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Sleep & Dreams
Outreach Project


Sleep & Dreams is an iconic course at Stanford that covers the neuroscience of sleep and sleep disorders. Each year, students are tasked with an "Outreach Project" to create a 5-10 minute educational video aimed at spreading awareness on important topics surrounding sleep.

Basic project requirements are to:

1. Present scientific, original content

2. Touch on four given topics

3. Document at least 20 total views


  • Ideating the creative project vision

  • Collaborating throughout the planning / content-building stages

  • Designing the first half of our Instagram Stories series


  • Alicia Hu, Project Partner

Adding A Creative Twist


Past projects have typically involved team skits or narrated powerpoint slides, but we wanted to create something more worthwhile and engaging — something that would actually catch the attention of a college-aged audience and help us improve the health of our very sleep-deprived peers. 


Given the sudden COVID-19 outbreak that sent us all home and away from our friends, I realized most of us were now stuck in quarantine spending a lot more time scrolling through social media. That in turn sparked the creative vision for our unconventional (but approved!) project format.


Instead of filming a single 5-10 minute video, what if we created a weeklong series of Instagram Stories where each day's installment features 1-2 minutes of content on a specific sleep topic? This would allow us to incorporate interactive elements like true/false polls and even shareable templates, while also helping us track total views and other helpful engagement metrics via Instagram's built-in analytics. 

Monday's Topic

Wednesday's Topic


Tuesday's Topic

This change in format meant we wouldn't be able to rely on voiceovers or detailed diagrams to help explain complex concepts. Instead, we would have to plan carefully to cover as much educational content as possible without overwhelming our audience and losing overall engagement.

So, how could we use typography, color, and layout to communicate our content effectively, while also creating a fun and interactive experience for our viewers? What would match the existing aesthetic of the Instagram Story platform but distinguish our project as a unique, one-time campaign?

Teamwork Across Timezones

Both my partner and I headed home at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, forcing us to complete our entire project virtually between Vancouver and Atlanta. Video calls were perfect for brainstorming sessions where we needed to ideate quickly and exchange feedback on the spot, but we also needed a real-time, cloud-based solution for our planning and content-building stages. 

The first collaborative tool we turned to was Google Slides, which helped us map out the content for each "page" of our 5-topic Instagram Stories series:

An overview of the content mockups for our first few sleep topics. 

I suggested these mock-ups as a space for us to brain-dump and rearrange information quickly. Given the breadth of research we had prepared for each topic, I knew we would need a way to visualize our planned length constraints (15-20 pages per topic) and have the freedom to jump between topics as we filtered our information down into smaller, more digestible chucks.

 A closer look at the first three "pages" of our Topic #1 mockup.

This intermediate planning stage also helped us focus on our written content without worrying about visuals, optimizing the limited opportunities we had to collaborate in real time. Then, once we had a solid breakdown of what to include on each page, we divided up the topics and dived into the design.

Working off of our Google Slides mock-ups, we transformed each static block of written content into a much more aesthetically-pleasing Instagram Story, complete with animated elements and placeholders for Instagram's built-in polls and quizzes:

The first three "pages" of our Topic #1 mockups, now fully-designed and ready for upload.

Design Decisions

I was responsible for designing the first half of our Instagram Stories series (topics #1, #2, and the latter half of #3), laying the groundwork for our core design decisions and setting the tone for our overall project aesthetic. Throughout this process, my three main design considerations included:


An Instagram Story with a short clip or photo appears for only 7 seconds at a time by default. To ensure that our viewers would be able to gather the key points from each page with minimal rewinds, I used typography and spacing to organize our content and help the most important ideas stand out.


A common feature in Instagram Stories are the gifs and animated stickers that users can add to their uploaded content. To match this aesthetic within our project (and to prevent it from feeling like vertical powerpoint slides), we made sure to try and include at least one moving element on every page.


We wanted each day's installment to stand out as a new and different topic, so we applied distinct visual themes by varying our mood, font, and color choices. To maintain at least some common thread throughout the series, we incorporated consistent sticker styles and familiar intro/closing page layouts.

The Final Product

I hope the sneak peeks so far have successfully piqued your interest in our project results — click any of the topics below to check out the final designs, and maybe you'll even learn something new about sleep!

 TOPIC #1 

 TOPIC #2 

 TOPIC #3 

(each topic opens in new tab where you can click through and view the stories at your own pace)