Remembering Names Case Study


I was asked to do a case study on the subject of helping people to remember names when I was interviewing for a company. Here are my process and design solutions for this case study.

March 7, 2018

Design & Research by Hoda Pedram

Duration: 10 hours

The Problem Statement

At the beginning of each new semester or school year, teachers are faced with the challenge of remembering names for a large number of new students. Design an experience to help an educator match faces to names, with the goal of shortening the time needed to reach complete un-aided accuracy. Provide a high-fidelity mock for at least one step of this experience.

Why This Project Matters?

I chose this topic because I have always been fascinated by the human mind, AI, facial features and the intricacies of how human memories are formed. During my college years, I saw many of my professors struggling to recall many of their student’s names. These innate interests coupled with my college experience have aided me in the design of this project.

Start With Research

Design with no research has no value and is nothing more than an opinion. In order to solve any problem, you need to understand and define that problem. I began my research by reading articles, research papers, and books.


Let's start simple, how we do learn? People learn in 3 main ways:

  • Visual

  • Auditory

  • Kinesthetic


Most of us are a combination of two of these categories. This is important because taking advantage of these learning types we can enhance our ability to match names with faces.



How does the brain work?

The hippocampus and *other parts of your brain* work with each other to build memories. When your brain consciously registers a memory, this is called encoding. The best way to encode, and thus remember, is to keep recalling the same thing over and over again.





How do people remember faces better?

Pick out a unique trait. Studies show that people generally have an easier time remembering faces than names. Our brains have evolved over the millennia to gather visual data from faces and by focusing in on a specific feature we can create a visual link between the person and their name.

Example: his big ears

are his unique trait

Example: her big mouth and blue eyes

are her unique traits

When reading out loud, we form auditory links in our memory pathways. We remember ourselves saying it out loud, and so not only form visual links but also auditory links.

The Roots of the Issue

I tried to break the problem into small pieces and asked myself “What is the main reason people forget names?”

Top reasons people have trouble remembering names:

  • Aging

  • Multitasking

  • Lack of attention

  • People who suffer from depression or anxiety have a harder time remembering things

Questions and Assumptions

  • How do people remember names?

  • What colors impact memorization?

  • Why do people forget things?

  • What factors influence memory loss?

  • How big is the impact of repetition? 

  • What are some ways to remember names easier?

  • What tools do teachers use for remembering names?

  • Do students care about teachers knowing their name or not?

  • What is the memory? How does the brain work?

  • How diet impacts memory?

  • What are some other programs in the market?

  • What is the difference between short-term and long-term memory?

  • How age impacts memory?

Understanding the Constraints 

In a new study, reading magazines, knitting, quilting, and social activities in midlife cut the risk that people would develop memory loss in their 70s or 80s by more than one-thirdWatching more than seven hours of TV a day, on the other hand, was linked to a higher chance of memory loss.



We can watch television, for example, for hours on end without becoming mentally fatigued, but solving math problems, learning to knit, or even reading all require effort that tires the mind. This mental exercise, much like physical exercise, helps keep the brain functioning at a healthier level maintaining memory. Further strengthening the connection between mental exercise and memory is in another study on students that took notes by hand rather than typing them out on the keyboard. The students that hand wrote their notes had better recall of the lesson content.

Persona Should not be Imaginary

In this exercise,  I composited a persona to help me understand and design around the target audience.

When I was constructing it I made sure not to assume user goals and frustrations. Instead, I interviewed several people in the target audience to make a precise model.

Gabby Antonio

46 years old female

Salary: 80k-100k


Lives in Boston

College Professor


  • Being able to recall each of her student's names

  • Know everyone when she grades them

  • Make a personal connection with her students

  • Memorize the names and faces quickly

  • Know how to pronounce some names


  • There are too many students 

  • Not an easy method to memorize

  • Some international students who do not have a nickname give her a hard time to remember

  • She is not sure about pronunciation sometimes

Interview questions were open-ended on purpose to get into user's story and frustrations

  • How do you remember new student's name?

  • Do you use any product or tricks to remember better?

  • How comfortable do you feel with your students to share with them the fact that you are bad with names and it takes you a while to memorize their names and faces?

  • What technologies do you use?

Bob Slote:"My trick to remembering names was to create a roster with photos of the students. Also, the more students who talk, the faster I learned. Half the reason I introduced a team project as the first project was so I could hear students talking and repeating names."

Todd Hedgpeth:"Oh wow! I wish there was there was an exact formula. For me, it’s like memorizing lines for a play. Then I just practice by using the names as much as possible. Then when I’m at home I test myself by naming all my students. The hardest part is the foreign students who have names that are difficult to pronounce. I get lucky when they have a nickname!"

Julia Brown:"I copied the student photos off the AAU class online, and made a chart with photos and names. That helped me through the first weeks. Eventually you learn everyone's name. Also, I would write the projects that the student had chosen into my grade book."

Honghui Zhang

21 years old male

Salary: 10k-20k

Secondary Persona


Lives in Arizona

College Student


  • Have professors that care about him

  • Find a relationship between himself and the teacher


  • Get's annoyed when the teacher cannot pronounce his name correctly

  • Does not like it when he has to repeat his nickname

Has Anybody Solved This yet?

In preparation for this exercise I sought out competitors that had already attempted to come up with a solution. In doing so, I saw their strengths and weaknesses and what made them stand out from each other while at the same time attempting to come up with a common solution. Having searched out the competition I was able to come up with something that stood apart of the competition and filled in the gaps that they were missing.


Here are some examples that I found and researched:

  • Name Shark

  • Namerick

  • Brainscape

  • Remember App

  • Remember Names

  • Ronnie White's videos and books




Brainstorming is a crucial part of any design process. Playing with words and adjectives is a great way to open mind and expand design concepts.

