How might we visually enhance the story of one’s travels?

What was the challenge?

Ideate, design and present with mocks or working prototype, an innovative idea that disrupts an existing market while creating value for users.

My Role

I participated in the hackathon with Arundhati Bhat, a product manager. The two of us brainstormed and decided on the problem area we wanted to tackle and came up with the idea for wanderlust. I was responsible for the design of the product and the presentation at the hackathon.


Apart from winning the hackathon and a prize money of $500, Wanderlust drew a lot of praise from the judges. Dave McDowell, the Senior Vice President of Communication at AoL, said wanderlust was “informed by good research, data and empathetic design decisions”.

TEAM Arundhati Bhat, Shantanu Salgaonkar

Image on Cover:
The splash screen for Wanderlust.

I participated in the Hackathon along with Arundhati Bhat, a Product Manager. We started by brainstorming spaces that we could explore and design for. We kept our focus on issues we are familiar with so that we can use our empathy to create a valuable product

Left: Arundhati and I at a cafe in Modena, on a trip to Italy

We started out by thinking about problems that we face in our everyday life and if we could build a solution to mitigate our problems. One of the areas where I’ve often had trouble is with documenting travel.

Right: Our brainstorming notes from understanding the travelers' mindset.

Since we are both fond of travel, we started brainstorming pain-points that travelers face. We eventually narrowed down to one problem that we felt needed to be addressed: Documenting travel.

For Arundhati and I, our usual approach to travel begins with research on Instagram and lonely planet. It helps us chart our course based on priorities. But once the trip done and the memory starts to fade, there are fewer frictionless ways to help future travelers to the same location with my experiences and research. Most apps today like Trip Planner, Tripline Map and Trip Ride etc help users in planning their trip and coming up with an itinerary, but miss an integral part of feedback loop between what the plan was and what actually happened. There is also no quick way to save notes on the locations.

We narrowed down to one problem that we felt needed to be addressed: Documenting travel.

We set up interviews with friends, coworkers and acquaintances who we knew loved to travel. The total number of people interviewed was 15. It was established that a trip could range from a weekend getaway to a long weekend trip to another city, state or country. Each user said that they’d like to see their trip documented in the format of a story. 13 of them, said that they’d like to share the story with a close relative or friend.

The design hence was focused on filling the void that the existing apps have left open. Extremely easy and hassle free user input was another major focus. We understand that users are excited when traveling and have very little time to make written notes each time. So we provide two other ways of input- images/videos and audio. All the inputs from the user are location and context aware which empowers the algorithm to stitch the inputs together logically weaving a story without needing user intervention.


From the date the competition was announced to the day it was presented, we had three weeks to come up with a problem space, a solution and a presentation. It was a wonderful crash exercise in seeing a blue ocean project from concept to prototype state. It put us in a position that required us to be nimble and move fast in our quest to find a solution.

Arundhati and Shantanu presented a product that was informed by good research, data and empathetic design decisions. The product targeted a niche white space market and found a relatable pain point. Well done!

Dave McDowell

SVP Communications

AoL Brands

And so we defined our task

Decrease the barrier to entry and make the process of documenting travel easy, delightful and help connect the world through these visual travel stories.



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Palo Alto

© Shantanu Salgaonkar 2019





Winner @ The AoL Hackathon

“The muffins at Muriel’s bakery were the best I’ve ever had”

“The drive through Isle of Skye was just dreadful”

What did the judges say?

Top: Arundhati and I at a cafe in Modena, on a trip to Italy

Top: Our brainstorming notes from understanding the travelers' mindset.