Responsive Performance Spaces
In my design project Soft Bodies, I looked at how we can design an element in a multi interactive performance system, focusing on the audience. Soft Bodies is an interactive dance mirror that invites the audience to explore movements that are not possible in real live by presenting them with a manipulated version of themselves
The concept was designed by building iteration upon iteration. Every iteration had a goal that followed the previous one, and outcomes of each iteration were used to build the next iteration upon. In the very first iterations, users could create a piece of music by interacting together with a tubular object.
The fourth concept was turned into a clear video that showed the way the interaction in Soft Bodies worked. This video was used as a communication tool with potential stakeholders. Do It Together picked up on the video, and were very enthousiastic to have my installation being placed at their event.
I made the final prototype to be placed in the context of Radio Royaal. The transparant material choice makes the object almost float in the air, despite its 3 meter by 3 meter dimensions. I could have spend more time on sophisticating the shape, but in this context the form seemed fitting
This semester, I designed for the GMIS: Responsive Performance Spaces project. The goal was to make an element of an interactive musical performance system, where the audience, instruments, performers and the space could all become part of one interactive whole. The spatial aspect is on obvious entrance for my design vision, as well as my own experience in making music, but what interested me most was how a project like this could have a value in a broader societal context. The initial aim was to find the values (like for example self-competence, self-actualisation) that such a system provides for, and apply the project to a context where there was a requirement for such values.
The feedback that I received during my last semester was that it was unclear what my role as a designer was. I do aim to design for societal issues, so I deliberately chose this approach to ensure that I would make the translation to such a context.
This however, turned an opportunity driven project into a problem oriented one. I feel like for such a long time, I have been used to fixing problems that I had to do a big mental step to switch the orientation of my project back to opportunity driven. I decided to focus this semester more on making skills and the opportunities of my project, and save the move to a societal context for my Final Masters Project.
Exploring design opportunities instead of researching and then designing for a problem did not only force me to change my work approach, but also to document and evaluate my process differently. Instead of the concept reports I am used to where I describe the research, and design phase followed by a final concept, in this report I focused on the process. By breaking apart the process in the project goal, my vision on it and my approach, I kept track of how the process evolved during the project.
It also brought out the red line in the project, in that I was trying to find an experience that engaged users in a bodily and social way with eachother and the product, and that I tried to validate this in the final iterations. At first, the claims and thoughts that I had about the project were perhaps poetic and abstract, but I used the report as a tool to seperate my assumptions from what I can validate. My assessor duly noted that I should be aware of this during the final demo days, and I feel like the report was an answer to this.
The worth map structures that I have used during this semesters, have also been great tools to connect abstract claims with concrete observations. I will apply these visualisations in my Final Masters Project as an academic tool to communicate my process.
I see breaking my traditional design approach as a very good thing; I feel like sometimes I design from a cultivated intuition, the ID educational model, and that both my project and the Balanced Interaction Design & Evaluation module provided me with new perspectives on what a design process can be. Taking these perspectives, I become aware of my own assumptions. I feel like not a single approach is the best one, and by experiencing multiple approaches, I can find one that suits me as a designer best.
In my Identity, I talk about how wearing a certain piece of clothing or listen to invigorating music can work transformative; not by reflecting how you feel, but reflecting how you want to feel. This is a very abstract construct still by I see this 'fake it until you make it' behavioral change in my project as well. By seeing the digital self dance in a certain way, users start dancing like it themselves. I will find a concrete validation for what I see here and perhaps use this transformative quality in my Final Masters Project.
I quickly turned to designing interaction through video manipulation for this project. This required a lot of programming skills from my side, which I got to practice a lot this semester. I feel like these skills help me to quickly create an interaction that is immediately able to be experienced. It even allows these experiences to be programmed and changed on the fly in what I called Coding & Ideating sessions, where through co-design, new types of interactions could be programmed and tested on the fly.
If I want to design these types of interactions in future projects like my FMP, I feel that I can now more quickly come up with testable prototypes, saving time and allowing me to do more iterations. This focus has a downside however; the product becomes only a vessel for the iteraction. Like my coach rightfully addressed in my feedback, I could have spend more time on designing the physical product. I did work a lot in the workshop for the modules, my SDL activities and the realisation of the final prototype for DIT. For my FMP, I will focus on finishing this final step in the physical aesthetics of the concept.
