The ATLAS game helps cross-disciplinary teams plan service co-creation projects. The game elements and structure help the teams learn about and go through various dimensions that are essential in planning and conducting of service co-creation projects, for example, purposes of changes, participants, methods to be used, objects of design and so on. While playing the game, the team members can make decisions on each dimension and draw an outline of the project plan. 

ATLAS game was developed in the ATLAS research project in Aalto University in 2012-2014, funded by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation). The game is available online under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. 

Find detailed description on ATLAS game and the process of the game development here


Design Probes refers to a self-documentation method where users observe and reflect on their everyday lives and experiences, followed by documenting them. 

Popular tasks that Design Probes can have are: photography (disposable camera or phone camera), diary writing for daily patterns and emotions (workbook, stickers etc.), open-ended questions (postcards), social mapping (map or workbook), to name a few. 

Designers carefully design tasks and tools of the Design Probes to fit the project aim, package them and deliver them to the users. Design Probes tasks provoke users to think about their life which includes the past, the present and the future, as well as their concerns and values. The users will be able to express these self-observations and reflections through the given tasks and tools. This process allows designers to have an access to users’ subjective interpretations on their lives; areas that designers cannot enter.

Originally developed by Bill Gaver and his colleagues in RCA in late 90s, as Cultural Probes, Design Probes was introduced by Tuuli Mattelmäki, by tuning Cultural Probes to better fit in the context of Human-Centered Design. 

Design Probes is not an off-the-shelf method that has a fixed format, but should be re-designed according to specific contexts of each project. Through this process of making the probes and interacting with users, designers are able to build an empathic understanding of the users. 

We share the examples of Design Probes, designed by NUS DID students in SDL’s past projects, in order to give inspiration to designers and students. 


In our probes, the group included a mix of fun and serious activities for the users to do in their free time over the course of 5 days. These activities included 'Spheres of Influence, Infinite Money and Super-hero Me, amongst others'. Though some activities seemed irrelevant to the users in terms of banking, we were able to get insights from their answers as they revealed a peek into their daily lives, thoughts and dreams. 

Through our design probes, we were able to gather that young working adults as a majority are not investing their savings because of many misconceptions toward investing. Thus, we set out to design a platform to demystify investments for young working adults.

YIPPEE is an app that helps young adults with no prior investment knowledge to navigate their way in this field, in the friendliest way possible. YIPPEE bridges the gap between non-OCBC customers and their existing investment initiatives for young adults (Young Investors Programme), covering investment theory, misconceptions, tips and practical advice.


There were several key objectives for creating the design probes, with future banking and young working adults in mind. These objectives were: Daily Life (habits, activities), Self (values, needs, priorities), Future (expectations, hopes) and Finance (habits, knowledge, plans). Our target group was young working adults, with a focus on exploring differences between short-term and long-term working adults (less or more than 3 years). With these objectives in mind, we set out to create a design probe package for each user.

Our design probe package consisted of one activity book and five daily packets. Each daily packet consisted of several different activities.


To find out what the priorities of young working adults are, the group found interviewees that ranges from undergrads to young working adults with 1-3 years of work experience. Interviewees were tasked to rank their current & future priorities by pasting and naming a variety of stock images that were given to them. They will need to name the images as they represent different meanings according to the individual. 

One key finding is that the current priorities of undergrads were of “self-fulfilment” such as holiday, food and entertainment while their future priorities were centred around family-planning which were similar to the priorities of the young working adults. As one becomes a young working adults, they develop a greater sense of responsibility where it is no longer about themselves and more about family planning. 

To find out why interviewees rank their priorities in a certain way,  further in-depth interviews via the phone were conducted. It is a way to clarify any doubts the group might have and to ensure their findings and conclusions are true. 


RETHINKING THE BANKING EXPERIENCE- The millennial behaves differently from the other generations especially in terms of their needs and demands.  New insights are necessary to generate innovation for the banking industry to maintain and provide better services.

Users were given a set of photos and were tasked to choose a photo and list down how they felt, or what mattered most to them at different stages of their lives. This activity was useful as we uncovered that personal development, family and friends are valuable to this generation. 

Thus, we designed OCBC Grow. A redesigned reward system with a platform that helps young working adults enjoy personal growth towards both professional and lifestyle goals, through trusted partners. In addition, family and friends are integral in this new service. Banking is not just about finances anymore. It is about the complete growth of their customers. Whatever matters to them, matters to us


This design probe aimed to develop a better understanding of the financial habits and goals that young working adults have and also on how they go about achieving them. It was also a way to discover young working adults’s social identity and the financial activities that were associated to it. Unlike traditional design probe, Facebook was used as a platform to attain our findings because social media is a part of every young working adults’ lives. Through the use of this digital probe, significant insights regarding the young working adults’  financial habit were pinpointed.


