Final comments: reflections and learnings

So, the course has reached its end and it is now time to elaborate on my experiences and reflect on learnings, skills, and insights. This means that I am one more time reflecting-on-action (thinking back on what we have done and how it contributed to the outcome), as described by Donald A. Schön (1987).

In general, I think reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action can be seen as keywords for describing my whole process of gaining design knowledge and moving forward. Each of these blog posts has forced me to reflect on my design acts after they have been done and contributed to new insights or learnings – especially when mixing own experiences with relevant theories/techniques which I will describe in the following.

Learning-by-doing
The Bauhaus tradition introduced by Pelle Ehn (1998) and the learning-by-doing-mentality, as referred to in The Journey Begins, Meet my new friend, Arduino, Creating simple light expressions with ArduinoFirst group meeting: creating a simple lamp, has increased my learning curve and helped me to gain new skills; from laser cutting to sketching with code and hardware, but it has also been very frustrating in certain situations when coaching was not possible. Here it is important to be strong-willed and be able to cope with many ups and downs. Furthermore, there is no right way to design – it is not a linear process – wherefore you have to embrace uncertainty which has been very hard for me since I like to have control in every situation and know what is the next step – see Exploring different design directions by sketching. But in the words of Schön, it is the only way to get to know the designer practice: “Because designing is a creative process in which a designer comes to see and do things in new ways, no prior description of it can take the place of learning by doing” (Schön, 1987, p. 162).

The role of the user
As described in Starting the design project of an interactive light that is close to the body & First ideas, we were inspired by and tried to follow the interaction-driven approach which has been a challenge since I have only been working with user-driven approaches before. Also, I find it hard because many of the texts we have read that focus more on the aesthetics, as Marianne G. Petersen, Ole S. Iversen, Peter G. Krogh &. Martin Ludvigsen (2004) and Philip R. Ross & Stephan A. G. Wensveen (2010), still see human needs as an important aspect to consider when designing. Though it made me focus on different aspects and other design arguments – material and theoretical, as described by Peter Dalsgaard, Christian Dindler and Jonas Fritsch (2013). The combination of these two – having a theoretical framework in the back of the head while exploring different materials – has guided the process and the decisions we have made and also ensured that we had established a shared language so that we could articulate the different qualities etc. 

Form elements of interaction and simplicity
When it comes to the three different form elements as described by Anna Vallgårda (2014), we ended up using a lot of time to get the physical form of the design right, see The design starts to take form – physically. This means that we did not have enough time for experimenting that much with the temporal form, see The design starts to take form – temporally. Furthermore, I do not think we included that much interaction since you only can rotate the hat (the interaction gestalt). But that is the challenge when trying to balancing the three aspects of interaction design – they are all connected but you have to start out one place – in our situation it resulted in the physical form driving the rest of the aspects. Also, we have to admit that our skills were limited which resulted in a simpler design than first imagined. According to last-mentioned, I learned that simplicity is an art, see Deciding the final design concept, I think we were too ambitious in the beginning wherefore it will be better to start out with something simple in the future – then you can always add more complexity. A simple design IS enough. All the complex ideas can take all the energy and be an obstacle when it comes to making interesting light behaviors etc. 

References
Dalsgaard, P. Dindler, C. & Fritsch, J. (2013). Design argumentation in academic design education. Nordes, 1(5), 426-429.

Ehn, P. (1998). Manifesto for a digital bauhaus. Digital Creativity, 9(4), 207-217.

Petersen, M. G., Iversen, O. S., Krogh, P. G., & Ludvigsen, M. (2004). Aesthetic Interaction: a pragmatist’s aesthetics of interactive systems. In Proceedings of the 5th conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques, 269-276.

Ross, P. R., & Wensveen, S. A. G. (2010). Designing aesthetics of behavior in interaction: Using aesthetic experience as a mechanism for design. International Journal of Design, 4(2), 3-13.

Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Vallgårda, A. (2014). Giving form to computational things: developing a practice of interaction design. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 18(3), 577-592.

