ZENE: A Contextual Smartphone Experience

LG Electronics challenged us to envision the future of their Android smartphones in people’s lives. The result is ZENE, a contextual smartphone experience. Sensors recognize the user's context and enable easy access to relevant information through the lock screen. In addition, ZENE features a mechanism, based on tapping in patterns, that allows unlocking the phone without having to look at the screen.

LG’s aspirations, earlier design research and our personal experiences guided investigations into five aspects: context, emotion, security, social and hardware. Using a participatory design approach, which involves users as co-designers, we researched the aspirations and needs of 6 students and young professionals. Specific insights: users generally liked their lock screens but were deterred by numeric passwords; users found it cumbersome to navigate multiple screens just to glance at some info.

Based on the documented insights, we addressed the emotional need for haptic feedback and the practical need for understanding the user’s context. Several concepts were explored simultaneously through storyboards, sketches and wireframes. Ideas ranged from lock screens that changed based on the user’s environment to smart locking mechanisms that avoided accidental calls when the phone was in one's pocket.

We overcame 2 big challenges: First, while we had many promising concepts, they did not translate to a coherent product vision. Should our experience do a variety of things or focus on a core theme? Second, our designs for a core lock screen concept felt natural but contradicted the call receiving interaction on Android phones. How might we reconcile?

In a supportive team, I learned to sweat the details of an interaction by working through creating wireframes. I gained firsthand experience weaving design features into a compelling story, and harmonizing new interaction models with a product’s existing user experience.


Redesign LG's Android smartphone experience by understanding the unmet needs of mobile phone users


Product & interaction design, sketching & storyboarding, wireframing, documentation, sound editing


LG Electronics


Chongho Lee, Kelly Lau-Kee


Industrial Design, Interaction Design, Human-Computer Interaction


Pittsburgh, PA


August 2011-December 2011


Design process book, presentation pitch, UI design comps

tools used

Pen & paper, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Indesign, Audacity, Ableton Live


Smartphone Interaction Design