To dive into the topic “vulnerable children’s everyday experiences’, the student teams created 3D mood boards  at the start of the project. 3D mood boards are used to digest the topic in a very designerly manner: not just with brain and text, but with their hands, body, space and through the construction process.

Through the collaborative construction of the 3D mood board, students were able to exercise empathy, while learning to build rapport with the children- by recalling their own childhood memories and articulate their initial thoughts to team members. 

Here we share the examples of 3D mood boards designed by NUS DID students in SDL’s past projects, in order to give inspiration to fellow designers and students. 

CHILDHOOD 童年 tong nian

The theme of our moodboard is ‘childhood’. We recreated a void deck, an area that provided an open space for kids to play with their friends and buy snacks from mama shops with their pocket money. The inside of the “void deck” was filled with nostalgic toys and snacks, which contributed to our idyllic childhood.

In contrast, the kids from the centre, due to circumstances not of their fault, may have a very different experience from us. Nevertheless, we hope that through our design, they, like us, would have a childhood that they fondly look back at when they grow up.

Mood board by: Poh Yunru, Natalie Tan & Ng Zi Ning


Remember building a fort in your bedroom, imagining dragons that we have defeated and playing pretend?

We did! So we chose to build a fort because we wanted to create an immersive experiential 3D moodboard that allows users to relive their childhood as they crawled through the fortress’s entrance, reminiscing the times when they too, build a tent/fort/house to play in and escape to. The fort, hence, represents childhood and the freedom and space to imagine. Even during the process of building, we wanted to remain faithful to the improvisation that a child will go through in the name of fun and imagination, so we used items found in studio and in our bedrooms. Besides toys and memories from our childhood, we also DIY-ed items like cup telephone, musical instruments and origami to convey the idea of resourcefulness. We want to remind the children to make use of their limitations even if they have lesser resources than others. The fort also reflects the state of Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre BASIC, as it is a place that these children from vulnerable families may treat as an escapade. We also drew with crayons significant scenes from our site visit to the centre and paste it around the fort.

Mood board by: Mathilde Gaucher, Yong Zi Fong & Hansel Wong


This moodboard is inspired by our fond memories of childhood, and the our interpretation of the values which FSC wants to nurture in Punggol Place 206A. These values include 'a sense of ownership', 'imagination', 'space (for play)' and 'aspirations', and are represented through a series of photographs and illustrations. The moodboard takes the shape of a carousel, with multiple tiers sculpting out a dynamic pictorial landscape of childhood.

We chose to cover the carousel with a facade of the HDB void deck setting with cut-out holes for the viewer to peer through. This was inspired from a zoetrope, and the sense of wonder and discovery that the viewer feels as he peers through the slits of the exterior facade. We feel that this tone of discovery, wonder, and dynamism has been central our childhood, and perhaps we could use it to ground our design interventions for 206A.

Mood board by: Ng Tse Pei, Maggie Seah & Felicia Koh


The white facade, that masked the untold stories, portrays the pure image of a child. Each half represents the extreme good or bad conditions that a child might experience, from having to play with their favourite game to not be able to have a complete meal. The head, ear, body and feet constitute of a child mindset and what a child would longed for, hope for, feel for, hear, touch and places they hope to go respectively. A new story unfolds as the items in the respective body parts of the child tell its story.

Mood board by: Milly Tan, Han Yuen Wei & Kelvin Siew


This 'Letter Box' mood board aims to visualize the environment of children from vulnerable families by categorizing the various aspects of their childhood. 

C: Children's Childhood - Imagery of children's favorites (e.g. toys, daily activities, hobbies), books as well as childhood snacks.

F: Facts - A brief introduction to the project, supported by a visit to the rental flat and information from desk research regarding the scope of the project. 

A: Assumptions - That the team wished to prove throughout the project. 

Mood board by: Yang XinHui, Jacelyn Lau, Nghiem Si Phuoc & Melissa Shi


Behind Closed Doors
Through this, we hope to better understand what are the needs of children and the resources available. Behind each door, we have identified some of the major problems faced by the children of vulnerable families in Singapore society. On the doors are the various solutions and initiatives by government and non-government organisations. With this knowledge, we gain insights on design opportunities.

Inside Out
“Adults are just outdated children.” - Dr Seuss
Empathy is crucial in design. To design for children, the best way for us to empathise is to reminisce and relive our childhood days, to understand what may or may not work for the children. This box is inspired by the cartoon, “Inside Out”. We associated objects with different emotions, and segmented each emotion into a “room”.

