Matthew Garvin

UX Research, Design, Strategy

fetch: social media animal rescue


According to ASPCA estimates, of the approximately 6.5 million companion animals that enter US shelters nationwide yearly, only about 710,000 are ever returned to their owners. About 1.5 million are euthanized.

Fetch is an animal-centric social media platform where users can scroll a timeline of posts, photos, and videos of their favorite furry friends.

Yet, the main functionality of the design is a toolkit to improve volunteer recruitment and coordination regarding animal search and rescue efforts.

This toolkit leverages social networking to recruit and optimize professional animal welfare and citizen efforts quickly.

What i did

User research: Talked to people in my community to find a need appropriate for a potential technological solution. This included interviews, persona development, and user testing.

Interaction design: Explored the design space to conceptualize a simple yet powerful tool that could support the needs of people on both sides of this equation, the pet owners and animal welfare groups.

Rapid, lo-fi, high-fi prototyping: Sketched and storyboarded divergent ideas and solicited user feedback. Converged on FETCH, and user tested a paper prototype, improving fidelity with each iteration. 


If Fetch can do anything to improve the ASPCA statistics, then it will have been a success. It’s my hope this design will help people think critically about the role that humans play in animal’s lives. Pet posts are very popular on social media platforms, so much so that a variety of competing pet specific social media platforms have launched in recent years to capitalize on this fervor.

Yet these platforms don’t even attempt to solve a problem. My user base has been making do with Facebook groups and coordinating with SMS group chats. While useful, the reality is that these tools are generic and don’t directly consider the needs of the community I’m designing for. My intention for this design is that it raises awareness surrounding issues related to animal care and welfare by drawing users to the platform to see the latest posts on caturday or from our favorite celebrity animals (RIP Lil Bub).

Interspersed on the timeline would be posts from local animal welfare organizations like those my users work with and larger media organizations like PETA and The Dodo. In a utopian vision, my app would change society so that humans treat animals with the same respect they treat others. This is a lofty vision, but to any extent that my design can move the needle in that direction would have been time well spent on my part.

Rosner, D. K., & Bennett, C. L. (2019). The Promise of Empathy: Design, Disability, and Knowing the “Other”. CHI 2019 Paper, 1-13.

Early brainstorming sketches
Sticky note paper prototyping

design process

“How might we inform the community in real-time about lost pets, last known general whereabouts, and updates?”

“How might we improve volunteer recruitment and coordination for animal shelters and rescues?”

“How might we utilize mobile technology to elevate the plight of missing and neglected or abused animals?”

“How might we improve fundraising efforts for animal shelters and rescues?”

“How might we make it easier for people to get involved in helping animals in need?”

One of the primary interactions is quickly creating and sharing a post seeking volunteers to join your efforts.

This interaction utilizes a UI pattern reminiscent of an onboarding process, with a series of option cards that slide in from the right. The idea here is to make creating and promoting a group as easy as possible for the user.

This whole process, provided the missing pet is one of the profiles previously created by the user, can be completed with one thumb.

When private, your group recruitment post will only appear on the timelines of those accounts which you follow and mutually follow you, or that you specifically invite.

I sought to design a simple yet powerful tool that could support the needs of people on both sides of this equation the pet owners and animal welfare groups. I conducted a competitive analysis on a few top sites/apps that attempted to solve the same problem I was concerned with. I found that these solutions lacked a real-time coordinated search and rescue effort.

My competitors focused mostly on improving the ability of a user to alert animal rescues if their pet ends up at one. For my part, I wanted to design a solution that resulted in actively rescuing the pet and returning them to their owner without ever going to a shelter.

Problem Statement

Based on my competitive analysis I devised a problem statement and formulated my initial HMW question:

“How might we design a system that informs the community in real-time about lost pets, last known whereabouts, and status updates?”


I explored several possibilities for how I might approach this problem.
• Employment: I considered developing a concept for on-demand animal rescue employment in an app like DoorDash or Lyft.
• Deployment: Get rescuers in the best position to spot and communicate.
• Picture Feed: Imitate an Instagram design dedicated solely to lost animals.
Ultimately, I settled on deployment, but later incorporated the picture feed strategy into my design as well to solve for some problems I encountered in my initial development according to an analysis of my user interviews and anti-persona.

Chapman, T. (2019, 09 24). Why your strategy must involve anti-personas.


As I reflected on my role as a designer, I concluded that my philosophy on this matter synthesizes two clichés. I seek to make the world safe for human differences as an anthropologist. As a designer, I aspire to improve lives through better design. I was inspired by Swiss industrial designer Yves Behar, famous for fusing gotta-have-it design with social responsibility. I took his quote to heart:

“Design needs a new relationship with the world, one that is more focused on our planet’s needs.”

This is significant to my overall process because all life on the planet is the planet itself. And the nonhuman flora and fauna have suffered enough due to human “progress.” If I could do anything with my life or my newfound powers as a designer, it would be to reverse these trends.

One of the things that attracted me to HCI and user-centered design is the emphasis on empathy. Given my intersectional upbringing which ultimately led to my passion for anthropology, I’ve long viewed the degree to which I experience empathy to be something of a superpower. To this end, I continue to seek moments in which I can empathize with my users in such a manner that closes the gap between myself and the user instead of furthering it as described in, “The Promise of Empathy” (Rosner & Bennett, 2019).

High-fidelity prototyping in Adobe XD

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