The final design: BLOCK OFF

14 weeks just passed by and today we presented our final light design at the closing exhibition – the BLOCK OFF hat introduced in the video below:

Finally, we went to see our design in action. This included insights of how people reacted to the design and the decisions we had made during the whole process. Furthermore, we got the chance to practice articulation, get feedback and evaluate which I find very fruitful when it comes to learning outcomes because it can result in new insights or aspects you had not thought about before. Some people expressed confusion about its use: Should it be something people would like to wear/buy? No, it only aims to express feelings/what happens inside and the transition from being comfortable to uncomfortable in a specific situation. It is not supposed to be a wearable/a product to buy for people with e.g. social anxiety – of course, they would not do that. It is more a symbolic or critical design which should make you reflect or understand what might be going on inside a person suffering from it. 

Others noticed that our hat has 2 ways in which it can be performed: You can try the hat on and get an uncomfortable feeling, but you can also look at other people walking around with the hat and get a good feeling of what is happening. Therefore, he advised us to think about how we could present it in the best way. I think a combination of both might be most appropriate since you then both try to get the uncomfortable feeling but also see how others react. I though think you need to try it on and to get a short introduction before understanding the core concept which is why we chose to do that at the exhibition – but he found it very interesting just looking at people wearing the hat and in that way obtaining an understanding himself. 

According to the physical form, we figured out that the front cut would have worked out better if it was tilted – then you would slowly be able to hide your face and close off more and more when rotating the outer layer. But when all comes down to it, it is only a prototype, and this is showing how important it is to evaluate and test during a designing process before implementing anything. You will always be able to do better and learn from the past – you move all the time and have to make some decisions. In the words of Schön (1992) you see, move and see again – exactly what we experienced here. It was first an insight gained after experiencing the hat in action and reflecting on it which must be the keywords of today’s learning – reflection-on-action (thinking back on what we have done and how it contributed to the (un)expected outcome, also described by Schön, 1987). 

 

References:
Schön, D. A. (1992). Designing as reflective conversation with the materials of a design situation. Knowledge-based systems, 5(1), 3-14.

Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

The design starts to take form – temporally

This week have been about sketching with code and hardware in order to figure out the temporal form of our design (the BLOCK OFF hat). The temporal form is – in the words of Vallgårda (2014) – the pattern of state changes that the computer will produce. Thereby we will hopefully soon be able to bring together the physical and temporal form, as suggested by Vallgårda (2014), so we will know which interaction gestalt we can aim for (the performance of the user in relation to our design).

Light expressions
The aim of our design is to show what happens inside a person when he/she goes from feeling comfortable in one situation to feel uncomfortable in another and blocks off the world. We want the light to express the feeling of chaos that can suddenly arise and can be hard to explain in words. This could happen when you are suffering from social anxiety and people come close to you (social phobia has been our main inspiration for the whole project). Since we wanted to show a transition – from feeling comfortable to uncomfortable, we agreed on 4 different light states that should show depending on how much you rotate the hat – the more you are blocking your face (and blocking off the world), the more chaotic light. Reed Switches will be placed inside the hat (at 4 different places so that each will make the LEDs express one of the states) and recognize the rotation of hat. In the following, I will describe and show the four different states we have decided on so far and our thoughts behind these. Also, I will display small parts of the code and tell about our explorations when creating it.

We tested out different light behaviors with a LED-strip because this is what we are going to use in the hat due to its power and color flexibility. However, we will separate the lights to make it fit better in the end.

1st state: Relaxed and comfortable
We wanted the first state to show the feeling of being comfortable and relaxed. When talking about light expressions, many of us associated this with light that is pulsing (or fading in and out) just a little, as shown below:

We chose to follow a standard LED strip framework (FastLED), inspired by www.https://www.tweaking4all.com and ensured to define our number of LED’s (25 in our case), the Arduino pin used (Pin 6) and specify some strip settings – among other the type of the strip (WS2811). This before starting writing our code.

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Also, we were advised to keep these following pre-settings in the end, determining the colors of the strip:

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These standard settings are common settings for all the different states.

