Winning Orlando’s Adobe Creative Jam
Toned helps people who are either too optimistic or too pessimistic to see the other side of things they write more clearly. You start by either pasting, scanning or writing text that you want to work on, and then Toned uses natural language processing to identify words and phrases in your text that are slanted either happy or sad, and helps you change them to the ideal tone.
An Adobe Creative Jam is an event series in which hand picked local creative talent test their creative chops using only Adobe XD. With a focus on UX, teams of 2 are given a theme and just 3 hours to come up with a concept, design, and prototype while the rest of the attendees listen to a series of inspiring talks. As soon as the 3 hours are up, teams head to the stage, present their work and then wait anxiously as the panel of judges and audience deliberate and choose a winner.
I was asked to be in the Orlando Creative Jam just a few days prior, which also happened to be just two weeks after I moved to Orlando. Since I hadn’t yet met any fellow designers in the area, but wanted to take advantage of the networking opportunity - I decided to take on the challenge and compete solo. I arrived at the venue, found a comfy spot to work, and downloaded Adobe XD while I waited for the moderator to call us in. A few minutes later, I was in a room with all the other teams listening to the rules, requirements, deliverables, and finally the prompt: The Other Side. With no other explanation and 3 hours on the clock, I was back off to my little corner to start working.
Brainstorming & Defining the Problem
I spend the first 45 minutes brainstorming ideas. I wanted something that would fit the prompt, be appropriate for a competition where I was hoping to network and meet potential new employers and something that I could actually really use in my life. I started with a 10 minute sticky note exercise, writing as many words/topics as I could think of that related to ‘the other side’. It was just before Halloween, so a lot of my first thoughts were about communicating beyond the grave & controversial halloween costumes then moved to politics, why the chicken crossed the road, being able to see what’s on the other side of the earth or through a mountain. I eventually landed on an idea that came from a recent discussion at a meetup about our experiences being women in tech and the fine lines between being overly apologetic, too straight-forward, not straight-forward enough, or coming off as ‘bossy’. It's something a lot of people face on a daily basis but is a problem that is sometimes hard to see on your own. My mission was to create a solution for users who need help understanding how the world perceives their words and change those words to a more ideal tone to improve their overall communication skills.
I had a vision of what I wanted to make but before jumping into design, I wanted to see what already existed in the space, if any. I found that most comparable solutions (Rewordify, Hemingway Editor, and Grammarly) were focused on either paraphrasing, fixing grammar, or rewording sentences to make you sound smarter. Grammarly was the closest solution I found to the problem I wanted to solve, just with options for fixing grammar instead of emotion and tone. Grammarly is a chrome extension and it’s actually a lot closer to how I was originally envisioning my solution working, but a competition requirement was to make an iphone app.
I spent the first 30 minutes of the second hour to quickly start sketching out different ways the app could work and what those screens would look like. I knew I wanted the app to allow users to enter their text in multiple ways, to clearly show the emotion of key words and phrases within the text, and easily allow the user to tone those words to the level that they feel is most appropriate. After a few rounds of sketching, thinking, and sketching again - I landed on giving users two different ways to go about toning their text. They can either click on a highlighted word or phrase to see a dropdown of suggested replacements, or they can use a slider to change the ideal emotion level and have Toned automatically rephrase the text for them.
Designing & Prototyping
I started the final design phase by creating wireframes from the screens I sketched out and connecting them into a functional prototype. This process took me longer than it normally would have, but as to be expected when you’re using a new program for the first time, but luckily Adobe had just launched their ‘Auto-Animate’ feature so it was pretty simple once I got the hang of it. I wanted to make sure I had something to present before I took it higher fidelity and added visual design into it. I wanted the app to be simple and clean, but also approachable and colorful so users could easily interpret what kind of tone the text was giving off. I decided on colors, fonts, buttons, and branding and added them into the prototype simply by updating the symbols I created the wireframes with.
I spent the last 30 minutes of the competition to think through what I was going to say when I presented and giving myself room for any last minute changes. Then it was time to drink a beer and go up on stage to present. There were 8 teams, so we were each only given a few minutes to clearly explain to the audience what we had come up with. When it was my turn, I walked the audience through my prototype and a quick explanation and then it was time for the judges to deliberate.
Here’s a sample sentence of someone at work who is frustrated and sad. They input this text into toned, which identifies the positives and negatives in the text. The user can click and hold on and individual word to customize what is going in its place or let toned automatically change the text by sliding left or right. When you’re happy with your toned text, simply click “done” and copy the text to your keyboard.
Toned would be useful to people who might be pessimistic or negative, but also to people who are too kind hearted and wish to be more assertive. It lets you find the perfect balance by showing you the other side. I think that this app would make the world a slightly better place by providing a way to objectively understand the tone of your text.
After what felt like an eternity, I was over-delighted when they announced that I had won 1st place by a unanimous judges vote! I also snagged a 2nd place spot in the people’s choice from the audience vote. I won a year subscription to Adobe and two pretty cool trophies.