefully find the best solution.

Data collection and discovery methods

Survey (Click Here)

Screening survey to get quantitative data. Will have consent attached to it. Will ask questions like age, gender, year status, current living conditions, what their biggest change during the pandemic has been, and how school is going for them etc.

Semi-Structured interview (Click Here)

Open discussions with students to evoke follow up and more in depth questions. This will be recorded, and I will be reading off a list of questions.

The Participants

Students from York University and other schools. I am looking for around 10-50 participants between screening serveys and semi-structured interviews.

Data Recording

I will be recording the survey data on google forms, this data will be automaticlaly added to a google sheet. I will be keeping track of the semi structured interviews answers by outlining them in a google sheet. This way I can record the correct answers to the correct questions. I will also be recording the videos so I will be able to reference back to notes that I may have initially missed and to keep track of facial expressions throughout the interviews.

PACT Analysis


Post-secondary students are considered in this study. Since the pandemic majority of the institution have moved to online/remote learning. This means that a lot of students are now working and attending class from home. 63% of the students from my studies have had their living situations changed due to the pandemic. These living situations range from living with family 56% to living with housemates 43%. 53% have reported that they do most of their studying/school work in their bedrooms. All of the students reported that their mental health has gotten worse since the pandemic. Majority of my participants reported that they're either in their 4th year 37%, and 3rd year 25% of study. The 12 participants that mentioned that their living situation have changed since the pandemic, 8 of them reported that they have moved back home to family. This can be tough for a student who has already moved out and is used to being on their own and having their independence.


The overall purpose is to complete school and studies online, in a pandemic. This is done mostly with class management websites and Zoom lectures. This year is very different for a lot of students now that it is all remote. For decades students around the world have learned and gotten used to a system of learning and classroom etiquette that now is all different. I asked my participants to rate on a scale of 1 - 5 how they thought their remote learning was going so far, 1 being not a fan and 5 being a fan of it. 33% said 1, 29% said 2, 25% said 3, and 11% said 4, with 5 having 0%. 48% mentioned that lack of intimacy whether that be from friends or professors etc. has greatly impacted their studies. 33% mentioned that they have had significant lack of motivation in remote schooling.


School this year is all taking place indoors, in students homes. The fact of the mater is because of the pandemic most places are shut down or restricted so regularly in a remote school setting students would be able to go study in the libraries or at coffee shops. Now in a pandemic students are really forced and expected to do their studying and schooling indoors. A lot of students don't have the option to study elsewhere other than their bedrooms 53%. Students have mention that this is tough because in the same space that they live and want to relax in, they have to also be productive in. For years students have trained themselves through schooling that learning happens in the classroom, now it all happens in the space they need to relax. This causes strain in that it's hard to turn off their brain and focus on the next activity. Their brain continues to run and stress about school because there is not much else they can or do/ look forward to do.


Most if not all institutions have adapted their methods of learning to an all online environment. These include blackboard websites that allows for class management for both students and professors. Zoom has become a popular method of online live lectures, due to its ease of use and the amount of participants it allows on calls. This technology has allowed institutions and students to be able to still complete their studies during a pandemic. However it may have solved a couple problems in regards to how student can manage classes, hand in projects, and attend live lectures but its missing that level of social intimacy that one gets from going to class and campus. Interacting with friends and classmates is very important as it turns out to the university experience. 48% reported that they have had a negative school expire due to this lack of social intimacy.


63% of students have had their living situation changed due to the pandemic
56% live at home with family
43% live with housemates
53% do most of their studying in there bedrooms
48% had a negative experience due to a lack fo social intimacy

User Persona Data

Living situations changed since the pandemic

Current Living Conditions

School Institutions


Affinity Diagram

Design Problems

To scope out the various design concerns that I was looking to address in my design problem statement, I used a Miro Board affinity diagram. I scrubbed through the survey's lengthy responses, and I rounded up every problem I've found. Then I grouped them together and created categories, from these categories I found clusters even further which made up 13 design problems shown below.

Data Synthesis


The pandemic has challenged several friendships. Students have indicated that they feel very isolated and alone, lacking their friends and teachers' interactions. Since the pandemic, several have claimed that their partnerships are on the rocks. Social circles have been greatly diminished and many partnerships have been impaired by the lack of intimacy of simply seeing them or hanging out with them. There are numerous different kinds of friendships and partnerships, some of which involve more personal conduct than others. So, depending on what sort of interactions individuals have with each other will depend as to whether or not their relationship can survive the pandemic. Having friends or peers in post-secondary school there was a certainty that they would be able to see each other every week because of the schedule of classes, from there they could study after class or hangout or go to the bar etc.


Since the pandemic many of my participants indicated that their relationships have turned to a relationship of a long distance kind. This is because a lot of student relationships are a product of school. These delicate ties, which they have grown used to staying close to their significant others are damaged as these students head home. To keep it afloat through the pandemic, many are forced to move to a long distance relationship. Some personalities are more suited than others for long distances, but those that aren't reported that their break-up was triggered by the pandemic. The long distance has already thrown delicate relationships off the brink. The tension of the pandemic and evolving mental health issues are both influences that play into relationships, as these current stresses produce problems that can seep into their relationships.


Dating has become an enormous challenge since the pandemic. It's daunting to go out and meet people. Dating applications like Tinder or Bumble can help introduce individuals, but the motivation for most is smothered with the possibility of not actually meeting them. The pandemic has made dating even more complicated for some people who already have an initial fear of intimacy, both physically and mentally. Nevertheless the pandemic has changed the way partnerships usually develop. Many people are having longer conversations on the phone and as a result, delve into more intimate and deeper conversations than they normally would have had held off for a couple of months.


