The dotCOMM Awards, a renowned international platform acknowledging achievements in web creativity and digital communication, has crowned its 2023 winners. Among the exceptional talents, Yichen Wang stands out, clinching a Platinum Award for her inventive mobile app, “O’friends”. The app aims to nurture enduring friendships in an ever-evolving, fast-paced environment.
Founded in 1944, the dotCOMM Awards is a global contest that celebrates quality in digital communication. Entries are assessed by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), an established organization in the marketing and communication domain. Entries are judged on quality, creativity, and originality. The 2023 dotCOMM Awards garnered significant participation, with submissions exceeding 2,500 from worldwide professionals across various sectors.
Yichen Wang’s award-winning app design, “O’friends”, introduces a fresh approach to cultivating profound relationships within a world that are predominantly influenced by digital connections. The Genesis of “O’friends” was driven by her passion for unraveling the complexities of loneliness and connection. Dating back to a project she embarked upon, Yichen recognized the significance of initiating connections, especially in times of difficulty. The emergence of the global pandemic further underscored the urgency of the issue. Yichen observed that there are two predominant categories targeting the issue—professional health support and social networking apps. While the former caters to serious and emergent situations, the latter poses a significant barrier to establishing genuine connections due to the inherent costs involved. Yichen realized that the answer lay in rekindling connections with old friends—a novel approach that existing apps had overlooked.
Yichen navigated two key challenges during her research phase. The first was the ambiguous boundary that often surrounds reconnecting with old friends. To tackle this, Yichen proposed a two-fold solution: visualizing and clarifying boundaries. This serves as a foundation for fostering actions that would bring friends closer, such as reminiscing, collecting memories, and revisiting shared experiences.
The second challenge involved overcoming the limitations of online interactions, which often paled in comparison to their offline counterparts. To bridge the gap between online and offline interactions, “O’friends” incorporates guided activities and offline events. Yichen employed a hero page to highlight common interests, initiating conversations based on topics like weather, restaurants, or travel, ultimately culminating in in-person meetups.
Of all the features within the app, Yichen places special significance on the “Visualized Boundary” and “Lounge” components. The former refers to a cosmos-like visualization that indicates friends’ availability, addressing time zone and distance constraints. This novel approach presents statuses, availability, and day-night indicators through interactive bubbles, enhancing the ease of use. Meanwhile, the “Lounge” emulates a 3D space for group chats or room meetings. This personalized space not only promotes interactions but also facilitates memory collection. The process of decorating the virtual room and the act of revisiting memories heightens a sense of companionship.
“O’friends” emerged as a response to the escalating problem of loneliness, particularly among young individuals in the digital age. Yichen’s project aims to bridge the gap between online and offline interactions, leveraging technology to simulate real-life activities. The app encourages young users to transition from virtual to physical meetings through strategic functionalities. Importantly, Yichen also hopes to raise awareness about the plight of adolescent loneliness and empower them to cultivate enduring and wholesome social support networks.
Yichen Wang is a UX/UI designer and an alumnus of Pratt Institute. Her dual expertise in communications and industrial design fuses creativity and problem-solving. She excels in crafting user-centric experiences, infusing game elements and narratives for memorable content. Over the years, Yichen has worked with diverse clients, including Candor, EdCuration, iFlytek. Her contributions to the design community include published papers, Preliminary Research on Design Method of Utilizing Real Interactive Toys for Presenting Stories; and patented design, Clamp Umbrella Stick, Nepenthes Lamp, and a Cork Creative Design.
Yichen emphasizes the significance of understanding user desires and needs from the outset. By aligning with users’ initial aspirations and desires, she believes designers could overcome challenges more effortlessly and uncover unique solutions. This approach aims to prevent preconceived notions from existing market offerings from influencing design judgments. As a result of Yichen’s design philosophy, “O’friends” stands as a testament to the power of innovation, redefining connection and reshaping the landscape of digital relationships, which finally acquired recognition from the dotCOMM Awards.
Beyond her exceptional achievements in app design, Yichen’s artistic talents also extend into the realm of photography. Her captivating visual creations have garnered significant recognition through their prominent presence in distinguished exhibitions and magazines.
Yichen’s artistic flair was prominently featured in the Gallerium Art Prize and Precious, spanning from June to August 2023. These two showcases were curated by Gallerium which brought together a collection of remarkable artists. The platform for this creative convergence was the Biafarin Online Exhibition, an innovative virtual space that transcends geographical boundaries.
In the pages of Artistonish’s May 2023 Issue #34, Yichen’s photographic prowess graced the Magazine’s canvas. Her distinctive vision caught the attention of Discover the Artist, the publisher behind Artistonish, showcasing her work to a broader audience of appreciators and fellow artists alike.
These remarkable accomplishments in photography stand as a testament to Yichen Wang’s extraordinary creative capabilities, her distinctive artistic perspective, and her ability to weave compelling narratives through her lens.
Article by Guest Author: Lena Roxanne