Mood board by: Grace Ng, Chan Shi Ming & Sheryl Teng


The 3D moodboard takes the form of a pyramid, which was inspired by Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a motivational theory in psychology that describes the five basic human motivations and acts as a reminder to guide our research in uncovering the essential needs of the stakeholders involved. The sides of the pyramid represents the 3 stakeholders involved, namely AMKFSC, the children and the parents from vulnerable families. On the outside, pictures are displayed to demonstrate society's perception of the stakeholders with a variation in vibrancy and context to describe the general sentiment relating to the individual stakeholder. As the pyramid unfolds, the individual sides contain keywords from our research that are specific to the stakeholders and their situations. Lastly, an apple is positioned in the core of the pyramid to symbolise the project focus of developing the children's potential for personal growth.

Moodboard by: Magdalene Huang, Winky Chan & Jonathan Tsang


’C/O Cards’ are used to identify and map challenges and opportunities when adopting design in the public sector. Keywords on the cards represent recurring challenges and opportunities which are collected through empirical studies and literature reviews. By browsing through the cards, participants will be able to find keywords relatable to their own experiences and opinions. 


An example of using C/O cards: 

Step 1. Mapping Challenges: “What challenges do you face?” 

Participants browse the ‘Challenge’ cards individually. 
They write down personal experiences or worries related to the keywords on the cards. 
By taking turns, participants share their stories with other members and place the cards on the table. 
When placing the cards, cards are placed close to the ones that have related keywords. 
Build a ‘challenge map’ on the table

Step 2. Mapping Opportunities: “What opportunities are there to overcome the challenges?” 
Participants browse the ‘Opportunity’ cards individually by thinking what opportunity could deal with the challenges identified in Step 1. 
Discuss what can be opportunities to deal with the identified challenges and what actions need to be done.  
Place the Opportunity cards around the Challenge cards.


“A nudge is any aspect of choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way, without forbidding any options or significantly changing their incentives.” - Thaler & Sunstein, (2008) ‘Nudge’

The idea of a ‘nudge’ was first introduced as a behavioral economic concept by Thaler and Sunstein in their book ‘Nudge’, detailing how small but deliberate changes can influence decision-making in a significant way.

“A prime is a type of nudge, that uses subtle influence to increase the ease with which certain information comes to mind.” With the use of a prime, a designer can subtly alter a person’s behaviour through eliciting rationality that enables one to achieve long term positive outcomes, without having to implement significant changes.

For our project, we collaborated with the Design Incubation Centre to conduct a Nudge Workshop for 18 design students. With the introduction of priming strategies, we wanted to demonstrate how a small but relevant design solution can have a significant impact. Prior to the workshop, students were tasked to identify several problem areas in their own projects. During the workshop, students were then asked to consolidate their findings into Problem Statements according the following structure:



(why is this a problem)

and need a way to

(do/achieve something).

This provided a guide for the students to dig deep, compelling them to pinpoint the root cause of the problem they just described. Through identifying the root cause of a problem, students were then able to define key opportunity areas that they can work on. These opportunities are translated into ‘How might we?’ statements, detailing the design opportunities for the project.

A deck of priming strategy cards, designed and developed by Design Incubation Centre, was introduced as a tool to induce the Priming Effect in real-world scenarios. Each card offers an actionable strategy as well as questions that provoke deeper thoughts. Designers can make use of priming strategies as enablers to come up with design inspiration and solutions.

Students were encouraged to find priming strategy cards that were relevant for their ‘How might we?’ statements and place them on the worksheets provided. As the priming strategy cards serve only as a prompt, the rewriting of the strategies for a more contextualized approach was encouraged. Coupling the ‘How might we?’ statements with priming strategy cards enabled students to discover new and relevant areas for ideation. 

We share the examples of the Priming Strategy Toolkit to give inspiration to designers and students. 


Credits to Design Incubation Centre. 
Learn more about the Priming Strategy Toolkit here: 


Empathy is essential to the design process. It helps us see the world through the eyes of the people we are designing for, to understand their reality and uncover their latent needs. But how do we empathise with our users when we are not physically immersed in their life context? That’s where empathy workshops can come in. We conducted one using role-playing with the students of our Human Centred Design module to get them immersed in the challenges faced by elderly residents in nursing homes. Students were given a short introduction and provided a set of personas and scenarios. Using props to set the scene and get into character, students reenacted the scenarios, embodying the elderly resident’s experiences.

This process allows them to empathise with and internalise the challenges elderly residents go through in an interactive, tactile manner. Students then concretised their findings by mapping what each relevant persona sees, hears, says/does and thinks/feels onto an empathy map. This process helps to facilitate reflection and discussion for synthesising user needs.

After understanding the elderly residents through role-play, students brainstormed solutions for the challenges identified. Chosen solutions are integrated into their role-play using quick-and-dirty mockups, allowing students to put their ideas into context and gain an initial understanding of how well the solution would fit the users needs.