At first, we made state 1 pulse in three different colors, but realized that there was too much going on and that the pulsing was way too fast:

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By changing setAll parametres to k,k,k (which refers to the colors of the LED’s – red, green and blue) instead of what is shown above, we turned on all the colors at the same time which resulted in white. Also, we changed the delay to 10 milliseconds which made the expression more true to our intentions.

2nd state: Comfortable but something starts to react inside
The second state shows that the situation is not totally controllable anymore and something starts happening inside your body:

We decided to express the uncontrollable feeling by playing around with the random function that generates random numbers between the chosen minimun and maximum value (parameters). As you can see in the piece of code below we chose the count (determining how many pixels will be done in one run) to be maximum 40 and the SpeedDelay (determining how much time will be paused between individual pixels) to be maximum 100. The OnlyOne parameter tells whether only one LED should be shown at a time or all should be added one at a time. We set it to false since we wanted the last thing. Then all “count” number of LEDs will be visible before the loop starts over. The Pixel determines the colors of the LED which are also set to be random (in the total color range from 0 to 255 values) We call the expression “twinkle”.

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3rd state: Unsecure and uncomfortable
The 3rd state illustrates the feeling of being unsecure and uncomfortable. Still you are able to cope with the situation, but you do not want to be there:

Also here the random function plays a big role and the code is not that much different from the one explained above – it is called sparkle, but it is just a variation of the Twinkle.

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Again, the colors will appear random due to the random (255), and the SpeedDelay is set to 100. I think this is the state we have not spent that much time on, wherefore there is room for improvement to make it more interesting.

4rd state: Blocking off and chaos inside
The last state focus on the situations where everything becomes too much and you start blocking off. Inspired by warning messages we wanted this expression to be hectic, flashy, unpleasant and intense:

As with the 2nd and 3rd state, we wanted the expression to be random because it symbolizes the chaos that is going on inside your body when you are not feeling comfortable in a specific situation and block off.

The colors are set to random (everything between the value 0 and 255). The StrobeCount indicates the number of flashes – also random in our situation (with the maximum 10). Both FlashDelay and EndPause are delays – the FlashDelay determines the delay between each flash (with a maximum of 100 milliseconds) and the EndPause is telling how long the function should wait after all flashes are completed before starting over the loop (it should be maximum 10 milliseconds):

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Now we have a starting point for our temporal form, it just needs to be adjusted so it will fit the physical form and our intentions with the design. Also, the Reed Switches need to be implemented.

References:
Vallgårda, A. (2014). Giving form to computational things: developing a practice of interaction design. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing18(3), 577-592.

The design starts to take form – physically

This week we dug deeper into the physical form of the design we are going to make. Physical form is one of the three elements that describe the practice of interaction design, according to Vallgårda (2013). It is defined as physical components/what we can perceive through the human sensory apparatus. The other two, temporal form and interaction gestalt, focus on state changes and actions/performance of the user respectively. 

We have mostly been working with the physical form until now and have tried to figure out the shape of our design. This through sketching sessions, prototyping, and laser cutting. 

 

We have been iterating a lot in order to figure out the most suitable look of the design (as you can see above) and been struggling to make it simple enough. We ended up moving away from the idea of a rotatable collar and made it a hat instead (we found it hard to stabilize the rotatable collar on a person’s shoulders wherefore the hat would be a better idea). But still, the idea of the design is the same (showing the feeling of being into the situation or not). We discussed the title “block off” because we especially want to show the chaos that is going on inside a person that is not really into a specific situation and thereby wants to block off the world. 