By communicating my fourth iteration in the shape of a video, I was able to reach a large network of potential stakeholders that could clearly understand the interaction from the video and envision possibilities for the installation. Do It Together (DIT) was interested in having my concept at a party event. It was such an opportunity to test the product in the actual context, and a big personal step of finding my own potential client and creating an actual working design for them.
This step of moving my work outside of the TU/e will progress into my FMP, where I have to find a client abroad who is willing to cooperate on my design project and I can build on the experience of communicating with DIT as a stakeholder.
"you needed to change your goals slightly at the halfway point this semester. You did so admirably: instead of being disappointed/discouraged you immediately changed gears and turned an apparent setback into something good. I ofund this very good!
Your design was interesting and elegantly simple (although its physical form could have been worked out more) while being very engaging. The behaviours you designed are intriguing. Your report is comprehensive and your reflections are good throughout the report.
You designed very intriguing video effects, which made that we could experience our bodies in different ways. I found it striking how seeing your digital self made you aware of your physical self, and how willing I became to use my physical self to make my digital self look better. As such your goal to connect people and technology in a more human way was met well"
- Bart Hengeveld, coach
Balanced Interaction Design & Evaluation
In this module, we designed the concept of an app that helps students provide the university with feedback in the shape of tiny questionnaires as opposed to the big ones at the ends of semesters. In this picture, you can see the posters we designed that acted as a means of communicating our concept to potential users. We then asked them to share their thoughts on the potential product
We designed the WEMS method as a way of evaluation our design process. We were working on the user, the technology and the values we adress in parallel: the WEMS were like a cross section of where each of these roles was at the moment of presentation.
The Worth Map is an overview that connects concrete product qualities to 'worthy outcomes', positive enforcement of values that we found we could design for. We decided to build our worth map on a wall and create the connections using thread. This allowed us to connect and reconnect elements inside of the worthmap and find out what qualities were related to which value. If a value only had one connection, we could add more qualities to provide additional connections.
The design language that I am trying to master at Industrial Design might differ from where I end up furthering my career as a designer. In this module, we were asked to design an app to improve the quality of education at the TU/e, through a different approach to design than the ID educational model. The theory of this approach was explained through lectures, and brought into practice through the concept design. The module helped me not only take a step back from my own design process and assumptions, but provided me with new tools and approaches that I was able to apply to my project and the different modules.
The module forced different team members to work in different roles in a parallel design process. Instead of doing the concept design step by step, different aspects of the design like user research and market strategy were done simultaneously, where I reflected
in action while in the role, and on action at times where evaluation was needed between roles.
I noticed that I became really defensive of the knowledge I gathered for my own role in communicating my findings during evaluation.
This defensiveness made me focus on what I thought
was valuable about my work, but hindered the effectiveness in the process in that I was less willing to let my own ideas go. Nevertheless, I feel like being pushed to defend my findings is a good thing, and the letting go part is something I might have to overcome if I want to work in streamlined group processes, without losing what I think is valuable about my work.
A different type of design process calls for a different form of evaluation. The parallel process made me evaluate and communicate concepts differently; activities didn’t happen step by step chronologically, but were part of a constantly changing whole. The group I was part of designed a new method of evaluation that allowed us to communicate the results of our roles, while also serving as a tool for inquiry from the user. I realize that I solved this call for different communication and evaluation in my project as well, where the opportunity driven iterative approach had me rethink my traditional report structure. The methods we were thought felt constraining at first. They were different from the design approach that was ingrained in my brain and felt counterintuitive. After seeing them as recipes in a cookbook, something clicked: They are abstract ideal situations, and every project calls for personalization and adaptation of such a method. Describing our own evaluation method forced us to abstract and detach the method from the scenario of the module, to something that can be applied to other projects.
Lean and Motivating
In trying to take a lean approach towards the project, we really focused on getting the most value out of every step and stopping an activity when it did not
seem valuable at the time. An example is where I got defensive about further filling in the worth map, but the others making me realize that more time wouldn’t yield enough valuable resources at that time. What if I take a lean approach towards motivation, considering at every step of the process if it is something that will motivate me to work on the project? As fuel for a process, I think such a lean approach to motivation can greatly help in the fun and energy available for working on a project, and that it will also show in the final concept.
