The Buddy Book



This project aimed to explore the challenges of education inequalities in grades K-12. Through research and many user interviews, we learned that the refugee population in San Diego is increasing dramatically yet the resources for refugee students are still lacking. By teaming up with refugee programs around San Diego, we created a handbook that helps assimilate newly settled refugee students by pairing them up with an older student that guides them through a wide range of activities from academic to life skills.


  • Illustrator
  • User centered design heuristics


     My Roles

  • User research
  • Product design



Background Research

In order to fully understand this design challenge, we did extensive background research and interviews. We interviewed experts from refugee programs around San Diego including YALLA, PAL UCSD, and Canvas and found that some of the most pressing issues in regards to refugee students is the language barrier, feeling isolated when they arrive, parents that are unable to really care for students, teachers that don't take the time to understand these new students, and students that are unaware of how the education system here works.



During the ideation phase, we aimed to gather as many ideas as we could that encapsulated the key insights from our background research. We used “How can we statements” in order to guide our brainstorming sessions.

How can we make refugee students feel more included when they arrive here?

How can we ensure that standards of academic success are inclusive to all groups of refugees?

How can we get teachers to be more understanding of all the differences of refugee students?

How can we help school staff better support refugee students?



In order to narrow down our ideas from the ideation phase, we began to think more realistically about the possible design solution. We narrowed out technology such as apps or websites because we couldn't assume that everyone would have access to this kind of technology. We also narrowed out some of the less feasible ideas such as ideas addressing the language barrier because there are many possible languages that the refugees speak. After narrowing down our ideas, we decided to create a handbook in the hopes that it would ease the transition into San Diego for students.



 We began by thinking about who would use this handbook and decided on a “mentor mentee” concept for the book. By pairing a younger refugee student with an older refugee student we aimed to create a product that would be educational and facilitate new friendships.  We gathered ideas for different activities the handbook would contain and began creating low fidelity prototypes for the layout of the pages.

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Final Design:

After some user testing and more user interviews, we created four categories of activities for the handbook: academic skills, life skills, buddy bonding, and culture. These categories addressed the many challenges that we learned new refugees face after moving to San Diego. 

The pages contain background information, the purpose of the activity, directions for the activity, and discussion questions. 

In order to have one final cohesive project, we made sure to stay consistent in our branding by following certain color and formatting guides.

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