 

Now we are soon ready to start sketching with code and hardware in order to make it not only a design, but an interactive light design, and thereby focus more on the temporal form. I maybe think we should have been exploring more about this form earlier on in the process so that it had not been the physical form that drove the design. We have been thinking so much about the physical form that I am afraid we do not have time enough to explore interesting light behaviors. Though I must admit that having the final idea of the physical form ready now before exploring temporalities/state changes kind of guides which light behaviors are possible to create wherefore it feels less frustrating. Also, we know what we want to show with our design, wherefore we have ideas of the interaction gestalt (you can rotate the hat in order to close off from the world/situation or open up to it) and the temporal form (light should express the feeling of chaos when you close off, and relaxation/the feeling of being comfortable when you open up to the world). This shows that the three element forms are kind of interdependent – we have all three in mind when designing, even though we are focusing mostly on the physical form at the moment. But as Vallgårda (2014) says, interaction design is about juggling the three elements, and the challenge is to create a coherent entity by balancing them when designing. 

References:
Vallgårda, A. (2014). Giving form to computational things: developing a practice of interaction design. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing18(3), 577-592.

Deciding the final design concept

Today, just as I had told myself to accept that the design process can be frustrating and to embrace the uncertainty, some pieces of the puzzles fell into place. We managed to agree on one single design idea – a collar that allows a person to open up for the world or keep it out and thereby showing the feeling of being into the situation or not, inspired by a buster collar/The Cone of Shame – after getting some fruitful coaching from Laurens. Coaching is, as I have written before, an important part of the Bauhaus school and plays a big role in the learning-by-doing process, as described by Ehn (1998) and Schön (1987). I think it was the absolute right time for us to get some supervision because we kept coming up with crazy ideas including mechanical stuff like servo motors etc. and forgot to keep it simple. Simplicity makes it possible to focus more on the aesthetic, interactions and specific expressions. This is something we will try to do in the following weeks in order to explore how the design can become a coherent entity.

References:
Ehn, P. (1998). Manifesto for a digital Bauhaus. Digital Creativity, 9(4), 207-217

Schön, D. A. (1987). Educating the reflective practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Exploring different design directions by sketching

In order to get an overview of different design possibilities, we had an initial sketching session in my group this week. The mood board, the chosen materials and the aura collar presented in the last entry served as our starting point. Goldsmith (2003) points out that sketching help externalizing thoughts and imagination and is a tool with the potential to enhance design reasoning. Furthermore, it creates a shared language, and one can read off the sketch more information than was invested in its making wherefore it opens up for many interpretations. This is also what Schön call the backtalk of a drawing in “The Reflective Practioner” from 1983. Therefore, I see it as an important part of a designing process where you need to develop and explore many different ideas before you choose a final one to go with.

We ended up with a bunch of sketches – some of them close to the original starting point, some of them totally different. Even though our original idea was to sketch different ways in which the aura collar could manifest, new interesting ideas also appeared. We discussed, interpreted and reflected on every sketch/idea and identified 3 interesting themes that became the 3 different design directions, we presented at the show & tell:

  • An aura vest/collar/shield
    Reflects your pulse or reacts/lightens up when people are getting close to you
  • Reflection of a heartbeat
    The heart lights up behind silicone (ribs) and beats faster when people are getting nearer
  • The question necklace
    Reflects the brain’s impact on the body. A heartbeat signal flows from the neck to the chest

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Social Phobia
What was common for all the ideas and the three directions was the focus on social phobia. We were intrigued by the idea of visualizing the specific feeling (fear of people getting near) with a light design. It is here important to note that our design not should be seen as a buyable product a person with social phobia would wear. This was something we got questions about at the show & tell feedback session. A person with social phobia would probably not like to wear something showing their fear.

Based on the feedback we got, it became clear that we have made some interesting sketches, but every design direction has room for improvement. Maybe we can combine some of the qualities of the different directions in a single one – that is something we will explore at our next group meeting.

I feel like we are back to our starting point – we have still not agreed on one concrete idea of an interactive light design close to the body – which is a little frustrating to me. But I know, as Löwgren & Stolterman (2004) mention, a design process is not linear, but fully dynamic and dialectical. Often it includes messiness, and even though you do not feel you are moving forward, all the explorations/discussions matter. The final product will be the result of all these. That is something I shall keep in mind.

References:
Goldschmidt, G. (2003). The backtalk of self-generated sketches. Design issues, 19(1), 72-88.

