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Increasing mask adherence for collegiate football players during COVID-19.

CLIENT Design Research Course, Northwestern University

PROJECT Increasing Mask Adherence in the time of COVID-19

INDUSTRY Design Research

ROLE Led team in research planning, insight development, and framework creation.


Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.


For a graduate class, my team was tasked with the prompt: how might we increase mask adherence in the time of COVID-19. This broad prompt led my team to delve into the design journey from defining the users and stakeholders through creating insights and possible solutions from user research.


After defining our stakeholders as collegiate football players, my team worked on developing a total of three possible solutions varying from a service in which the players receive new masks daily to a unique mask-carrying case that sanitizes that mask as it stores it. All of these solutions are grounded in user-based evidence from a total of three rounds of ethnographic research. 

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The different stages of mask adherence


Research and Synthesis

Our team started by narrowing down what user group we should look into. We decided on athletes because of their unique position of having close contact (within 6 feet) with other people not necessarily in their 'quarantine bubble'. After performing interviews with three different levels of athletes, a high school hockey player, a collegiate football player, and a professional tennis player, we decided to hone in on college football players. This user group was unique because they had access to daily COVID-19 testing and were not required to wear a mask during field practice or games. This unique set of challenges forced us to take a step back and examine what the mask adherence journey looked at. 

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Images from user interviews showing their
current mask storage habits






After performing another round of user interviews, this time with three additional collegiate football players, we were able to form insights from the data collected. We learned:

Since users fear the consequences of forgetting a mask, they placed their masks with items that they already are accustomed to not forgetting (i.e keys, wallet)​

Although users are really trying hard to not get COVID, they do not take the proper precautions to wash or store their masks.​

When choosing a mask, users tend to pick one that is more recognizable in order to not lose it or confuse it with their teammates.​​

Although users know they should only use their mask once, they feel bad throwing it away because it is a waste for just one use.

Design and Iterate

The insights developed informed the creation and iteration of three, viable prototypes that were then shared with the users for additional feedback that then led to iterations.

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Prototype B
Mask changing service

Prototype A
Color-changing reminder

Prototype C
Mask storage case


This project was more about the process than the solution. Through user-look studies, I learned the valuable lesson of not only listening but looking and observing the behaviors of a consumer. These observations informed me and my group of valuable insights that led to our user-focused solutions.

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