Names are a major aspect of our identities. To know and acknowledge someone by their name is a simple, yet extremely powerful way of showing respect and effort in relationships. Learning and remembering names is a valuable, overlooked skill in many aspects of life that many of us wish we are more adept at.

Onoma is a small, wearable device that captures and stores information from interactions with new people using either gesture detection or via manual input. Onoma is paired with a mobile app, where the information can be accessed. Users can also practice connecting visuals with names via the app.

Project type: Individual
Duration: 4 weeks (Fall 2018)
Tools: Sketch, Keynote, Principle, Premiere Pro, Mural

onoma brand

The Onoma App

Onboard and Pair

Sign up quickly and easily using pre-existing platforms, and pair the device via Bluetooth connection.


Capture and Review Names

Onoma will capture your interactions for review later. Information includes new names, along with the time, location, a brief audio clip of the interaction, and the method Onoma used to capture the interaction. Any unwanted names can also be removed.


Add Photos and Notes

Add photos and other information to help create connections for memory.


Sketch Associations

Another option to photos is sketching out any associations or features of the person. Aside from using association techniques, the ability to remember someone is improved by actively engaging with memory creating a sketch.


Practice Makes Perfect

Practicing remembering names is simple. The app will use the photos and drawings added by the user to further bridge the gap between visuals and the name.



I spoke with 6 people who encounter a large number of new people on a regular basis:
3 college students (1 is also an orientation leader)
1 college academic advisor
1 highschool teacher
1 church pastor

I also sent out an anonymous survey to gather more information about people's ability to learn names, and received 12 responses.

After gathering my data, I sorted the data and pulled out patterns, recurring themes, and other key pieces of information.


Using the information from my interviews, I also created a journey map of a common scenario where someone forgets a name.

journey map

What's the key?

Most people are visual and can remember faces without difficulty, especially in today's highly digital, visual world. However, associative techniques work incredibly well. The degree of success for people who use association techniques is much greater than those relying purely on visual/alternative techniques.

Meaning and impressions are very helpful in remembering a person and a name, which can be separate from each other. Impressions sometimes overpower names. There is a need to bridge the gap between the name and the person.


How might we capture a name more tangibly at the initial moment of contact?

“I’m terrible at fleeting introductions.”

“People can leave a lasting impression, but I get caught up in the conversation […] Profound impact can still occur without remembering the name.”

How might we help bridge the gap between visuals (faces) and memory (names, associations)?

“I’m good with faces but bad with names.”

“I see the names being written down, once I have a face to attach it to, it should be pretty easy.”

 “The more little things you have to remind you of a person, the greater it is for memory”

Using a method called cheatstorming, I came up with 30 concepts to consider.
From the feedback I received, I picked out the top 6 concepts.


I began with an idea for a keychain that can show a person’s photo, name, and a sketched association of choice all in one place. The goal was to have all these characteristics of a person available in one place, so that it will be able easier to make these connections.


The key feedback I received:

· Size is a little too big.
· Dials, controls and the game feature make the keychain too clunky.
· Use a ring as an extention to detect hand gestures and record or remind.
· Carrying around and glancing at a keychain is too intrusive, especially in a social setting.
· Think more about the context of use - is this for planned or spontaneous meetings? Consider making it a multi-contextual wearable, can be moved around on the body depending on the situation.
· Consider aesthetics of design - wearable jewelry.


Unobtrusive Design

The biggest learning at this stage lead me to designing based on the principle of unobtrusiveness. The nature of social interactions is being present in the moment and focusing on the other person - thus, my previous design would not have worked. I focused on designing to avoid active use when a person is interacting with other people.

Be Present, Check Later

I decided to create a wearable that captures names and other information (time, location) of recently met people using gesture detection of handshakes and waves, or manual double tapping of the device. When a gesture is detected, the device will capture a brief audio recording, alongside other info, and send it to the app for later review.


Physical Prototype

For the physical form, I decided to create a minimalistic, unisex pendant. It is meant to be worn in versatile ways (pendant, clip, bracelet), depending on the context of the social situation (e.g. formal meeting vs casual party). The design is meant to be integrated into a user's life not only a wearable that is functional, but also aesthetical.


After a couple sketches and concept revisions, I decided on this key task flow for the core use of the wearable and app.



For this project, I tried my best to push myself on gathering effective qualitative research data. Although the research was substantial, I realized after completing the project that the bridge between the research and the solutions was not quite there yet. Originally, Onoma's core features were to capture names and other information from the interactions, as well as remind someone of the people they would meet at upcoming meetings. I decided to rework the project by redefining the core needs and features of the application, to come to where the project is today. Through Onoma, my biggest take-away was the importance of referring to research and avoiding assumptions when working to create design solutions.

If I were to continue this project, I would further work on the technicalities of how the information is captured by the wearable, as well as test and refine the information being captured and shown to the user to best help them remember someone.