A contextual travel guide that helps you explore a new city, as if a local friend were taking you around to all the places they know you can't miss.


Status: Design School project | Role: Concept, wireframing, UI functionality & design, documentation | Team: Katarina Batina, Reema Bhagat, Charissa Lind, Jill Moses        



Researching local places, events, and eats before a trip begins to immerse you and builds anticipation for an upcoming adventure. But once you set foot in a new place, it's easy to forget or lose track of those great finds. You want to spend time experiencing the place, not searching for things to do and dealing with the hassle of when and how to get there. And unless you know someone in the city, it's hard to experience a new city from the inside. How can we create a tool for travelers that is unique in it's ability to give people local insight into a city based on their interests?



Travelers that love the adventure of exploring new places, gaining new perspectives, and sharing experiences with locals.



We started with a research question: What is most valuable about the experience of traveling? After conducting a series of interviews we mapped out the difference between a vacation and a trip. We also did an audit of existing tools and resources available for travelers, each with a slightly different goal, from documenting travel memories to turn-by-turn directions. 



One of our findings from talking with travelers was how important flexibility is while traveling. There are always unpredictable things that happen along the way, such as the weather, museum closures, random holidays, rail strikes, and bus schedules. This is what makes travel exciting, but also sometimes frustrating. What separates Marko from other existing travel guides is the awareness of your context and ability to adapt your plans so you can focus on enjoying your time in a place and not on all the logistics.



Marko helps travelers seek a local perspective and connection with a place. As you research your trip and wander around a new city, Marko can store must-see locations from the internet, as well as photo, text, and voice memos. Everything you save is displayed in Marko’s queue: a dynamic list that helps you plan where to go next based on time, location, and business or museum hours. If you run out of things to do, or just want a surprise, Marko has a Black Book of curated local recommendations.


developing marko's personality

Developing Marko's voice was very important. Our team gathered inspiration, creating a mood board that began to define some core elements. Marko has the inside perspective of a city, like a local friend would, and thus his voice comes across in that way. We wanted it to feel like Marko is getting to know you over time and cares about helping you experience the essence of a new place. The times when Marko talks to you are also important, because having that balance between the spontaneity of travel and guidance is huge. Therefore Marko primarily talks to you when something changes in your context, like a museum closure, or when you've added experiences to your queue Marko knows you don't want to miss.


shifting our focus

Early on we focused on a map-centric experience, overlaying areas of interest and showing your proximity to recommended experiences. But we pivoted away from a primary map focus, because in showing a map people will inevitably begin to use it for way-finding, even if the core experience is around offering great contextually relevant recommendations. Instead, we narrowed our focus and connected to existing map services for directions to Marko's recommended places.



Marko is centered around your Playlist, an idea inspired by music playlists. Experiences, places, and restaurants a traveler has added are queued in a shuffle-able list. Marko rearranges your playlist based on contextual awareness and makes similar suggestions drawn from the experiences you've added. Over time Marko learns more about your interests, providing richer curated recommendations.


Experiencing places, not just going places.


contextually relevant recommendations

If your context shifts, Marko suggests new ideas similar to what you were interested in doing and reshuffles your playlist, helping you get to the places you want to see.



If you do find yourself needing a suggestion in real time, Marko's Black Book is a curated list of local spots and events, sourced from local blogs and newspapers.


a collection of what you want to explore

Capture tips and ideas from locals on the fly with photos and voice recordings, and spend more time experiencing a place rather than searching for things to do. Your queue stores these new additions along with other ideas added before your trip.



It's easy to get caught up in the moment enjoying an experience, but if there is something you really care about doing, Marko will make sure to remind you.



For the final video, we worked to craft a narrative that captured the soul of Marko. One that struck a balance between spontaneity and unpredictability while traveling, and planned ideas. One that balanced exploring what's unique to a city and what experiences specifically resonate with the individual traveler. We created storyboards, figured out when and how Marko would come into the narrative, and shot a demo test reel, before filming the final video.