“It wasn’t like, ‘I have this idea’, but rather, ‘I have a problem I want to solve’. How do we help people build better habits?”

MOTI is a startup founded by former DFA Fellow and Student Kayla Matheus. The product is a smart companion that helps you build healthy habits, and has been featured in Product Hunt and The Huffington Post. Mia Manavalan, a current DFA Northwestern Team Lead, interviewed Kayla and wrote the following article about her design process:

Moti 1

Kayla Matheus pursued this problem as one of the designers in the first class of 30 Weeks, a program that gives designers the experience, skills, and mentorship they need to be successful at building startups. Google Executive Creative Director, Robert Wong, founded 30 Weeks to test out an idea that more designers should start their own companies. Kayla was one of the designers in the inaugural class.

Moti 2
30 Weeks Program


It’s different from your typical incubator or accelerator because you don’t start with team, money, or an idea. You start as a designer. A designer who wants to create a startup based on something you are passionate about. Kayla grew up with difficulties forming strong habits as she struggled with knee pain for 10 years while completing physical therapy. She realized that her habits were never formed properly because what she learned at her physical therapy classes never followed her home.  Thus, the problem she wanted to solve emerged: how do we help people build better habits? From that, MOTI was created (http://www.moti.io).

Moti 3
Initial sketches

She began her research with case studies: watching and interviewing people and created low-fi early prototypes. She researched and learned about behavioral psychology when a light bulb went off. Humans needed something physical to keep themselves accountable. She studied the habit learning theory based on the idea that in order to successfully form habits, you need an immediate, tangible reward. These early prototypes hinted at that idea. She created small desk toys, but slowly realized that people needed to have a semi-anthropomorphized object that they could bond with in order to have some sense of accountability. MOTI provides an emotional attachment that wearables cannot.

Moti 4
Behind the scenes product photoshoot

Each MOTI has at least one anthropomorphized feature, like a faceplate or an eye or feet. It connects to WiFi and every time you push the button, it logs a timestamp. Graphs are created over time with hopes of trending upwards. MOTI needs to know how you’re doing in order to analyze your behavior as you progress. It knows when to expect habits, almost as though it has its own mind. MOTI can become sad, angry, or encouraging, depending on what the user chooses. Using color and sounds, it conveys these feelings. Encouraging is white, sad is purple, and angry is red. Sounds, based on pitch-volume, also convey these feelings. Lights also go off in various patterns to express these emotions.

Moti 5
Final prototypes

The deadline for the 2016 program is Monday, Jan 11. For more information on 30 Weeks, visit their website at https://www.30weeks.com/.


Originally written by Mia Manavalan for DFA Collaborative