Fall 2010

20
Dec

For the final project, I thought that this project that I worked on in my Collaborative Print class was a perfect way to examine the design as social activism topic of Design for this Century. For this project, we were tasked with the challenge of fostering awareness of an environmental issue and somehow disseminating information in order to modify people’s behavior relating to that issue.

The topic that we addressed was the obscene amount of plastic bags that we go through every year worldwide (one TRILLION), and especially in New York (2.9 billion in New York City alone). We wanted to use design as a way of catching the user’s attention while also giving them a take-away that would inform them about ways in which they can help.

The end-result was an installation similar to a newspaper distribution box that we placed in the lobby of 2 West 13th for several hours, which contained 30 small tote bags with the phrase “Plastic is for Losers” letterpressed to the front. Each bag also included an informational card about ways that they can help by going to bag-making workshops or taking courses in sustainable design here at Parsons, and the users had the option of signing up for additional email updates on the topic. The bags were also somewhat comically small, adding an interesting element to the design—these were not simply another throwaway tote bag that you get everywhere, they offerred a fresh take on the situation. If you wanted to actually use the bag, it was actually perfectly sized to stick in your pocket when you run out to grab a snack at Valentino’s. But as this was really the only practical use of the bag, it added a conversational element to the piece as well. By being a somewhat peculiar size, it emphasized that we were trying to start a thought process, not just give out another bag. The bags would also be more visually attention-grabbing if the users do find use for them, allowing the message to be spread further.

Plastic is for LosersPlastic is for LosersPlastic is for LosersPlastic is for LosersPlastic is for LosersPlastic is for LosersPlastic is for LosersPlastic is for Losers

The feedback we got from users was actually great, many were excited about the bags and really appreciate the message we were trying to get out there. the bags were gone in a little over an hour, and we actually got a handful of email addresses as well.

The use of plastic bags is an important issue in my opinion, and I enjoyed getting to translate the ethical and activism-based topics we studied in Design for this Century into a project that would help shed light on this problem. If we were able to scale this type of experiment up to a larger city-wide scale (and made the bags more eye-catching in order to make the user want to both keep and USE the bags), I think that we could make strides in discouraging the use of plastic bags in the city. As we stated on the informational cards, if every student at the New School used just one less plastic bag each day, we would save over 3.5 million bags each year! How’s that for scalability.

Category : Collaborative Print | Design for this Century | Fall 2010 | Blog
20
Dec

under ring
Gesture Gems

Gesture Gems

In creating Gesture Gems, I wanted to explore the currently undersaturated market of interactive jewelry to see if it is possible to create interactive jewelry that is both fun to use and aesthetically pleasing from a purely visual standpoint, with great attention paid to the craftsmanship of each piece.

Attempts at including wearable technologies into jewelry to date are often either boring or unattractive; it is as though by sticking an LED into a piece of jewelry, the designer is exempt from the normal sets of design requirements that creating a piece of jewelry normally implies. I wanted to look deeper into this area and see what exactly is so difficult about including technology into jewelry design—is it a shortage in collaboration between engineers and designers, or perhaps simply a need for more subtlety? In order to investigate this issue, I sketched up a collection of ideas for interactive jewelry designs and executed two of them with painstaking attention to craftsmanship and details. Each of the two pieces involves modifying a plain piece of jewelry bought at Forever 21 and using various techniques to alter their appearance and embed simple LED circuits that turn on during different interactions.

Previous posts on Gesture Gems.

Initial inspiration [and iteration].

Further prototypes and sketches.

Process documentation for the final necklace and ring set.

Additional Links.

Introductory post for Physical Computing.

Portfolio and documentation site for all my work while at Parsons.

I welcome your feedback.

I would love to hear any feedback on the project regarding either the concepts or the execution of the final designs. Do you think that these designs are more wearable than versions of interactive jewelry that are currently on the market? What could make them either more interesting or more aesthetically appealing to allow a user to want to wear them on a daily basis?