An evaluation tool like the worth map can create an overview of how the concrete and abstract are connected. A worth map visualizes connections between the abstract and the concrete can help me a lot in my own process. During my research semester, I often times felt like these connections were lacking, or that I was unable to communicate both ends. I now realize that a worth map approach can be applied to all kinds of processes: we have used it as a way to analyze poetry and to apply values and experiences from a poem onto an existing product. It can even help me connect my own vision to my projects, and visualize how my projects are means in order to project my ends on users in the shape of worthy outcomes that are part of my design vision
"You have achieved a.high degree of control and pace within a team design process. Envisioning has been a strong point throughout, with a generous range of values in continuous consideration and brought to life via WEMS and your blog.
Validating in context was highly effective through paper prototyping and your invigorating WEMS.
Synthesis/integration was well managed via worth maps, the BAPE diagram and the WEMS, although your blog lacked detail on several activities.Your group have been open minded, proactive, focused courageous, imaginative and critical, and have also supported each other within your group."
Poetry in Design
In this module we were asked to translate poems into redesigns of existing products. By abstracting concrete elements, interactions and values from the poem, we were able to create an experience pattern that can be reapplied to other products. In our case, we translated 'Het meisje en de trom' into a redesign of a rolling pin we dubbed Gromorgaan.
In a poem, the experience of being guided by a concrete signpost can represent an abstract feeling of being lost. This is what i noticed during the analysis of the poems: that it shares the connection between concrete qualities and abstract values the way a product also does this. The weight of the rolling pin and the resistance it provides excerts control over the user. We translated these qualities into a video moodboard that also provided us with rich inspiration for the redesign.
I created a wooden prototype at Atelier Eindhoven. A dialog started to happen, where the natural shape of the wood started to dictate me how the shape should be. . This dialog carried itself to the final shape; the shape of the wood now also dictates the way it can be used. A small crook can manipulate dough finely, while a large curved area allows for making the dough flat. I liked this physical work.
In this picture, you can see the way we abstracted interactions from the poem. Combining these interactions with material qualities and values, we can come to an experience pattern that can be reapplied to any other product as a tool to redesign it.
I chose this module to find a way to apply my artistic side to my design side. In the module, we abstracted poem´s and used the values and interactions from the poems to redesign an existing product, in our case a rolling pin. Occupying myself with the arts is a big part of my identity, and finding a way to use this in a constructive way to my advantage will make me become a stronger and well equipped designer.
Perhaps poetry in its stripped down version, is a selection of thoughts and ideas carefully put into a structure of words representing these thoughts. It makes feelings, experiences and values communicatable through a concrete presentation, it integrates them very much like a story.
I was able to apply the Worth Map from the previous module, as a way of visualizing connections between the concrete elements and abstract parts of the poem. These maps of connections are like roadmaps, with new destinations for existing products to travel to. The resulting map made it really easy to reimagine a product in the spirit of the poem: take any of the
concrete qualities, add them to the redesign and
perhaps the whole trail of experiences and values that are connected to it follow. Poetry for me can pave a way for design to explore.
In the abstraction, it was sometimes hard to not overdo it, or to stay too close to the original poem. Abstracting feels like adding balloons to the product, it takes it further away from the poem. Adding concrete qualities feels like adding anchors, it brings the product closer to the poem, but in a very literal way. Maybe there should be a balance between the two, where you have an optimal weight that grounds the redesign in the poem, but also enough room created by abstraction that lets the product exist in its own right. The balance between the two is underlined in the feedback
I had the opportunity to develop some prototyping skills through the production of our final prototype. I gathered a birch log and used the various tools available at Vertigo and Atelier Eindhoven to work the material. It was interesting to see the difference in
working with raw natural material versus processed wood; it would not let itself be shaped easily. A dialog started to happen, where the natural shape of the wood started to dictate me how the shape should be. . This dialog carried itself to the final shape; the shape of the wood now also dictates the way it can be used
A small crook can manipulate dough finely, while a large curved area allows for making the dough flat. I liked this physical work. Perhaps it is interesting to use more natural materials in the future; the material can answer questions about what shape the product should be through its inherit qualities.
