UX / Winter 2015

Cortex is a personal project that I developed for extra credit in my Mathematics for Computer Science course at SCAD. I was fascinated by the history of the famous cryptographers we studied, and I became frustrated that I did not have time during the day to learn more about them. I wanted to find a simple and elegant solution to this problem I faced.

Tools used: Illustrator, Photoshop, Sketch, pen and paper, sticky notes, Human brain


People are often interested in a wide variety of topics, but rarely have time to learn about them throughout the day.

How could I make learning snackable?



For my secondary research, I looked into fluid and crystallized intelligence. I learned that fluid intelligence for an individual peaks around 26-35 years old, while Crystal intelligence typically continues to improve throughout an individual's life. People remember things best when facts remain relevant and demand use in their lives.

Fluid Intelligence

Fluid intelligence is the capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge.

Crystallized Intelligence

Crystallized intelligence is the ability to use skills, knowledge, and experience. It does not equate to memory, but it does rely on accessing information from long-term memory.


I kept a journal of my daily activities and how motivated I felt to learn at various times throughout the day. More importantly.


I interviewed my peers in order to discover what they did to keep their brain active and healthy, and the channels they prefered to learn through.

Competitive analysis



Lumosity is a brain training application. Lumosity’s games are created by scientists and game designers alike. Lumosity's games focus on everything from flexibility to mathematics.


Elevate is a brain training application with extensions for the Apple Watch. Elevate differentiates itself by offering more verbal communication games than its competitors. offers a wide range of video courses equipped with lesson files, and other material to engage members. These courses are tailored and often offer certifications once they have been completed that can be advertised on linkedin.


Quizlet is a product tailored to students. Being present on both mobile and on the web, students can create flashcards, lessons, and other studying tools with ease. The lessons created are then made public for other students to learn from.


From my research I found that most users perceive brain training apps results as intangible. Users have trouble feeling that they are achieving tangible progress and actually becoming “smarter”.

Users can also get frustrated by having to engage in games throughout the day, and sometimes find that it takes too long to play through the challenge offered in applications like Lumosity or Elevate.

After completing my competitive analysis, primary and secondary research, I ideated concepts with my sketchbook. I wanted a product that did one thing really well.


I needed to create something that doesn't require effort throughout the day to involve yourself in a subject, but rather serves as a stepping stone to build basic knowledge.


Cortex makes learning snackable, turning subjects into bite-sized facts.




Cortex allows you to pick a subject you want to learn about over time. The subjects are curated and contain hundreds of bite sized facts to create a basis for understanding.


Cortex provides you with a fact about the subject’s you are interested in every morning. Facts are tagged with their specific area of knowledge within a subject and can be curated based on user feedback. Each fact is also linked to external resources where you can read more about the fact.


Users can progress through various layers of knowledge about a subject. The longer they have a subject active, the more complex and inter-related the facts become.

Tracking your progress makes your improvement tangible.


Throughout the day, Cortex reminds you of what you learned, utilizing memory recall to improve memory retention.

Every week or so depending on the users notification settings, Cortex will give you a brief quiz on facts you've learned in the past and most recently.

Moving forward


Moving forward, I hope to develop a prototype for this application in Swift, and refine the mobile interface and functionality.

I would also need to do considerable more research into various API’s that I could use to help curate the subjects content. I also want to explore more ways to crowdsource the knowledge database for Cortex, similar to Quizlets model.

Overall this project proved to be extremely fun to design and research. While it is important to design for people other than yourself, I found it enjoyable and rewarding to design a solution that I would use, as well as the users I researched.

More often than not, some of the best inspiration comes from one's own experiences.

Learning to draw from those experiences proved to be invaluable in my research and ideation process. Observing one's own behavior is a useful skill not just in design, but also in life.