I brainstormed on different ideas that make the user focus on the product, whether it is a desktop or app.


Here are some of the points:


  • Simple & fast

  • Clear images

  • Having a clean UI

  • Big Names

  • Limit distractions

  • Make it fun and playful


A small wearable that reminds the professor the student's name


I also thought about Augmented Reality (AR) solutions and how it can give the name automatically to the teacher. However, this seems like killing a fly with a bazooka to me. 


  • AR glasses

  • AR contact lenses 

  • Small wearable device

  • Some giant AR glass that is in the class

  • Some AR app 


Here is further brainstorming on how to memorize

names and faces in different methods.


  • Have a simple nametag

  • Flashcards

  • Quizzes

  • Cumulative learning


Ideate and Answers

I broke the app down and organized its features to directly address user needs and frustrations. Each element is a tool to enhance the name learning process at the macro level and supplement underlying issues at the micro level.

I used sticky notes to understand and flush out the features of the product. Sticky notes are useful since I can reattach and attach them easily.


These are the most important features that answers the user's needs:

  • Fun

  • Fast

  • Smart

  • Simple

  • Personal

  • Human

In this section, I have written down all the methods that can help people remember and how I address them in this product. 

Here is the complete list of how the app helps the user to remember faces and names:

  • Visual

  • Focus

  • Cumulative

  • Repeat

  • Hear

  • Write/Read

  • Association

  • Reminder

  • Brain Exercise

Based on my research the cumulative method can be very powerful in long-term memorization.

In this method, the name has to be repeated more than one time. Every time the user wants to learn a new name the user is given the previous names to repeat in groupings of 5 and 10. In this, the user is applying the cumulative method in a digestible manageable way.

User Flow and Stories

Brainstorming is a crucial part of any design process. Playing with words and adjectives is a great way to open mind and expand design concepts.

The first user storyboard shows us Adam, who is the teacher. He has a hard time remembering student names and he knows that tomorrow is the new day in school.

  • Adam gets a notification to check the app

  • He selects the class that he teaches tomorrow

  • He immediately sees new faces of students

  • Adam takes 10-15 minutes to review them

  • Now Adam feels more confident

The second user storyboard shows us Mary, who is the student. 


  • Mary gets an alert to upload her info

  • She opens the app and signs in

  • She describes herself in an emoji

  • Mary takes a selfie

  • Mary pronounces her name and lets the app records it

  • She can write down her likes and some bio

  • She is done and submits her info

User Flow Chart

the user diagram below shows the over flow of the app and where it takes the user step by step.

Sketches and Wireframes

Here are the sketches that I have done, it helps me edit the design layouts much faster than starting in the sketch.

High Fidelity Design 

In this section I will go through most of the app flow and explain each screenshot. First we will have a bird view on the most important features of the app and the overall flow, then we dive deeper into each screens and how they are helping the user needs.

Your Dashboard


The teacher gets into the dashboard as soon as he logs in. This page is super simple and gives the user important information that they need.

  • Being greeted in a personal way

  • View all of the classes with details

  • View calendar by tapping on the time

  • Access his own profile by tapping on his picture

  • Ability to add classes manually

  • Visually noticing how much he has learned names and faces in each class 

Get to Know Your Students


The user can go to any class and view the students in that class. Each student has a clear picture and the list is organized in an alphabetical format. 



  • Each student has an emoji next to their picture that helps with the association

  • Each student has a speaker icon next to their picture that pronounces their name 

  • The name of the student has a bigger priority than the student's last name

Search Made More Human


Search your students by names and faces in a more human way. Simply write it down, or just tap on the microphone icon and describe what they look like.



  • Starts with suggestions and examples

  • Gives an easy access to the voice command

Get the Most out of Student's Profile


The teacher can look into each student's profile to review their likes and dislikes. He/She can focus on the face and name while hearing what their name sounds like.



  • Student's contact info is available

  • The teacher can add notes to remember the student better

Remember in a Smart Way


The user can play to remember the names in a cumulative method. The teacher does not need to learn student's names in one go. The app gives the user a chance to remember 5-10 names per game.



  • Having a playful language

  • Cumulative learning experience

  • Focusing on the names 

  • Making the user to say the name out loud 

  • The user has the option to write the name

  • Clear UI that gives focus to the name

Why This Method?

  • People learn easier by visuals

  • Reading helps with the memory 

  • Saying a name out loud can help the user to memorize the name better through auditory learning

  • The teacher can add notes as hints

  • The emoji can have a link to the student. Connecting a name to a visual trait helps anchor the name in your memory

  • Leaving the multiple choice at the end 

How Does the Game Work?


The game uses the cumulative method to emphasize on the repetition aspect of memorizing. Research shows that people tend to remember the start and the end of a paragraph better than the middle. That is why we suggest to the user to learn student names in groups of 5 and 10. The small number makes it hard to define the middle.

  • Starts with Alice

  • Learns Alice

  • Get introduced to Bill

  • Learns Alice & Bill

  • Get introduced to Clair

  • Learns Alice & Bill & Clair

See it in Action


Here is a quick prototype that I made to communicate

the whole flow of the app much better.


Click me


Future Notes and Conclusion

Each design exercise is a learning experience for me.You can’t fill a cup that’s already full so you have to set your ego aside when getting feedback. Staying open minded to criticism from others in the field and user testing is essential to growing as a designer.


To wrap this up, I like to point out how this product can be improved: 

  • User testing

  • More user interviews and user research

  • Keeping up with competitors and leaving them behind 

Ideas for increasing retention:

  • Write tips and get likes

  • Adding a new student in the middle of the semester

  • Having a level system

  • Attendance

  • Grades and assignments

  • Alerts/ Notifications/ Emails