Löwgren, J., & Stolterman, E. (2004). Thoughtful interaction design: A design perspective on information technology. Mit Press.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action.

First ideas

In spite of the different interests of the people in the group which made it hard to make decisions, we agreed on a couple of different design ideas, in which we saw potential, by following the interaction-driven approach, as described in the previous blog post. Two of the raw ideas are:

Interactive cycling gloves
Inspired by the context of cycling in the dark and movements (gesticulations) of a cyclist – putting your hand up when you need to stop etc. – , we saw potential in the idea of making gloves that should be interactive and react to these movements by sending out light and aware other people in the traffic. This could be possible with the use of an accelerometer sensor.

An interactive aura collar
The old craze for mood rings made us think about the aura of a person. Having movements in mind, we ended up with two different and interesting directions the aura design could manifest in:

  • Focus on social phobia and proximity. The collar reflects your pulse or reacts/lightens up when people are getting close to you.
  • Focus on body language. The collar reflects your body language (open, closed). Inspired by movements

This could be possible by using sensors as; infrared sensors, light sensors, pulse sensors, ZX distance and gesture sensors, ultrasonic sensors.

Exploring materials
After identifying different ideas we decided to explore which materials we could use in our design to see if it could open up to new possibilities or help us to focus on only one of the ideas (narrowing down). After touching, playing and exploring how different materials such as rubber, plexiglass, acryl, and mirrors reflected light from a single mobile phone, we ended up with an interesting combination of things we wanted to work with:

 

This created a kind of metallic look with the yellow plexiglass as a twist/refraction, and suddenly we all were talking about how it could fit the interactive collar (and that it might not be so appropriate materials for cycling gloves). Inspired by fashion and interactive clothing, we made some desk research and created a mood board which now functions as our starting point for an interactive light design that is close to the body. Next up is sketching sessions, so we open up for and discover different ways in which the aura collar can be designed. By leaping between working convergent – making ideas – and divergent – creating ideas – we ensure exploring and reflecting on different perspectives while moving on in the process.

Moodboard:

Moodboard.jpg

 

 

Starting the design project of an interactive light that is close to the body

Our design approach
In our group, we have chosen to follow the interaction-driven approach, inspired by Maeng, Lim & Lee (2012) which will influence our whole thinking and designing process. In the literature, three approaches are outlined, namely the user-driven, the technology-driven and the interaction-driven. The last one is suggested as the one which opens up for most possibilities.

It is a challenge for me to focus on movement and the interactions since I have mostly been doing user-driven product-development so far. I feel that fulfilling (or at least trying to fulfill) user needs is a good and valid argumentation for creating a design. But of course, it is not always the users know what they want. When focusing on interaction, I feel like I create something based on the gut feeling and my own interest – I do not know whether the users will find the designed interaction interesting or unnecessary.

We have, as I wrote in the beginning, given the interaction-driven approach a try in my group and started the process of designing an interactive light that is close to the body by focusing on interesting interactions and the possibilities that these could bring in a light design. Unfortunately, I find it a lot harder to make decisions in groups when using this approach, since we are different people with different interests and there is not some empirical data to guide us. Subject opinions make it almost impossible to agree on a single design, and people are having a hard time “killing their darlings”. It is, therefore, a challenge to work this way, but then we have to develop and focus on other design arguments – for example in the categories of theoretical notions and/or design materials, as described by Dalsgaard, Dindler & Fritsch (2013).

References:
Dalsgaard, P. Dindler, C. & Fritsch, J. (2013). Design argumentation in academic design education. Nordes, 1(5), 426-429.

Maeng, S., Lim, Y. K., & Lee, K. (2012). Interaction-driven design: A new approach for interactive product development. In Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference, 448-457

 

Using the body – movement-based interaction

Inspired by the texts “Move to get moved: a search for methods, tools and knowledge to design for expressive and rich movement-based interaction” by Hummels et al. (2006) and “Interaction Relabelling and Extreme Characters: Methods for Exploring Aesthetic Interactions” by Djajadiningrat et al. (2000) we had a workshop today focusing on the use of our bodies and different movements to explore interactions, also called movement-based interaction.

