Service Design
Information Architecture
Digital Prototyping

Fall 2017

Learn with PNC;
A gamified financial app for teens

Learn is a gamified financial education app that allows parents and children to collectively set purchasing goals and achieve them through a customized, modular curriculum. This project was conceptualized to tackle the financial education gap present in younger generations and empower parents to effectively teach these missing concepts.

This project was completed in partnership with PNC as a client in a service design course in CMU's Human-Computer Interaction department.




Gaining the knowledge and developing the skills to become financially literate is a lifelong process that begins in early childhood. However, most children do not receive a financial education and even less carry that knowledge into adulthood.  


To develop a product empowering parent-child financial education while reinforcing a positive and long relationship with the bank.





The main focus of our research was to gain an understanding of our target audience: teenagers and their parents.

We wanted to start understanding: 

  1. Their understanding of financial concepts
  2. Their mental models of banks and banking
  3. Financial Literacy Education in the family

Initially, my team conducted three branches of research: interviews, competitive analysis, and a survey.




We did one in-person interview with a father and 15 year old son, and several phone interviews. These were semi-structured 30 minute interviews to gain insight into teen and parent needs surrounding financial education.


By the time my team was creating concept ideas, we would return to these sets and more in order to validate design directions and boundaries.



Competitive Analysis

Our team also conducted a competitive analysis study across different banks and applications in financial education. We categorized methods and applications, and broadly described their effective or ineffective uses.




We created a survey in Google forms to continue to probe for needs and pains among teenagers in regards to financial education. We only had four responses, but loosely took their answers into consideration for our next step

Problem Space and Opportunity

Two main problems arose from research.

Teens lacked an understanding of financial concepts.

  • Had limited consequences to decisions.
  • They had limited experiences with financial decisions.

Parents did not know how to teach these concepts.

  • High financial literacy did not necessarily mean effective teaching.
  • Lack of tools and resources.

our stakeholder map, drawing out our focus on the financial value and influences of the people closely surrounding the teen.




Our team developed 6 personas to keep in mind in response the the research- ranging from ineffective teaching for parents and kids to effective teaching.


Prime Opportunity Area


Current and Ideal State

As a goal, these diagrams (in order: current state, to ideal state, and our final state) represent the values we hoped to add through our designs: far more consistent feedback between all the identified stakeholders. 



In order to generate as many ideas as quickly as possible, we met to write design ideas (wild ones encouraged) on sticky notes, which we then clustered into similar themes and design concepts.



After generating 30+ design concepts, we each selected our two favorite concepts to make into storyboards and pitch to each other. After that, we took a vote, and decided to move forward with our top three favorite design ideas.

Validation through Speed Dating

After developing the three concepts, our team presented them to eight participants in speed dating sessions. (4 parent-child pairs, where 3 were in the ineffective group and one was in the effective group.)

We used these results to decide upon a direction for our final design solution: to incorporate concepts from Learning Value and Stacking while utilizing the money game app as a platform for learning.



Final Design


Final Design for App

Finally, our team collectively created and prototyped the final high-fidelity app.
We developed two of our key aspects- how a parent would set up a goal and curriculum, and how a child would proceed through the curriculum.


Parent Side of the app, setting the curriculum up and deciding on the goal.

Child Side of the app, taking the curriculum and building toward their goal.


Service Blueprint

At this stage of the project, my team created a service blueprint to clarify all interactions involving the various stakeholders, and integrations of the PNC service with the app.


Architecture, Wire-framing, and Branding

To build our main prototype, our team detailed out the information architecture and key aspects we would specifically develop for the main pitch. We started with a high-level systems diagram, edit and refined the key wireframes we wanted to call-out, and then proceeded to discuss what branding and design language we all would follow to retain a cohesive design.



Conclusions and Future Considerations

Value for Parents

  1. Teaching Material

  2. Build a savings habit with teens

  3. Conversation Starter with Teen

Value for Teens

  1. Gamification of learning

  2. Acquire a sense of value through purchase

  3. Goal setting

Value for PNC

  1. Positioning as educational expert with parents

  2. Increase trust with customers

  3. Build future consumer base with teens

Future Considerations

  1. Partnership with retailers

  2. Sponsorship of companies/products with in-app modules