Seeing how the structure of a worth map could be applied to a different module, I decided to apply it to my own vision as well. Last semester, I received feedback that sometimes the connections between the abstract and concrete should be more clear, and the worth map structure has proven to be a valuable tool for me to do so.
"You have showed a very good description of the process, this is what I meant by showing a good process overview. It was clear that this was a methodological approach. It is something that someone else could use when going through a similar process. It was very clear and structurally presented.
I think that with your effort and your collaboration we now have a clear methodology. You have showed us that it is not just about how to be inspired about poetry and by doing that you gave us an opportunity to fine tune the methodology and the design process"
Ward van der Houwen & Patrizia Marti
Process video for the Poetry in Design Module. The video itself was created by fellow student Anne Spaa
In this module, we were asked to design a user experience for the employees of Strukton, an installation company at High Tech Campus Eindhoven. Through interviews, we discovered that Struktons position at the campus is strong because of their experienced elderly employees. This does leave Strukton vulnerable in the coming years when these employees will retire. We designed a system that helps transfer the knowledge from old to new employees. Pictured is part of a scenario I drew.
We used affinity diagramming to find what values employees hold dearly. Providing the employees with a ladder has it’s obvious use on a usability level, but what does it really mean to have such a ladder? . Maybe the use of the ladder or the way the mechanics interact with it give them a greater sense of freedom, allow them to see the HTC from different perspectives and explore unexplored areas. Maybe this freedom and exploration positively excites them.
By talking to them we discovered that age will have them leave the company soon, but with age also the experience they have built up, and that there turned out to be a need to transfer this experience and knowledge to new employees. Inside of the Strukton office, you can even find strollers for the elderly, and the average age of the employees is 48 years.
We say that users can create new learning challenges from tasks they just performed in line with the freedom and autonomy they value. By integrating the creation of challenges with tasks they already have to do, we disguise the challenge creation process as a task they already have a liking for, yet we never designed how the domain knowledge would be entered into the system, maybe these actions contradict the user experience and the values we had in mind.
Designing for the User Experience
With this semester, I am slowly moving my designs outside of contexts that are somehow familiar for me. My Final Masters Project and possible projects afterwards will take place in a context that is almost completely foreign to me. In order to design for such a context, I will need tools to empathise with my user. In this module, I learned and practiced a set of such tools. We were asked to design a user experience for employees of Strukton, an installation company at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven.
Designing in the first place an experience as opposed to a product shifted the focus of the concept design from the concrete towards the abstract. Again, the structure of the worth map proved valuable to see how concrete aspects of a design help fulfill certain needs and values in users.
Starting the module straight away by envisioning scenarios and personas, I realized I was working with a
lot of assumptions. I need to be aware of what is an assumption, and what can be validated. We had a lot of assumptions on the physical capabilities and age of the Strukton employees before we started interviewing them, but the age turned out to play a different role than creating physical obstacles
Through testing and interviewing, I can slowly replace my assumptions by validations, or discover new opportunities together with the user. In all of the techniques of getting this rich user information like the co-constructing stories methods, ethnographic methods and cultural probes,time is a valuable resource. Empathy takes time and the methods I mentioned seem to find a way to work around this, either by working over a longer time period (the probe) or by getting the user in a certain state instead of waiting for it (sensitising stories in co-constructing
stories). Our focus was more on the abstract side of the experience, but I feel we could have spent more time on the concrete and physical side of the interaction of transfering domain knowledge
By staying at an abstract and conceptual level, we make it easy for ourselves to say we create meaningful experiences because we leave out practical obstacles. Perhaps this is also what happened in the project; by staying a bit on an abstract level of design, I use it as an excuse for myself to not focus too much on the details. Certainly, like the project feedback states, this is something I will set as a goal for my FMP; to move from the final layer abstraction to a concrete product, to invest time in the realization of this product beyond just what is necessary for a prototype.