By sitting in groups, discussing, relabelling and remapping the possibilities of the objects we brought from home, we became aware of the richness of actions and expressions. It resulted in some of the expressions/interactions shown below:

I buy the idea that movements and especially interaction relabelling opens up for new design possibilities and help us explore the richness of actions. It reminds me of Donald Schön talking about the Generative Metaphor (1993). By comparing things with different functions (things designed and used for different purposes) you generate perceptions of new possibilities and features. It is the language of seeing instead of describing. I think it is the same in movement-based interaction. I have experienced that it can be hard to focus on other than the intended interactions of well-known products sometimes, but relabeling, remapping and comparing objects forces me to do so.

References:
Djajadiningrat, J. P., Gaver, W. W., & Fres, J. W. (2000). Interaction relabelling and extreme characters: methods for exploring aesthetic interactions. In Proceedings of the 3rd conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques, 66-71

Hummels, C., Overbeeke, K. C., & Klooster, S. (2006). Move to get moved: a search for methods, tools and knowledge to design for expressive and rich movement-based interaction. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 11(8), 677-690.

Schön, D. A. (1993). Generative metaphor: A perspective on problem-setting in social policy. In Metaphor and thought, 137-163

 

 

 

First group meeting: creating a simple lamp

Last week we met our group members for the first time and got a task to create a simple lamp together. This, in order to get familiar with materials and machines, such as a laser cutter (and each other). It was a nice way of learning-by-doing with a little coaching and thereby not just a boring introduction to different tools and techniques – we had to experiment ourselves. This reminds me of the Bauhaus tradition, as described in my first blog entry, where reflection-in-action and coaching are keywords.

The process of creating a simple lamp
My group tended to focus mostly on the appearance of the lamp, wherefore we, unfortunately, ended up spending a lot of time discussing the specific form, not really experimenting/discovering different materials and tools (and focusing on what to laser cut). But at last, after several brainstorming and sketching sessions, we came up with an interesting circle-inspired design and created a vector pattern ourselves by using Adobe Illustrator (as shown below). We were intrigued by the opportunity of making wood bendable and also how holes in different patterns can create shadows when a light is connected/put inside.

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When using the laser cutter to test how the pattern would look on green paper, we ended up with this:

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As you probably can tell, the laser cutting went pretty well when using the green paper as material, but after studying the pattern one more time and talking to Harvey, we were afraid that it would not be able to make wood bendable, as we wanted. Therefore, we left our own design behind and chose to use a standard bendable pattern when cutting parts of the lamp in wood. It made it possible to create the circle design we had in mind.

 

When putting the parts together and implementing LEDs and Arduino (including coding), it resulted in a prototype of a little lamp. BUT, since our lamp was pretty small (it must not exceed the footprint of an A4 sheet of paper according to the description of the task) we had to connect the wires and LED’s inside the design without using a breadboard. At first, we therefore made a simple serial-circuit, but it resulted in very weak lighting. After creating a parallel circuit instead, we were able to get the following result:

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Still, we are not completely satisfied with the lamp and want more powerful lighting and the shadows to show. Therefore we have asked Halfdan (from Intermedia Lab) if we could borrow some stronger LED strips.  Furthermore, we got advised to put film on the inside of the circle to make the shadows more visible. As you can see, it can therefore be described as an ongoing process, but I think I will leave it here since it was only an exercise and we have actually reached the goal to create a simple lamp by using laser cutting, as shown above.

So there we go, our first group project is done. Due to time constraints, the project of creating a simple lamp was frustrating in the beginning, when we did not manage to structure our time that well. But we made it, kept on going until we succeed, and the important thing for me was to get familiar with tools and machines so that we are ready to create our final lighting design in the future. Furthermore, we learned a lot of our “mistakes” during the process: We got to know more about non-bendable vs. bendable patterns, paper vs. wood, and different circuits (serial vs. parallel).