I managed a team UX designers to conduct UX Design in order to re-design the website for Save The Water™. 

Designers involved in this project: Gregor Kalfas and Nicolaus Wygonik.

All the deliverables found here were created by me.

The Problem

How might we 

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In a quick brainstorm regarding health issues in the South Los Angeles area, we came out with many questions in order to arrive at a starting point which would put us on the right path as a kickoff for our research. To understand some important aspects of the area we narrowed down those many questions to:


  • What does healthy mean to the community of South L.A.?

  • Do they care about staying healthy?



To answer those questions we performed a few different methods of research such as:

  1. On-location Observation

  2. Guerilla Research

  3. In-person Interviews

  4. Food Journaling


1. On-Location Observation

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On a Sunday morning, Mike and I drove through South LA and noticed that the area had a huge amount of strips malls with lots of fast-food restaurants and each one of them offered a varied number of fried items. 


  • Insight 1: There’s a lack of good, healthy food in the area.


Secondary Research – Digging a little deeper into our research and we discovered that Chains such as Chipotle, Tender Greens and Panera Bread — known for marketing to the health-conscious — are prohibited from opening stand-alone establishments in South Los Angeles. They have been banned by the Los Angeles City Council's ban on new fast-food restaurants. It was supposed to be a temporary solution to straighten things out but until the day of this research, the ban was still in place, making it impossible for people who live in the area to have other options. 


2. Guerrilla Research


To gain more insights, Mike and I visited some groceries store in South LA and practiced a guerilla research. Since it was challenging to get them to hold in a conversation, I offered to bring their bags to their car while I asked them a few questions. Mike took notes as I engaged them to talk, we then learned that:


  • Insight 2: Healthy food choices aren’t the norm, but they know better.


 Generally speaking, people living in South LA not only understand the issue but they are passionate about it. 

However, healthy choices aren’t the norm.


3. In-person Interview

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We also reached out to residents we knew in South L.A. to learn more about their everyday life. To start the conversation we asked:​

- How do you define "being healthy?" Why?

- What part of your life do you think are healthy/unhealthy? Why?


  • Insight 3: Work schedules are barriers for healthy habits.



We learned that many of the residents have two to three jobs and they have no time to invest in a healthy diet because it means they would need to cook every day. Since the area doesn't offer healthy restaurants and they are exhausted after a long day of work, fast-food became the only option. 

4. Food Journaling

UX Prototype - Food Journaling

We offer money on craigslist for people who lived in South LA to keep a food journaling focusing on the following:

  • Keeping track of what they eat throughout the day

  • Recording methods of videos, photos, or written, etc. Any time they eat anything, buy food, sudden thoughts of food or eating, something they wish they had.


  • Insight 4: Looking at a full page of their food habits created a reaction.



  • A participant who works late nights said…

    • ”I'm starting to notice though that I'm not eating enough or at the right times or the right things”

His schedule and the convenience of unhealthy food makes it difficult for him to maintain a healthy diet.


All this researched information needed to be synthesized to uncover the root of the problem. We transferred our information onto sticky notes creating an affinity map and creating the following categories with each of their pros and cons.

  • Perception

  • Attitude & Behaviors 

  • Motivators / Demotivators

  • Culture & Environment 



  • A lot of people know or perceive what “healthy” & “unhealthy” is but don't act on the knowledge because of environment and culture influence strong barriers or influences.

  • Even when they have the info or access to helpful programs to stay healthy, they don’t because it can contradict cultural traditions.

  • People eat more fast food because there are not enough healthy options.


  • Interviewees refrained talking about the negatives or demotivational aspects.

  • Biggest health inhibitors were culture + environment.

  • South LA residents can think positively about habits & perceptions of what healthy is. 


In order to create a connection between our stakeholders and our target audience, we created the persona Ruby to represent the life and habits of the South LA community.

  • Ruby’s been born and raised in the area of South Los Angeles.

  • Today, she’s the mother of two children.

  • Drives all over Los Angeles as a part-time nurse.

  • She cooks for her family because culturally, it’s what she knows.

  • Except she doesn’t have the luxury or even the access to shopping at health stores.

  • She’s limited by the type of groceries she can find in her area.




With gathered research and insights gained, we asked ourselves how might we create a snapshot of what people are eating daily and how might we use their existing knowledge into the realm of their actions?


This led us to the following prototype idea: 

  • Anonymous food journaling - A pure social media network aiming at food journaling content. Some type of Instagram page for the stomach.

Participants would take a look at one healthy and one unhealthy food journaling on social media site and would ask them relevant questions.

  • What were their thoughts and how they felt looking at the two different journaling feeds?

  • Would they think it would be beneficial for them to actively create and keep one?

  • What kind of reflection would they have looking back on their journaling feeds?


How would we spread the word around on food journaling?

  • Creating a flyer that would advertise "Rewards for Food Diary, Sign Up Now!" 




  • We learned that our method of putting up flyers to gather participants wasn’t effective.
    • Survey fatigue has kicked in for the people of South Central
      • but if we were to keep going with this, we’d try other ways to successfully recruit people besides flyers and surveys.

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A cultural shift needs to happen. It can’t just happen on the individual level. It has to happen at all levels:

  • Government support,

  • Businesses,  

  • Community around South LA.


To start the shift we propose a digital food journaling via text or social media platform like Instagram, which could be used as a means of inspiring positive change.

  • It influences people to become aware of and generate a personal relationship with health.

  • For many, it’s a familiar format and photos of your food can make more of an impact on the user than a written list.

  • Ruby, a mother who understands that cooking healthier meals is better for her family, could use digital food journaling as a means to engage with others in her community and support those who are looking for encouragement to make healthier choices.


There’s a lot more work to be done. This project opened our eyes to how big these problems are.


Thanks for reading!