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Designed by Tammy Minhsi.

Umbra is a service that allows you to find all of your personal information available 

on the internet and aggregate it onto one platform. 


Valerie Nunéz

Tammy Minhsi 

Juan Alzaté.


Ethnographic research

Rapid Prototyping

Workshop Facilitator


10 weeks 

from 'city,' 'zen,' 'ship' to umbra

Based on the prompt "city, zen, ship," my team utilized prototyping and co-creation methods to create a new service concept. Through research, we understood the ordinary meanings of the words "city,’ ‘zen,’ and ‘ship," we were able to detach from the ordinary to create Umbra.

We conducted surveys, facilitated workshops and did extensive research overall to tap into the power of compelling narratives and their role in framing design opportunities. Through errors in data collection, in-depth co-creation sessions, and evidence-based decisions, the concept of Umbra emerged.

For a more in-depth look at the project, please refer to the


1. surveys: phase I

In the first phase of the project, 2 surveys were created to understand what the words city, zen, and ship, meant to people. 

The surveys' results were superficial because it was too biased, and the questions did not yield meaningful answers. 


2.1 surveys: phase II

The faults from the first surveys were considered in order to create a more streamlined and meaningful survey.

Each word was looked at individually and the question was framed based on a decisive parameter:

what is the memory basin of the words city, zen, ship

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Transportation   19

People                12

Traffic                  12

Food                    8

Friends                7

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Peace                 23

Calm                   16

Meditation         13

Quiet                  13

Relax                   9

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Boat                    15

Water                  12

Ocean                 11

Sea Animals        9

Package               8

2.2 surveys: word association maps

These are the results for each word, visualized. The size of the circle and the shade of blue depended on the word count. The bigger the circle and deeper the blue, the more frequent that word is.

3.1 narrative workshops

The team facilitated workshops that used the most frequent words of from city, zen and ship, to create stories with different groups of people. This would allow us to create a new memory bank of what people associated with all words combined, by measuring memory retention, distortion, and addition to narratives that were created and told.  Out of several stories created and tested for memory, the final narrative was: 


“I was told that yoga could help me be happy but it didn’t work out, so I took my submarine into the ocean and took pictures of mermaids eating cheeseburgers. I met my friend and got food, but she got into an accident. So I sailed my submarine out of the ocean with her”


3.2 the final narrative as an ad

The final ad became an advertisement, and we asked people what kind of service they thought it advertised. The idea that came up the most was a way to plan your funeral like you plan your wedding. After several ideation workshops with this idea, most people agreed that the concept that intrigued them the most was:

an online service that gathered all information about your life that was available on the internet. 

Image from www.16personalities for the purpose of a quick mock-ad

4. umbra

Umbra is the Latin term for shade, alluding to all the deeply rooted and hidden personal information on the internet.


We understood from city, zen, and ship, that people feel like their personal information is buried in the depths of the *ocean we call the internet. They can't keep track of the overwhelming *traffic of their information so they want to bring *peace to their lives by having control of who they are online. We hope that Umbra will give them peace of mind.

*These words are some of the top words people associated with ship, city, and zen. 

The team asked 20 people "Would you sign up for our service?' and "Why?" or "Why not?" 14 people said that they would sign up. Their comments were used to further iterate and refine the service concept, which became Umbra.

Website was designed by Tammy Minhsi.

This was a collaboration with Natalie Su.

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