Communication between people has been dramatically affected by the pandemic. Many participants mentioned that they have found it's difficult to communicate their thoughts or feelings over the phone. In how individuals react to one another, body language can play a significant role. It can be a difficult job for many to communicate how one thinks, as well as read certain signals through text or the phone.
Text messaging alone can carry a certain tone that is not intended. So, since it is harder to interpret the tone and meaning, people are more sensitive to receiving messages. Increased screen time has been found to cause fatigue among individuals, and more than ever, students max out their average screen time for both school and social life. Making it tougher and less motivating for friends to maintain contact.


The experiences happening in the pandemic have changed dramatically, both in person and online. Individuals are more mindful of who they speak to and who they touch. An embrace turns into a nod of the head or a bump of the hand. It wasn't until the pandemic that we realized we have taken these intimate interactions for granted.

Lack of Motivation

Some of the students feel as if their experience this year isn't as engaging or personal, and that's why there's a lack of motivation. There's not much interest in it and they feel less productive. They note that classes sound more optional than ever before and they forget deadlines.


53% of the participants do all or most of their work in their bedrooms and do not have a designated area to work in. This is challenging for many individuals as they are accustomed to having distinct buildings and environments for specific activities. The gym is for exercise, the kitchen is for cooking and eating, the bedroom is for sex and sleep, and learning in the classroom, etc. Students need to merge all of these environments into one now. Their space for relaxation and tranquilly is now also their place of work. This presents a challenge because everything is now happening in the same room, so it's difficult to change mindsets. In a pre-pandemic the switching of mindsets would come along naturally when switching from class to class or from building to building. Students now have to force that change in order to switch task and stay productive. The act of walking form one class to another is transitioning the mind to be done with the first task and to get prepared for the next. Commuting from home to campus allows you time to think about class and get in that headspace before you actually enter so by the time you do you are ready to learn. This tool of transitioning is lost when you transition from your bed to your desk which could be two feet away.

Staying indoors all day is exhausting and puts stress on the mind and body, it has been proven that fresh air and exercise is important for ones mental health. With that most students are getting no outside stimulation and that stimulation is actually important, in order to have a healthy and productive day. Students miss going to places and doing activities. Doing something other than studying and sitting at home gives people purpose, and without it, school is rather demotivating.

Unhealthy Habits

My participants mentioned that they aren't sleeping properly, not eating healthy, not exercising and not going outside. The pandemic came all at once it was a very sudden event. When things happen very suddenly things and changes need to happen fast. Students need to adapt to this new form of education, and adaptation takes over one's own wellbeing more often than not. Students are more focused on their studies than on their own wellbeing this year. They reported that their workloads are just too large for them to balance both school and their well-being.

Working 24/7

Many students have mentioned that they feel like they are working 24/7, and when they aren't doing work they feel guilty for it. When schools went remote a lot of things changed, one of the biggest things being a lack of commute and lack of things to do other than school. So because students have this extra spare time to spend they use it on their assignments. This isn’t necessarily healthy because the body and the brain need rest and stimulation from different things. There was a break from daily work, a moment to transition between different head-spaces in face-to-face learning while traveling from class to class. It also stimulated other areas of the brain, such as enjoying your mates or going out on pub nights, meaning you can take a break from the workload which is something that students this year are suffering from. It's a part of the college experience that they miss out on. This part of college is what balances the school tension out and makes it tolerable and feasible.

Increased screen time

More than ever, people are stuck to their smartphones, and now less than ever, people have time away from their phones. Since most of their learning and and now the rest of their social life is on their computers. If they need to limit their screen time, there is a fair possibility that they will reduce their level of social interaction instead. It's like fulfilling one desire you need to frustrate the other.

Lack of structure

This year, students felt unstructured and their thoughts are all over the place, they don't know what to concentrate on. Their habits and practises have shifted abruptly over the years, and they need to build new ones. While at the same time performing the most important and emotionally taxing schooling they have to date while preserving their social wellbeing from inside of their home.

Lack of positive distractions

There are such things as negative and positive distractions. Positive distractions are things that distract people for a short period of time. Negative distractions attract focus and trap it in place. A positive diversion can take place in a coffee shop or a library to watch people walk in and out and go on their day. This attracts enough attention to stimulate senses, but not enough to deem them unproductive. It's hard to always engage fully in your job with minimal distractions. But positive ones are fine, if you don't have positive ones, you'll probably be tempted to use negative distractions. Now that's different for everybody, so it might be anything like starting a Netflix show and then getting locked in and bingeing a series. You needed some kind of escape from your work so you switched on the TV to do that but it held your focus longer than you could afford.

Teaching themselves the content

Many students feel like they teach the material themselves. Online learning is significantly more autonomous and requires more discipline than face-to-face learning. This year seems to be more about just getting through the year than really enjoying or retaining knowledge.

And along came my design problem....

Remote post-secondary students need strategies to help maintain healthy practices and socialization in a pandemic.




The platform

A routine-based scheduling platform designed to provide you and your friends with safe and enjoyable events.

A web based platform that links to your inbox to deliver personal online activites.

The reason

Students in the pandemic lack routines; prior to the pandemic, students could rely on being able to see and hang out with their friends during and after class. Students are experiencing a lack of intimacy and social interaction in the absence of this. It takes a lot of planning for students to safely see or talk to their friends, and it's usually just a FaceTime call or a walk in the park. Routinie's mission is to relieve you of the burden of coordinating schedules with your friends and to provide you with fun, memorable experiences on a regular basis.

How it works

1. Block off your schedule

2. Friends will block off theirs

3. Choose your prefered activities

4. Receive your activity card in your inbox