Category : Fall 2010 | Final Project: Gesture Gems | Physical Computing | Blog
19
Dec

In completing this project, I decided to finish up the enclosure for the ring prototype in order to make a polished version that can still be interchanged with other rings for the desired “magical” effect, and then to focus on a necklace and really try to see how far I can take the craftsmanship in order to make it really look like jewelry, not just some gizmo that you can technically strap around your neck.

The ring.

The final enclosure for the ring involved a necklace clasp so that you can quickly remove it from one ring and place it on another, or if you want the ring to be on all the time, you can simply clasp it to itself to complete the circuit and keep the ring on.

Gesture Gems

under ring
under ring

The necklace.

The necklace was supposed to carry further the theme of jewelry that can be worn either “on” or in normal mode. This necklace has an LED inside a painted butterfly figure (painted using clear puff paint and glass paint to fill in the lattice work). The LED is connect to two silver chains that hang from the bottom of the butterfly— when the butterfly chains are simply hanging, the circuit is open and the light says off. When the chains are crossed over and tied to close the circuit, the light turns on to give the butterfly a warm orange glow.

Gesture Gems
Gesture Gems
Gesture Gems
Gesture GemsGesture Gems

Gesture Gems
Gesture Gems
Gesture Gems
Gesture Gems

Gesture GemsGesture Gems
Gesture Gems

Category : Fall 2010 | Final Project: Gesture Gems | Physical Computing | Blog
18
Dec

visualMUSE is an inspiration board (approximately 40″x30″) with embedded internet-ready screens that combines the tactile experience of pinning up clippings and swatches as an inspirational tool with the wealth of visual resources now available the internet. Inspired by traditional inspiration boards, I designed visualMUSE as an attempt to address an interesting question: How can we bridge the digital divide in inspirational tools by combining the viscerally stimulating tactile experience of viewing physical inspirational artifacts on a physical board with the massive amount of inspirational imagery available on the web?

visualMUSE

visualMUSE addresses this question by integrating both experiences onto one plane­ while equipping the designer with the digital resources to keep a record of the images that they view (and which images they find immediately inspiring). The embedded screens on the board rotate through images that have been retrieved based on the user-determined keywords, and all the user has to do is press a button underneath the screen if they especially like an image, or alternatively if they want to discard an image. All of this information is recorded on a database so that the user can review his or her selections at the end of the day (or even months later if desired).The physical board pictured is accompanied by an image management tool that I hand-coded with PHP and MySQL to handle the data retrieval side of the project. Click here to read more about the image management system.

visualMUSE

The prototype for visualMUSE board pictured here was created by coding a Processing sketch to pull images from Flickr’s API (through a series of PHP scripts) for a given set of user-defined keywords. A piece of foam board with windows cut to match the placement of where the embedded screens would be placed was mounted to the front of a 28″ monitor to simulate the effect of embedded screens.

visualMUSE

visualMUSE

visualMUSE

visualMUSE

You can read more about the process involved in the creation of the visualMUSE board prototype at my MFA documentation blog.

Category : Databases | Fall 2010 | Final Project: visualMUSE | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
18
Dec

The visualMUSE control panel is a data management companion tool to the visualMUSE inspiration board—a 40″x30″ board with embedded internet-ready screens that combines the tactile experience of pinning up clippings and swatches as an inspirational tool with the wealth of visual resources now available the internet.

The online control panel interface supports and enhances this process by equipping the designer with the digital resources to keep a record of the images that they view (and which images they find immediately inspiring).

visualMUSE Control Panel

The embedded screens on the board rotate through images that have been retrieved based on the user-determined keywords, and all the user has to do is press a button underneath the screen if they especially like an image, or alternatively if they want to discard an image. All of this information is recorded on a database so that the user can review his or her selections at the end of the day (or even months later if desired).

