Oceans apart brought together

Recognizing and rewarding colleagues across land and sea.

MSC Cruises
UX/ UI Design
Project year


What it was

An employee recognition product that would connect employees across MSC's cruise liners while at sea. It would serve as the digital portal to each ship's communities and day-to-day activities and a place to celebrate and acknowledge the performance of its workforce.

Why it mattered

By better connecting a disparate workforce, MSC hoped to deliver an improved and more consistent performance standard while extending the reach of its employees to communicate with current and future colleagues.

My role

  • Conduct and distill user research and develop personas
  • Develop the UX, including IA, user flows, and lo-fi wireframes
  • Create hi-fi mock-ups and prototypes to showcase product experience and hand-off to developers
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Above: Quick thumbnail sketches produced during a brainstorming session.
Above: Mock-up designs for employee activation experience. An immersive wall-to-wall digital cube visitors could interact with and experience the 'Pixel perfect resolution'.

Challenge and Process

MSC Cruises had identified an issue - With a quickly expanding fleet, a fragmented workforce was delivering increasingly varying levels of customer service. As a result, ships acted as echo chambers, making it difficult to gauge performance compared to other vessels.

MSC approached us with two primary objectives:

  • To introduce an employee recognition tool designed to reward employee performance and;
  • connect employees through shared experiences across its fleet of ships whilst at sea.

The project’s outset would see our team travel to Palma de Mallorca, Spain to meet with employees aboard three MSC Cruise liners over three days. In that time, we would conduct a number of interviews with crew members operating in various roles, which we’d distill to create a set of personas on our return.

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Above: User personas derived from employee interviews and onsite observations.
Above: Userflow diagram for Rolls-Royce web app.
Top: The original @work Intranet interface design.
Above: Design charette from user workshop illustrating desired product feature.
Above: Brand creative reconfigured for large-format installation at Sky's Osterley HQ.

Understanding the user

These personas would allow both us, and our client to remain focused on common user pain points and motivations. They’d ensure we’d remain anchored (excuse the pun) so that as the project developed; we’d not drift towards adding features or interactions that didn’t aim to resolve identified user needs.

A common theme that came up continually in our interview was that those in customer-facing roles have fleeting access to the use of their mobile devices (though, importantly, they were allowed to carry them). This meant lots of distractions and very limited time to spend using our solution.

With this in mind, we set about considering

"...how might we develop a tool that’ll enrich an employee’s day-to-day at sea, whilst being empathetic to their limited time of use."

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Above: Framework diagram for content page templates.
Above: Examples of desktop and mobile wireframes produced during development.
Above: (Top) User flow developed to maintain consistency framework across each game. (Bottom) Our in-house Sky Sports design system
Above: User flow diagram detailing the content requirements for the overall application. Below: Task flow based on an activity requirement for a user persona.
Above: Examples of early creative routes pitched to the client.
Above: Sky HQ entranceway dressed and experiential pop-ups installed, ready for launch day.

Each of our personas represented different user perspectives, wants, and needs that'd lead them to consider using the product. We'd use these to help develop an overarching user flow. This would give a clear overview of all critical attributes and actions we'd need to focus on to meet user needs.

Having established this 'big picture,' we'd drill down into user-specific tasks and how they could be resolved given our findings and constraints

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Above: Prior to launch large crowds gathered in front of our countdown timer (left), teaser graphic on reception tower digital screens (right).
Top: Wireframes using the page framework to test its flexibility for multiple use cases.
Bottom: Comparison between the existing project page template and the new design using our page framework.
Above: (Top) Game screens for Formula 1® interface. (Bottom) Track illustrations for each European Grand Prix.
Above: Early set of creative ideas using messaging discovered during my research.
Above: The services page served as the homepage. Users could browse service options and sort by engine types, before selecting to learn more.

Creating confidence with convention

Considering that users might find an unfamiliar interface daunting, we developed a look and feel that utilized established design patterns that would feel familiar to many and minimize the user learning curve. The development of these high-fidelity designs allowed us to walk the client through a prototype while giving them a realistic idea of the user experience and how a familiar interface could aid adoption. In doing so, the client felt more inclined to offer feedback as it felt like a genuine product.

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Above: Two employees pose for a photo opportunity inside the 'Pixel Perfect' cube installation (left), employees enter the launch experience through the digital doors (right)
Above: Selection of user interface and game screens for The Hundred.
Above: Draft iterations for a homepage developed in consultation with the client.
Top: Example of how Hi-Vis green text directed messaging inward, and how participation could help reduce workloads.
Bottom: Digital assets for screensavers and billboards across the Met Police estates.
Above: Set of poster designs for the initial campaign launch.

The product MVP would see the product launch with Tier 1 features. This would include an infinite scroll listing for the home screen allowing users to browse and interact with content via comments and likes. Users could also customize content visibility by location, allowing them to focus their interest on particular ships relevant to their interests.

The 'create a post' bar offered the opportunity for users to post their own content and/ or celebrate another colleague's performance. Users simply select the rosette icon, input a recipient name and allocate a business value, followed by a personal message to accompany their post. The message would appear on the site's home feed, while a notification would be sent to the recipient. Comments and likes options were also available, allowing others to respond and support the recognition.

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Above: Interface designs taken from the mobile version of the innovation center.
Above: Sky's Intranet digital takeover including home-screen (right) and Infographic (left and top-right).
Above: Character illustration and cut scenes designed for the Lions Tour game.
Top: Final desktop homepage, (below) comparison between old and new site.
Bottom: Onboarding pop-up overlay introducing users to new features available on @work.

Secondary information was available in the fly-out menu. Here employees could brush up on the core values and browse the winners of formal awards for each ship. The awards section allowed employees to dive deeper into examples of outstanding performance formally recognized by each ship's Captain and management teams.

Tier 2 functionality would come post-launch. This would include direct and group messaging as part of a more comprehensive SSO integration, as well as administrative reporting and modifications to launch features in response to user feedback and usage stats.

Above: Evolution of the original @work logo to a newer refined version.
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Above: CMS interface for authors, editors, and innovation managers to review and collate data.
Above: (top) Super Squads game interface. (Below) Email signatures with designs inspired by retro uniforms for each WSL club.
Above: Hi-definition wire flow for administration function to monitor and extract user content.
Above: Process flow for generating employee specific content for future campaign messaging.
Above: Giveaway items to promote the relaunch of @work.


Judging the success of the project has been challenging to gauge. After a positive launch campaign in late 2019, COVID-19 decimated the industry grinding cruises to a halt for more than a year. It was though an enjoyable project to be a part of. The opportunity to meet employees on the ships and witness their first-hand experiences allowed me to understand the core values and who we were designing for — in doing so, the design became instinctive and resulted in a much better end product.