The UX of Memory (2/2) — UX Studio Practices

Previous article: The UX of Memory (1/2) — UX Studio Practices

Designers: Maria Carolina Seves Santos, Damul Yang, Qendresa Selimi, Sebastian Ervi

Last week, our team defined that the music listening experience has become more and more personal, but that music memories are often linked with togetherness. How could we experience music together again? We needed to narrow down our work and define the essence of what we want potential users to experience.

Narrowing down our design research

What interested me personally is music’s capability to evoke memories that can retrieve strongly linked emotions (Jäncke, 2008). This has led to music-based treatments being developed to help alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia (Kish, 2018). It became clearer that we wanted to design an experience that retrieved memories and emotions linked to a song.

Defining ideas

I wanted to try listing different past popular songs chosen by our class, and let them express triggered memories while listening to a song from that list. Users would draw their memories in circles metaphorically symbolising a model of the networks of many synapses that represent our memory (Langille et al., 2018).

Quick storyboard created to analyse the user journey of the experience.

Damul also thought about externalising the memory of a place by creating a song from different elements present at that place at a determined timeframe.

To decide which idea to develop, we tested both concepts to compare the results. I sent a form to the class and created a list from the songs we got. I also prepared a testing plan and the representation model.

Testing plan, list and representation model used for the user testing.


The results of the memory-triggering test session were surprisingly good. The three participants didn’t have difficulties selecting a song nor filling the whole paper with drawings. Two of the three said that they could have drawn more. We also learnt that the format of the model was a bit too guided and restrictive.

“I went back to my childhood all over again. The more I think of it, the more I remember.” Tatiana (MA UX — Group 1)

Screenshot from the remote testing session.

Damul, on the other hand, tested the “memory of a place” concept on two participants. The lack of relatable personal experiences left room for improvement, but the users liked the idea of having a board to contribute together. With only 2 days left, we decided to carry on with the first concept.

Iteration of the prototype

The representation model was improved to allow users more freedom when expressing their memories.

QR code and improved representation model used on the final prototype.

A discussion with our course leader John Fass led to try to make the experience richer. We consequently added another step to externalise the intersection between personal and cultural memory of recorded music (van Dijck, 2006). We imagined a board where the users could share their memories and represent relations between the drawings. We also improved the selection experience by creating an interface prototype. Memories being more deeply and successfully recalled while listening to the song rather than reading its title (Jäncke, 2008), letting users select a song based on an extract was important.

Mood board and colour palette for the experience. Images from Unsplash.

To add an even deeper level to the experience, I imagined how the experience would be presented at an exhibition. I envisioned a QR code that people would scan to access instructions and the list of songs. I also got the idea of creating a metaphor of a time travel and a time capsule. I prepared a quick mood board and colour palette representing the universe we wanted to communicate.

Interface prototype used during the experience. Created by Qendresa Selimi.

Final prototype

The time was over! We presented our concept and let people experience the prototype.

Our classmates trying our prototype.
  • The memory retrieval didn’t seem to work as well as during our test session. Most of the papers were not completely filled. We think that this was caused by the conditions and the environment of the experience. We believe that our classmates didn’t have proper time and space to focus on the song, their memories and thus on drawing them.
  • A lack of presentation time made us rush the collective part.
  • The users enjoyed how we externalised the link between personal and collective memories.

What I learnt

The designed experience had a good concept but lacked the richness that we intended. I particularly noted that having different conditions and environments when testing an experience can produce misleading testing results. This also shows limitations of remote testing. How could we remotely mimic an experience’s environment?

Our final board.




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Sebastian Ervi

Sebastian Ervi

MA User Experience Design - University of the Arts London