Dream Projects


Research Synthesis

Product Strategy

Dream Projects delivers monthly challenges to designers who are looking to add projects to their portfolios and improve their skills.  By partnering with companies, Dream Projects is able to offer its participants the opportunity to interview with attractive companies for open design roles.  Launched in 2019, Dream Projects is working to improve its platform for all of its users including candidates, sponsors, and judges. 

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Much like we ask of the Dream Projects users, it was important for us to work through the design process to understand our users, their problems, and ways we could solve them. 


User Interviews


Affinity Mapping

Insights Report

Ideation & Prioritization

Prioritization Matrix

Product Roadmap

Design & Implementation


Project Launch


Research would inform all of the decisions made during the design process.  User interviews were the foundation of our research so it was paramount that we conducted thorough interviews.  From interviews, were were able to understand our personas and their journey.  

Does Dream Projects deliver on its promise?

The goal of Dream Projects is to help designers.  Is Dream Projects truly helping participants to practice their skills?  Do they see value in it?  Are the prompts, processes, and rewards clear?  Our goal through research was to gain a baseline understanding of user’s experience with the platform and their underlying motivations for using Dream Projects.  This research would be conducted through user interviews.

User Interviews

In order to improve the platform, it was necessary to speak with those who have used it and gain an understanding of why they came to Dream Projects and how they used the platform.  We identified two main user types: Nominees (job seekers) and Hiring Managers.

Nominees (Job Seekers)

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 For the Nominees it was important to understand:

  • Where they are in their careers

  • Tools they use in their job search process 

  • How they improve their skills or portfolios

  • If they’ve worked with mentors or recruiters,

  • How they evaluate paying for different tools/services 

  • Impressions of Dream Projects 

Hiring Managers

With Hiring Managers we aimed to understand:

  • Their typical hiring process 

  • Tools they use

  • Costs are associated with hiring

  • Their experience in creating a design challenge and evaluating projects  

  • Impressions of Dream Projects (good and bad)

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Nominee Journey Map

User interviews helped to uncover pain points in the nominee's process of looking for a job.  For our purposes it helped us to understand their journey in using Dream Projects.  In the immediate, we want to focus on challenges and opportunities in their experience during the project and after they've submitted.  

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A full Insights Report based on the interviews and research was presented to the Dream Projects Leadership Team.  The goal of the report was to highlight findings and opportunities to improve the platform.

Hypothesis Testing

The team had several hypotheses that we wanted to either confirm or prove to be untrue during the interview process. 



People don’t really have a tool that helps them find a job, get more work in their portfolio, or guide them on how to build a proper portfolio in a structured way and that is something they would pay for. 


Partially Confirmed.  Tools exist that offer jobs or portfolio help but it is difficult to evaluate which ones are worth paying for.   



People are OK with recruiters charging on top of their service but wish they were more transparent about the process. That 20% seems fair but 50% seems excessive.


Confirmed.  Nominees accept recruiters getting paid, as long as it doesn't affect their salary.  



People were clear on the offering.  



Partially confirmed.  Nominees were unclear if remote work was offered.  



People didn’t participate because the incentive was not strong enough.


Untrue, nominees were motivated by self improvement



Dream Projects would be used exclusively by Junior level designers


Not just junior designers.  Mid-level designers with several years at one company came to Dream Projects to find ways to add variety to their portfolio.  

Key Takeaways

Ultimately, we learned there is a gap in the marketplace between what exists and what is needed.  It is the goal of Dream Projects to fill that gap with each insight leading to an actionable area for improvement.  

1.  Nominees look for wins or ways to stand out during the job searching process

2.  Nominees have an unclear picture of where they excel or need to improve which leaves them second-guessing what is or is not working for them in the job seeking process

3.  Nominees want an opportunity to practice their craft and build portfolio pieces 

Feature Prioritization

Each opportunity for improvement was then evaluated based on Effort, Impact, Vision, and Profitability.  The goal was to prioritize each solution and determine what fixes could be made immediately that would help alleviate pain points for the users and what improvements would take more time and effort to implement. 

Product Roadmap

•  Add eligibility requirements
•  Post multiple projects
•  Include deadlines with project posting
•  Add “How did you hear about us” field
•  Add Winner/Nominee badges
•  Improvements to judging process
•  Relax constraints in submission process

•  Create portfolio best practices
•  Provide feedback on projects
•  Content marketing strategy
•  Create resources for a fee
•  Build sense of community
•  Monthly event recognizing 

•  Establish tiered pricing for feedback
•  Add ability for peer comments
•  Create skill-specific challenges


The product roadmap helped us to visualize what could be tackled for the next version of Dream Projects. 


"After I won, the first thing I thought was ‘they probably don’t have a remote position'”

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Eligibility requirements were added to the project brief and to the submission page.  Nominees are still invited to submit their projects for scores and feedback, however, they will not be eligible to win the prize of an interview with the sponsoring company.  

“I was kind of frustrated by the limitation.  I spent a lot of time on this and I wanted to show all the detail...at least a chance to show a prototype.” 

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The constraints on the submission process were relaxed in the next project.   We still wanted to challenge the participants to be concise and clearly articulate their findings and decisions, however, given the scope of the ask, we provided the freedom to include more information.  Most notably, a field was added that allowed nominees to add a link to their final prototype.  

"It would have been helpful to have more of an idea of deadlines so I could plan my schedule a little and dedicate the necessary time.”

Sign up for Dream Projects

New Project Launched

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Deadline Reminder: 1 week

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Deadline Reminder: 24 hrs

Submission Confirmation

Winner Announced

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“Some kind of badge for your LinkedIn you can use to showcase your work...like a stamp of approval, this person participated, this person did this. So you can stand out for putting in that effort.”

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Through our research we found that job seekers look for "wins" during the process.  Although intrinsically motivated to participate in Dream Projects, nominees need ways to stand out from their fellow job seekers and need moments of recognition and positive reinforcement.  These badges will provide them with a way to highlight their successes.  

“I don't know where to go to get good feedback on my portfolio...[I would have liked] getting at least the scores if you placed or one written comment after to hear a great thing or something to improve.”

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The goal of Dream Projects is to help designers improve their skills which makes the feedback aspect of utmost importance.  In addition to providing numerical scores, nominees are provided with feedback from the panel of judges which will help point our areas they succeeded and areas that still need improvement.  

Future Areas of Opportunity

With Dream Projects still in Beta, there are more changes uncovered through research that will help to improve the platform.  These changes will require more effort and will be rolled out in future releases of Dream Projects.  

Improvements to Judging Platform

Shared Google Sheet

Judges had access to see how other judges were scoring projects.  Led to biased decisions.


Google Forms

Streamlined  judging process for more feedback and quicker scoring


Judging portal hosted on Dream Projects

Judging Flow

As Dream Project continues to grow, judging will take place on a tiered basis.  Initial judging will be conducted by a panel of Dream Projects experts which will allow for a standardized rubric from which scores will be given out.  Nominees who score in the Top 10 will then be moved on to the next round of judging.  The Top 5 will then be moved along in the process

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Recruiting Platform

Conversations with participants confirmed some assumptions the Dream Projects team had about future sources of revenue.  Through interviews with candidates and hiring managers, we heard a common refrain, that people are willing to pay for services that actually provide value to them.  This is a major area of opportunity for Dream Projects to take their business.


  • Charge a fee for feedback on projects and portfolios

  • Create recruiting service for candidates and companies

  • Provide vetted list of candidates to companies

  • Add job boards section - companies pay to post jobs