Dear Data

ROLE Visual Design, Strategy, UX Writing, Research

Dear Data is a dating app. Or rather, it's a fake dating app meant to serve as a critique of online privacy and digital connections. How might a dating app that exposes and uses our invisible data in a visible manner service us? Just how well do we know our "digital" selves? How well do they match up against who we are in reality?

project plan  /

The Concept

The idea of a "digital" representation of the self has always interested me. From how our Facebook profiles are set up to how Instagram feeds are curated, to live in the digital world is to leave behind intimate digital footprints.

The other day I was rummage around my Google preferences and found a tab on personalized ads. That's when I was introduced to just who I am in the eyes of Google.

Browser history data is too powerful. Somehow, Google is able to document my game tastes, purchases, and even wishlist. 

I mean, Interests in "Apparel" and "Business News" is one thing, but to list me as an "18-34 years old" "Upper Middle Class" "Female" who works at a "Very Large Company: 10,000+ Employees", that's uncanny. 

Looking at this weird breakdown of my interests, I wondered how many people knew about this, and if this is done across other social media apps. Very similar data can be found on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, which shows targeted posts and ads based on "interests" these apps dictate you have.

The Goal

Inspired by Amazon Dating and the projects showcased at Stupid Hackathon, I thought, why don't I design the worse dating app ever with this ultra specific information I found about myself online?

I decided that pitching an all new dating app would be the best medium for this "critique". Online dating has becoming something of a common place, especially with the ongoing pandemic, so I figured this might have the elements necessary to go viral.

Ultimately, the goal is to bring to the forefront issues of privacy, anonymity, and human connection in the age of the digital. To spark conversation and outrage over how our information is handled.

Design & Branding

Initial Iteration

With serifs and vintage inspired colors, I wanted to allude to the past and the idea of writing letters with the "Dear x" name.

2nd Iteration

To make it feel more like a dating app, I updated the brand with a bolder color scheme (the clichéd red=love).

The final iteration of the branding was a pretty drastic change from the start, but I really want to embrace the "tech" look, with a symmetrical logotype and a darker color scheme. 

Sketches & Flow

The user flow of the app is standard besides the many areas where I hope to encourage data collection and adding other social media accounts (all for the sake of finding your perfect match of course, no ulterior motive from this service <3). 

High Fidelity UI

Incorporating many of the existing data elements from different social media accounts, I created my example profile and the overarching design of the app.

Going Public

Just having the app UI mockups were definitely not enough, I decided to build out a "Coming Soon" page for Dear Data. The website will help explain the purpose of the app and how it worked, by laying down the instructions and explaining the tech, I hope for it to be convincing enough as a real app.

With the app designs and website up, the logical next step is of course to advertise the heck out of it.

I ended up creating social media accounts for the app, posting it on Product Hunt and in Facebook groups. With just a couple blasts in University groups, Facebook, and Product Hunt; I was receiving messages asking about the "algorithm" behind this insanely smart dating app, when the launch would be and if there is a beta program people could sign up for, and even if my company was hiring engineers.

Those private messages from select people might be positive, but the overwhelming public response was one of horror, shock, and disbelief. However, amidst the chaos were people having meaningful discussion on what it means to be profiled by an online app, the kinds of data that's being collected, and whether or not tech has truly gone too far.

A glimpse into the comment section. When I did eventually reveal that everything was a ruse, I did my best to respond to as many comments as I could, hoping to foster further conversation and understand the many differing points of views. 

The Aftermath

The entire project was honestly exhausting. From trying to find the fine line between criticism and tongue-in-cheek satire, in trying to make the project as believable as possible yet still being terrifying, to dealing with the massive response within 24 hours of the app going public. However, the results were truly rewarding. 

The conversations I was able to have, and the many things I learnt in the process of designing out and strategizing the release of the app made everything well worth it.

In our current day and age, our digital identities have increasingly become the very first impressions most people have of us. The question still remains though, do any of our digital profiles truly show who we are? Are the data being collected about us true? And does that even matter? 

At the end of the day, I don't have answers, and neither does Dear Data. But from what I can see, we still have the fire left to judge, criticize, and discuss the state of our digital world, and as a result, head into a, hopefully, better future. 

Using Format