Zixing Guo


Service Design
for Social Change

^Fika is a service connecting workers to other people who have outside perspectives, by encouraging habitual, social breaks.



Fika is a service that encourages workers to get outside perspectives on their relationship with work, through facilitated, habitual, social breaks, and guided introspection.

By slowing down and having these conversations, workers can reflect on their relationships, and alleviate the isolating effects of burnout and overwork. By having someone relatable to talk to, workers build out a network of support.

The building of relationships and trust depends on the time spent in proximity to one another. ^Fika, which takes its name from the Swedish cultural tradition, encourages workers to consistently take the time to grab a coffee with a friend or colleague.


Summer 2019
6 Months


Zixing Guo (me) - Research + Synthesis, UI/UX, Built Interactive Walkthrough, Information Architecture, Illustrations, Prototype

Andrew Le - Visual Direction, Research + Synthesis, Onboarding UI/UX, Poster Graphics


User Journey


High Fidelity Wireframes


I created a ‘point-and-click-adventure’ that showed how ^Fika is used in a day-to-day situation. This experience walkthrough was exhibited at the 2019 UW Design Show.

Note: Walkthrough is formatted and best viewed on a 16:9 screen

password: cake



Problem Space

^Fika was created as a response to the cultural internalization of overwork and burnout. With society placing increasing value in the importance of productivity, people are going into the workforce with the pressure to not only succeed, but to equate their self worth and personal “brand” with that of their employers.

Competitive crunch culture, the effects of telecommuting on personal boundaries, and toxic policies, affect how people internalize, and then perpetuate ineffective and outdated work practices.

In the face of these issues, how can we get those working in high intensity environments, who lack the awareness, agency, and resources, to navigate the work-life blend? And with an issue that is so systemic and ingrained in professional industries, how can a response be designed for this?



^Fika, (originally known as ^Cake) was conceived at DUBHACKS 2018, a 24 hour hackathon.

This project was inspired by a chain of tweets by baker and game designer Jenn Sandercock. She tweeted her experience of working in AAA games in a response to TellTale Games mass layoffs in October 2018.


These layoffs angered many as it unexpectedly left many employees who worked months of overtime, jobless with no severance pay. This event sparked a wave of discourse and discussions around unionization in an industry that churns through its workers.

My Dubhacks Team : Zixing Guo (me), Jamilia Lopez, Elleyce Pahang, Andrew Le

My Dubhacks Team: Zixing Guo (me), Jamilia Lopez, Elleyce Pahang, Andrew Le



4 tech worker participants
Semi Structured Interviews
Directed Storytelling



The initial leg of research we conducted that night inspired Andrew and I to investigate the problem the following quarter as part of an independent study.




Under supervision of our professor, Michael Smith, Andrew and I revised our interview study guide to include more in-depth methodology. We asked ourselves:

How might we mitigate overwork and burnout in high intensity work environments?

Over the course of 6 weeks, we conducted research interviews using several design methodologies, synthesized data using affinity diagramming techniques, and compiled our findings and sense-making into a slide deck.




6 worker participants - Big Tech, Startup, Animation

Semi-Structured Interviews - Setting up context
Circle of Trust - Determining participant support networks
Directed Storytelling - In depth inquiries to Circle of Trust
Block your Time - Determining participant agency and indoctrination






ACHIEVEMENT INDOCTRINATION - Competitive school environments condition students to engage in, and normalize overwork cultures. This creates an unconscious stigma against setting personal boundaries.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS - A lack of guidance and the pressure of high, personal expectations pushes inexperienced workers to overwork, in order to prove themselves.

FOMO - The fear of missing out prevents workers from setting personal boundaries and addressing issues in the workplace.

INVESTMENT BURNOUT - Mental burnout occurs in the face of diminishing returns: validation, challenge, and ownership are what make work valuable to an individual.

BARRIERS TO SUPPORT - Professional obligation demands giving up personal time and compromising values in order to build and maintain connections.

BUSYNESS DEBT - The perceived need for busyness demands that tangible productivity continues outside of work.

Affinity Diagramming

Affinity Diagramming

Finding trends in  Circle of Trust  and  Block Your Time  activities

Finding trends in Circle of Trust and Block Your Time activities


Block Your Time reveals participant’s time usage habits and how they justify each activity. Participants first block out their ideal version of time while thinking out loud; they are then prompted to block out the current time usage and reflect upon the differences.


Circle of Trust is used to understand how participants use and designate support networks. Participants rank how comfortable they are with people when discussing their work-life stresses with those around them.



AWARENESS - Our response should create and respect personal and work boundaries, while calling attention to the systems and ulterior motives that shape productivity habits.

MINDFULNESS - Self awareness should extend beyond how the system impacts us as individuals, but also how we impact others and contribute to the system.

VALIDATION - Sharing experiences and moments of vulnerability create cracks in the toxic workplace culture and allow for building rapport, strengthening the support network.

PACING - Self care should not just be a temporary band-aid of relief to charge one’s batteries. It should be a mindset employees practice while doing work.



We generated a number of concepts, from physical objects, to social programs, to exhibits. From graphing our concepts and existing resources on two sets of axis

Speculative — Productive
On the system — On you
Calm — Provocative
Human driven — Tech driven

We found a lack of consumer products that tackled overwork and productivity in a way that didn’t put the onus on its users, but challenged the systems that shape overwork culture. It was difficult to conceive a consumer product that took on that speculative slant.

Speculative design serves to "unsettle the present rather than predict the future", to use our understanding of the world we know it today and see trends that affect the future. However speculative design is alienating to a general audience, especially those most in need of change in the present.

We fell into The Dark Swamp of Despair trying to come up with concepts to address our problem space. How do you even begin to design for issue that is so systemic, so ingrained in a culture? How do you turn speculative design into something that is consumer friendly? How do you instigate culture-wide behavioral change?

After countless rounds of brainstorming and iteration, we managed to settle on the concept of facilitating mentorship relationships between people.


We weren’t happy with our concept for a long time. It wasn’t until we conducted a design workshop with our classmates, that we began to see the value of mentorship; in particular, peer-to-peer relationships.

In our workshop, we had our classmates bodystorm/roleplay several context scenarios we wrote out.


Design Workshop

Design Workshop

Information Architecture

Information Architecture




Using Twine, I turned our information architecture into a low fidelity walkthrough/storyboard to test with participants. I refined the Twine in between testing sessions.


Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 12.48.17 AM.png

In preparation for the graduation show, we needed to present the walkthrough in a visually understandable format. Twine was limited to be primarily text based so I moved the walkthrough into Sketch.

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 12.32.32 AM.png




It is impossible to create a single intervention that can solve a systems level problem overnight. Even changes in policy need to be embraced at the cultural level for them to have any sort of impact. We could only hope to create a tool for people to leverage at the grassroots level, to seed the right interactions for these changes to take root.

The design would to:

Create awareness by challenging existing perceptions through discourse.

Promote support and advocacy

Cultivate behavioral change over a long period of time

Akin to crowdsourcing therapy, ^Fika hopes to foster a more mindful generation who are not afraid to recognize the imbalances of the status quo, and then challenge it.