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Case Study: Kunfer Travel


Concept Development
Client Collaboration

Stylistic Explorations

Shared Vision Workshop
Brand Style Guide

Usability Testing

Design Solutions
Project Reception

Final Postmortem

User Research
Competitive Analysis

Persona Development


During and directly following the client kickoff and stakeholder interview process, it became clear that additional research was needed to understand Kunfer’s targeted end user.


The scope of the intended work,
an ambiguously defined booking portal, lacked clarity.

Frequent updates would be necessary to ensure that our deliverables met client vision and expectation.

While Kunfer graciously furnished a small sample of interview participants, it quickly became clear that few, if any, would meet our basic criteria for contextual inquiry.

We had hoped to quickly gather ethnographic data while interviewing these professionals in their workplace environs.


However, after a series of phone calls revealed the participants' actual employers, salaries, and occupations, we had no choice but to trash the supplied list and begin again.

We quickly pivoted to snowball recruiting efforts, disseminating a screener survey through our own professional networks,

and ultimately sending off our research lead to interview co-workers at her previous place of employment.




Approximate number of surveyed workers that report booking through third party sites.


Approximate number of surveyed workers that report booking using a mobile device.

User data led us to five core insights, bolstering our collective understanding of the business travel demographic. 


Professionals were significantly more likely to book travel through a desktop computer as compared to a mobile device (phone or tablet).


Professionals exhibited significantly more brand loyalty when engaged with a rewards program that granted points or perks with membership.


Professionals required cleanliness, preferred updated decor, and indicated that they’d pay more for quality accommodations.


Professionals considered price the bottom line when renting or booking ground transit. If flying, direct connections were highly preferred.


Most professionals used aggregate sites, but almost exclusively as reference tools, preferring to book direct for reasons relating to price, brand, or perks.


I began my design explorations with a sizable investigation of competitor apps and services.


Looking at 15 rival platforms, I evaluated each on brand and aesthetic concerns including tone, language, imagery, typography, color scheme, visual metaphor, interface design, and overarching identity.

I captured the preferences and expectations of the business traveler:


  • What colors and layouts did they find appealing?

  • What messages did they interpret in the imagery and visuals?

  • Through what methods had they become accustomed to communicating with a database?

Meanwhile, my collaborators gathered their own data. Our research lead tackled user interviews, while our interaction designer evaluated the biggest players in terms of ease of use, time to checkout, playfulness of interface, and auxillary features. 

My assessment ultimately proved useful, as many of the findings below came to inform visual design in later stages. 


Tonal blues proved ubiquitous, and were often paired with a warm accent, a shade of green, or both. Brown, black and purple hues appeared rarely.


Modern, yet overwhelmingly nondescript san-serif families appeared to be the norm. Slab display and serif typefaces barely saw use.


Copy was deployed sparsely in most contexts, and was often inorganic or corporate in tone. Data was sometimes translated into conversational English, but with mixed results.


Omnipresent plane and flight motifs dominated brand marks. Visual imagery employed much of the same, but also included some aspirational shots and landscapes.

These efforts provided an abundance of fresh directions for visual and brand development, fueling the imagination and providing a frictionless transition into subsequent explorations.


But research also illuminated core problem areas - including the number of established competitors fighting over the same demographics.

Evaluating against so many promising rivals also highlighted the importance of Kunfer's core differentiators, including the members-only subscription model, curated booking portal, and wholesale pricing model.


I assisted the team in building out personas with our newly synthesized interview data.


Given the scope of the project and the resources available to us, we focused our efforts by diminishing the role of a secondary persona that would’ve used the platform in an administrative role.




Maggie -- our primary persona -- is a project manager at Yesler, a growing B2B marketing firm based out of Seattle. She travels with her boss to Los Angeles at least once per month, allowing her to get valuable face time with one of the firm's most valuable clients.

Outside of work, Maggie enjoys exploring new music and fashions, spending time with friends and family, and excising daily in order to "stay sharp." Early morning crew practice on Lake Union helps her manage work-related stressors, while the social aspects feed her extrovert personality.

