Rachel Lee


Em for Southwest

A conversational user interface designed to support the Southwest Airlines flying experience.


The name Em was derived from the word 'emblazoned'. Southwest's CEO once described how the company's heart logo is emblazoned on all of their aircrafts, a symbol of their commitment to their customers.


We were deeply inspired by our childhood experiences playing the 'Wikipedia game'. By clicking on links to portal yourself from one topic to another, we aimed to create an engaging experience that allows users to choose their own narrative journey.

Rachel Lee © 2021

Em for Southwest 


Conversation Design
Branding and Identity


4 weeks
(Spring 2020)


Hannah Cai
Jenni Lee
Jaclyn Saik


Use Case Development

A conversational user interface designed to support the Southwest Airlines flying experience.

As conversational agents are increasingly being integrated into digital products, the role of verbal and visual cues in CUIs cannot be understated. Such cues act as the bridge between system and user, creating a human facing persona that lends itself to communicating with and supporting users. We created Em1, a CUI for Southwest Airlines, to reflect a brand that is marketed as 'people first' and aims to support passengers during every step of their journey.

Concept Video

Leaving Home

Em provides users with a time estimate for when they should leave for the airport, taking into account real time data on traffic and security lines.


Em utilizes geolocation data to inform users when they should get moving to be on time for boarding.

Mitigating Flight Anxiety 

Upon detecting a fast heartbeat, Em checks in on users who might be experiencing flight anxiety and provides a series of quiet interventions to calm them down in flight.

Landing Contact Check-Ins

Em texts the user's key contacts upon landing to let them know they have arrived at their destination safely.

Motion Exercises

As animation is a crucial device that conversational agents used to convey messages, we began by animating a single circle to try our hand at reflecting various emotions and states through motion. We later animated these same states with the Southwest brand in mind, and came together to compare and map how the nuances of differing motions conveyed a certain tone.

Use Cases

In order to create a CUI with value, we began to investigate the user journey of flyers— from booking to landing. We mapped the key points in the user's journey to potential scenarios where a conversational agent might prove to be useful.

With a rough approximation of a user journey, we conducted usability interviews with Southwest passengers to determine the need for our proposed interventions, and the kinds of travellers who might benefit from them.

The Journey

With a deeper understanding of real user needs during a flight, we began to storyboard concept ideas and create our our script to translate our four primary scenarios into a cohesive storyline.

Southwest’s Brand

During our initial interviews, several users mentioned that Southwest feels like a friendly and trustworthy brand. Similarly, Southwest markets itself as a 'people first' brand that services it's customers with heart. We looked more closely into Southwest's visual assets and rebrand by Lippincott ↗, and began to think about how these abstract attributes could be conveyed visually.

Style benchmarks that we used for concept video inspiration. We gravitated towards friendly and approachable visuals.

Creating the CUI

While our initial CUI form explorations drew inspiration from shapes from aircrafts and Southwest's logo itself, we eventually settled on using Southwest's existing heart logo, a motif which many found to be inseperable from the brand. The heart morphs to fit the underlying tone of each state.

We eventually settled on 4 final states: waking up, listening, speaking and meditation.

Visual Assets

To prepare for animation, we created a library of visual assets. We drew upon Southwest's primary brand colors and created visual assets inspired by Bauhaus design. Drawing upon the principles of the Bauhaus, simple shapes and lines were used as a foundation to create more complex assets in order to emphasize how a fundamentally strong service foundation is key to the service-customer relationship.