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Coins for KST




My role on this project

Collaborated with Beccy Zheng, Lauren Hung, and Onye Nwabueze
As one of the UX researchers and designers for this team, I collaborated with my teammates to interview, ideate, transform our research into insights and solutions for Kelly Strayhorn Theater(KST) in Pittsburgh, PA. Together, using contextual design methods and processes as the basis for our research, we defined an actionable solution that had both short and long-term value for KST and the local community.

Working with a distributed team 

Establishing a positive team dynamic is important in any project. This requires the careful balancing of openness and efficiency. It is important to create space for the human factors (traveling, Zoom fatigue, conflicting schedules) of any project, but also ensure collaboration and punctuality. In this project, I brought my experience from working with distributed teams from the tech industry along with learnings from the AORTA.coop to help facilitate a safe space and foster open communication.

Designing for Research

Over the course of this project, we had to design several client deliverables to help convey the research journey. These would be considered as “internal deliverables” ones that are meant to convey information between stakeholders. These deliverables focused on conveying key insights synthesized from our research findings.

As one of the designers on this project, I helped established design guidelines for structuring how we conveyed the density of information generated by our research and detailing how we came to our insights and solutions with brevity and clarity in mind. Because in the end, it comes down to how impactfully and concisely you convey the key ideas.


Working across time zone and location



Understand people's experiences donating to performing arts and understand the factors around making donations in a theater context.

This project delves into how people support our local theater or creative community, especially in situations where there are existing financial constraints. We developed Coins for KST over the course of our research as a way to break down that financial burden by donating spare change over time. Our key focus is educating and empowering people to understand how they can make a big difference without putting a dent in their wallet, by simplifying the process and providing feedback at key points of the donation journey.

Defining the problem space

Based on our research, we’ve identified that financial barriers can significantly impact whether people donate. Despite other motivations, if people don’t feel secure financially, they aren’t willing to open their wallets and support through a donation. In our research, we discover that it is difficult for people to overcome the mentality of “I don’t have enough money to donate.” by showing them that even small contributions are appreciated and can make a big impact.




For this research project, we conducted 10 generate and evaluative methods in order to understand people’s attitudes and perceptions of donations. We dove deep into what barriers people face and what potential solutions might be the most compelling.

Click "View documentation" for an in-depth PDF of the research deliverables for each method.

Selected slides are displayed below.

01 - Stakeholder diagramming
        View Documentation 

02 - Journey mapping
        View Documentation

03 - Usability testing
        View Documentation

04 - Experience Prototyping
        View Documentation

05 - Contextual Interviews 
        View Documentation

06 - Affinity diagramming
        View Documentation

07 - Storyboarding
        View Documentation

08 - Speed Dating
        View Documentation


Our discovered themes and affinity diagramming lead us to insights that revealed how people think about the donation-making process: people perceive donations as engagement. A main motivating factor for donating to a performing arts organization is the personal connection with the creative community or the organization.

Yet beyond appreciating the performing arts, the financial state is critical for determining whether people can follow through with a donation, as well as how much they decide to donate. When going through the donation process, individuals prioritize ease, convenience, and transparency. If these needs are met, people generally trust the organization to handle their donations appropriately.

Transparency and feedback

Transparency and tangible evidence of their impact is a powerful motivator for further donation and engagement.


Donation as engagement

Donation is not a priority for most people, having some sort of trigger that highlights their impactful role in theater and performing arts communities can promote sustained engagement.


Emotional connection

Donating makes people feel like they are a part of a community. If able, people are more than willing to support organizations they connect with and are passionate about.


Emotional Connection

People want to donate to communities they feel connected to, but financial priorities make them hesitant.




Given these insights, we’ve created Coins for KST. Coins for KST rounds up change from everyday purchases to donate to local theatres. After each donation, donors receive text updates to see how a few cents can add up to make a big difference for the local theatre. Coins for KST eliminates the need to count or keep track of every penny and makes donating inclusive. Through Coins for KST, we build community, transparency, and trust to show that even our spare change can lead to big change.

Designed by Rachel Arredondo