" The concept scenario nicely illustrates the main elements of the targeted user experience. I find the element of 'quests'/challenges' a bit less convincing, as I would expect that junior employees are already intrinsically motivated to learn (extend their competence), and extrinsic motivation may be at the expense of intrinsic motivation. Your reflections indicate that you extracted the proper lessons from the module and that you are ready to push the orientation on
the user experience and how to design for it a step further. (...) reading your reflection I am confident that you acquired a proper basis from which you can proceed on your own account. And of course in the further learning process you always have the opportunity to invoke support from experts. I agree that the focus towards the end was maybe too much towards the concrete level of design, but in my opinion this limitation arose mostly in the heads of the participants."
During the Goldsmithing workshop, I became acquanted with some of the materials, tools and techniques that are involved when designing jewelry. Such a small and intricate design required a lot of patience, persistence and practice. In the first day we worked on our technique, in the second day we made our own rings.
The ring was designed after an Y chromosome. The different little parts represent different genes on the chromosome. Each of them were handcut and filed down, before being soldered together using small pieces of silver. Not taking the final step in this case would result in a far from perfect product...
After polishing and finishing the ring, and wearing it for a few months now, this is what it looks like.
This semester, I followed a gold smithing workshop in the atelier of Maarten Versteeg. In this two day course, we learned the basics of smithing, and applied these basics to create our own ring. Even in the last semester where the project started with the intention of making wearables, I moved away from this to work on something spatial in line with my own vision. By doing the workshop, I did not only gain some experience in jewelry smithing, but also in creating a product at a smaller scale and closer to the body.
The first day was spend only trying to saw straight lines, which I failed miserable at. Persistance proved to be key; after many attempts, I found a way to adjust
for my own variations and managed to saw straight lines time and time again. Practice made perfect. It was also a humbling experience; any “how hard can it be” thoughts that I still had turned into a lot of respect for anyone mastering this type of craft. I notice sometimes, in finishing my own projects, that I skip on some of the details; in this case, there was no room for error, no steps to skip. Next to persistence and practice, the keyword was patience.
In my own design, I tried to find something symbolic to make this not just an exercise in making something, but in transferring meaning into the object beyond the pride of creating something.
For personal reasons, I chose to take the human Y chromosome and create the ring in its image, using different materials for different genes on the chromosome. I was intent on wearing the ring through doing so, I feel that it becomes part of the way I present myself to the outside world; a wearable is also a reflection of a person’s identity.
Working on a small product was a welcome contrast to the large scale projects I did. By having to focus on the details and precision, next to practicing techniques, I could not hide behind abstract intentions but had to let the concrete product speak for itself. Considering the comment of my coach on making the final step in a product design, I feel like this activity has prepared me for such a final step in my Final Masters Project.
Using the Lasercutter
As part of my SDL making activities, I decided to become familiar with the laser-cutter. Like any of the tools available at the university, for me there is always a small threshold before first using such a machine. As a designer however, I feel that I should become acquainted with any tools that can help me quickly prototype my designs. By designing and realizing a lamp based on the moon shining through a forest of branches, I learned some of the ins and outs of the laser-cutter.
I applied this knowledge in the realization of my project prototype, where I laser cut specific parts of the design in acrylic in order to have very precise but see through connectors.
I also visited a series of exhibitions during this semester. Most notably, I visited Incendary, an exhibition by performance artist Cassils, at MU. The performance itself left a deep impression. By using an awe inspiring effect where images are burned into the retina of spectators, Cassils drew observers in to think about bigger societal issues. Like the installations I sometimes design, there are different layers in the performance, and Cassils demonstrates how to take users through these layers to find deeper meaning. The experience in this case is carefully orchestrated and constructed, where the use of a product would be more 'in the wild'.
Still, I feel like we as designers can learn from such an artist; in how we can effectively exhibit and communicate our own designs, but also in the way we can involve or invite users to interact with products.
STRP Conference Day
One of the activities outside of the curriculum, was the STRP festival organised at Strijp-S in Eindhoven. I attented the conference day, where many speakers came to discuss the subject of screens and the relation between digital and physical selves.
The different designers & artists left me to think about my own design vision and what kind of extrinsic motivation I have for my own designs. In this case, a lot of scenarios were discussed where we sacrifice more and more of our physical selves for the sake of our digital selves. Who has control over this digital world, and where will it leave humanity once something happens to this uncontrollable place? I hope to use technology in my own products in a different way, where the digital world can add to our physical selves instead of taking away from it.