Cultivating human connection
Ask Me Bands end-to-end product design and launch
Why do people in the LGBTQ community have a harder time meeting people in real life? Is there an analog solution for the over-reliance on dating apps?
As a product designer who identifies as LGBTQ, I deeply resonate with the problem at hand and wanted to create a non-tech solution for the people in my community.
Research, Ideation, Interaction, Visual Design, Production, Prototyping, Testing.
I sourced a manufacturer for Ask Me wristbands and created an e-commerce site to test out a prototype and validated that it was worth investing in a second, premium-quality production run.
My experiments in the field validated the need for an analog solution.
I spent the first few days of Burning Man struggling to meet other LGBTQ people. By mid-week, I wondered whether this was due to me not signaling my orientation to others.
There is very little cell service at Burning Man and one of the Defining Principles, Immediacy, is a centerpiece of the experience. This meant that people focused on living in the present moment and avoided being distracted by technology whenever possible.
I decided to attach a huge rainbow flag to my bike and also wore a smaller flag on my waist. I noticed immediately that I was connecting with many more people and that conversations started to flow naturally.
How could I re-create this experience in everyday life?
I interviewed 5 people in their 20s and 30s San Francisco’s Castro District who identified as LGBTQ and asked them about their dating habits and how they were meeting people. I jotted down notes on my phone and noticed some key pain points.
Pain point 1: People are unsure of others’ sexual orientations or relationship status.
The only relationship-status signals seen in public are wedding or engagement bands. All five users said that rainbow-themed wearables are available but feel like too obvious a display.
Pain point 2: Many LGBTQ people look and act the same as everyone else.
All five users said that it’s sometimes impossible to tell who is LGBTQ out in real life because many don’t adhere to stereotypical behavior.
Pain point 3: Digital apps have conditioned people to be afraid of rejection.
All five users said they use dating apps because it lessens the blow of rejection, given there’s no immediate face-to-face contact.
These frustrations could be addressed by designing a product with the following attributes:
Relationship status signifier
I considered t-shirts, rings, and necklaces, but decided that a festival-style wristband would work the best in terms of cost and removability.
Validation testing showed that I needed to add a product feature that invited conversation.
After testing my sketches with users, I discovered that they achieved four of the five required attributes. However, they didn’t achieve the intended effect of inviting conversation.
I decided that being very explicit that the wristband itself was meant to invoke curiosity and conversation was the best way to achieve this attribute.
The words, “Ask Me”, became the core feature of the product and brand.
Final shipped product
Live e-commerce website: askmebands.com
Online sales proved there is a need for a product like this.
After launch, customers told me that the product helped them spark conversations and connections that would otherwise not have happened.
Based on the success of the initial product, I’m currently working on a higher-quality version that will have broader appeal outside of the LGBTQ community.