Always on the go, Maggie is eager to try out new technologies that might help her navigate her busy life and career.

Based on surveyed professionals that wouldn't blink at embracing a new software tool, Maggie's fast-paced lifestyle made her an excellent primary design target.


Somewhat higher-end brand preferences meshed well with our client’s proposed air and lodging partnerships, and our data even seemed compatible with the user insights his team had gathered in earlier stages of business development.

Additionally, our new participants tended to work for employers that hit most or all of Kunfer’s benchmarks for size and scalability.


Samples were relatively small, and didn't account for tertiary use cases, so additional research would've been useful. However, given time constraints, strategic focus was essential to our execution.

Favorite Brands


  • Alaska Airlines

  • Jawbone

  • Kimpton Hotels

  • Nordstrom

  • Subaru

  • Spotify


Personal Tech

  • Apple iPhone 8 Plus

  • Apple iPad

  • Jawbone Fitbit

  • Dell Inspiron Desktop PC (work)


Concept Development
Client Collaboration

Stylistic Explorations

Shared Vision Workshop
Brand Style Guide

Usability Testing

Design Solutions
Project Reception

Final Postmortem

User Research
Competitive Analysis

Persona Development




Even acting as the team's visual designer, I wasn't comfortable waiting on the bench for my opportunity to raise fidelity.


Ideation began almost immediately following client kick-off, and continued well into our iterative development process.

After all, branding isn't the work of some marketing department in isolation. Interaction is where it takes on a life of its own. Thus, my endless notebook sketches and quick-fire wireframes proved useful in delineating potential design direction to both clients and coworkers alike. 

As the project progressed, my better ideas were shaped into promising interaction models, and some even made it into the final deliverables. Ideally, Kunfer would've begun product development with a stronger sense of identity. But I worked with what I was given, and the results should speak for themselves.



Early wireframes enabled a more informed design strategy, and most significantly, got us asking the right questions. However, we couldn't possibly answer all of them ourselves. 


Before we could move forward to information architecture, detailed wires, or any form of prototyping, we first needed buy-in on our initial concepts. This meant calling the client back in.

I assisted our interaction lead in facilitating a collaborative design studio.

With plenty of scratch paper, pens, pencils, sharpies, highlighters, and bad ideas, I posed open-ended questions in an attempt to more conclusively illuminate the boundaries of his envisioned product experience.


We hoped to see how the product was envisioned from the client’s perspective, and how his expectations might have differed from our own.

Unfortunately, this process proved challenging on a number of levels. It was absolutely gratifying to work alongside the founder we were contracted with, however, the rapid brainstorming, unexpected ideation, and shared iteration characteristic of the process did not result in the usual breakthroughs.


By the end of the afternoon, I found myself frustrated and uninspired. We were working with many of the same solutions we had begun with, and if anything, the process had only continued to illuminate the product's limited function.

In some ways, this was helpful, as many of our questions concerned use case scenarios and overall scope. In some ways, the process corroborated our initial ideas, proving our instincts were stronger than expected.


But it also reiterated the startup’s conundrum—that the founder clearly held a deep-rooted and intuitive understanding of the product his team was building, and yet was veritably unable to articulate his vision.

We followed up with a short meeting to discuss our next steps and priorities.


At this point, I'd gleaned the following regarding client expectation:

  1. The majority of the pain points we'd identified wouldn't be addressed at all.

  2. Much of our efforts would be spent building out "me too" functionalities mirroring established platforms.

I then moved to define a more actionable list of strategic goals, which helped us in prioritizing future efforts:

  • Streamlined Interaction
    Kunfer was asking for a no-frills reservation system. This simplicity, while in some ways limiting, allowed us to create a more intuitive experience with more linear flows.

  • Minimalist Content Strategy
    Our core pain point would be the information overload emblematic of content-dense aggregate sites. Thus, the strategy of our content and the hierarchy of our information architecture would benefit from a more curated, perhaps even spartan approach.

  • Emphasized Value Add
    The company’s most significant value proposition relied on the delivery of significant savings, fostering brand advocacy. We needed to highlight these advantages, ensuring that users were aware of discounts, partner amenities and other member exclusives.

  • Strategic Sprint Focus
    Kunfer was preparing to pitch to hospitality executives in service of securing new partnerships with international brands like Marriott. We needed to concentrate our efforts specifically on the hotels portal so as to maximize the impact of our MVP.


I began experimenting with moodboards in order to to kickstart visual development.  

Each board was split into three pages, and each was given a specific focus. On the first page, I synthesized color and imagery so as to focus on visual metaphor and overall "mood." I then utilized the second and third pages to explore more practical executions. Fusing color and typography allowed me the benefit of conceptual UI, for a more realistic context. Meanwhile, stripping away nearly everything on the final page left me to focus exclusively on the palette's interactions.


Concept Development
Client Collaboration

Stylistic Explorations

Shared Vision Workshop
Brand Style Guide

Usability Testing

Design Solutions
Project Reception

Final Postmortem

User Research
Competitive Analysis

Persona Development


Comparative research had revealed the most prevalent visual language utilized in the travel booking process, and users had helped us to identify preferred design systems.

Our latest collaboration with stakeholder and CEO Sidney James had honed focus and established the boundaries of the Kunfer experience. Now it was time for some alchemy. 

With these foundations driving my earliest graphic and brand considerations, I worked to convert big picture design goals into an actionable conception of the app's visual style.

I directed my energy to the identification of effective color schemes, font pairings, stock imagery, and interaction models.


Unfortunately, Kunfer remained in a state of embryonic identity, and there was no clear indication of which direction would best fit brand positioning and/or product vision.

Even more critically, I was still mystified as to what Kunfer really stood for, and how best to represent the app’s unique value proposition.


The challenges of dichotomy remained: the app needed to somehow come across as both exclusive and approachable, both playful and professional, and both insanely simplistic and certifiably versatile.

I forged ahead by planning and facilitating a shared vision workshop, intending to align perspectives through the mutual lens of our persona Maggie.




By end of the session, our team felt increasingly confident in moving forward with our designs. The workshop had outlined crucial keywords and phrases, allowing us to expand more ambiguous concepts into consummate mission and value statements.


These emergent attributes, reproduced in summary below, accelerated my process of interface design—ultimately providing the requisite direction I'd need to align product with branding.



No Time At All









Knows Me








Luxury Reimagined

Business Class

Form & Function






Count On It




Worth It






Culminating an intense process of research and development, I put together a detailed report governing best practices for Kunfer's nascent content and visual design.


The style guide would dictate the look and feel of the app's interface, as well as any subsequent brand developments, and thus I made a point to stress the value of cross-channel consistency in maintaining a professional and cohesive identity.

Beginning with color, I took advantage of audience expectation in welcoming blue to the palette.


Its psychological associations with trust, truth, and safety, as well as its travel-related connotations (including the sky and the ocean), helped explain its ubiquity in competitor advertising. Bridging the gap between the emerald greens and mystic purples I'd explored in earlier wires, blue seemed an ideal choice for Kunfer.

However, going against industry convention, I then appended purple hues, mainly in consideration of their historic associations with luxury and royalty. This seemed an excellent fit for Kunfer’s high-quality, members only offerings.


In order to complete this cool-tone gradient, I finalized the scheme with the addition of complementary green shades. In choosing the most relaxing color for the human eye, and one often associated with finance, aspiration, and nature, the palette coalesced in both look and context. 

Conveying a more playful and contemporary style, these colors were employed for a more relaxing ambience, but they ultimately left the interface without much of the intended professionalism.


If the client wanted Netflix, I was building HBO, and thus, black backgrounds, inky grays, and transparent overlays were utilized to darken and juxtapose the existing vibrancy, providing essential sophistication and gravity.