The way the system is organized, the user can create a series of different “Projects” that each have four categories (to correlate with the four quadrants of the physical board). Each category can be created dynamically from the prototype site by adding the titles and desired keywords that the user wants visualMUSE to use when pulling images from the Flickr API. These projects are then stored in a MySQL database, where they continue to update their stores of new imagery that matches the determined keywords.

visualMUSE Control Panel

After the user has passed the day giving feedback to the visualMUSE inspiration board, they can come to their computer and have a comprehensive view of their impulse reactions throughout the day, and a log of all the images they’ve seen to that point. Images that have been marked as “favorites” will be marked as such, and the user would be able to change an image’s status (i.e. favorite vs. normal status vs. discarded) from the interface itself.

Click through to read more about the physical visualMUSE inspiration board.

Category : Databases | Fall 2010 | Final Project: visualMUSE | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
18
Dec

Just a quick thought on this week’s surprising turn of events. I thought it was very interesting (albeit incredibly awkward) how Clive handled this last lecture, making it much more meaningful than if he had just fizzled off into the sunset with another of his normal lectures. The idea of bringing up Nathan’s paper before the whole class and addressing each of the points with critical eye was fairly courageous and added to the respect that I have for Clive as an educator. Furthermore, by addressing each of the alleged shortcomings of the class, Clive showed us that design is an ever-evolving process, emphasizing the idea of this first semester of Design for this Century as simply a first of many iterations.

In way we were just the users in a semester-long user test—and by not being overly emotionally tied to the way things fell into place Clive showed us how to put aside one’s pride and address the feedback you get from the user testing, incorporating it into further iterations. Well done, Clive.

Category : Design for this Century | Fall 2010 | Blog
14
Dec

“Tools can say a lot about how things need to be done, but next to nothing about what things ought to be done.”

“Technology does not care, it is godless. Increasingly it acts as a ‘nature’ and as a law unto itself (in its ‘will to will’). There is now very little correlation between an ability to create a technology and any understanding of what it will do, its temporality (including how it will transmute), what it will create or what it will destroy.

I found these quotes especially noteworthy in this week’s materials, as they relate to much of what I’ve been thinking about throughout the course of this semester. However much a designer intends their creation for one purpose or another, their intentions do not ultimately reside in the object itself. The best of designers can perhaps infuse much of these intentions into the object through the choices they make in the design process, but at the end of the day it is the interpretation of the user that dictates what that tool will be used for.

This line of thought has been explored throughout history, most notably with respect to inventions like the atomic bomb. The scientists that worked on splitting the atom were doing so not so that they could devise a method of killing as many people as possible, but to further the noble pursuit of science, and to potentially create energy-producing devices that could free us from our dependency on fossil fuels. But any good intentions were cast aside when the technology was put to use inside nuclear warheads and atomic bombs, and used to kill millions of innocent people. Basically it all comes down to one basic concept: just because we have technologies that give us the ability to do something, does it really mean that we have the moral right to do so?

I took away two major ideas from this topic. First, that we should be very careful when designing new projects or technologies, considering all angles before releasing it on the public. Granted it is impossible to dream up the infinitely large number of ways that users will interpret our designs, but we should at least try to look at the project from the eyes of many types of users so that we’re not surprised when someone tries to use our ideas for what we consider to be morally wrong. And second, we need to begin to shape the minds of the people that use our designs as much as possible—perhaps by addressing the humanity in our users by creating these objects that “care” as discussed in lecture, we can help to shift the mentality of those people that might ordinarily have changed a design for a morally reprehensible purpose. I’m not suggesting that we as designers have the capability (or even that we should even try) to brainwash the public; but I do think that if we start to infuse our designs with as much ethical “goodness” as well can instead of just creating the same old dry products, that we can cumulatively begin to make a difference.

Category : Design for this Century | Fall 2010 | Blog
13
Dec

The board so far—overall dimensions are 40″x30″ with four 7″x5″ windows. The board is mounted on my 28″ monitor, and images will be visible through the cut windows in order to simulate embedded screens.

Board Prototype
Board Prototype

Category : Fall 2010 | Final Project: visualMUSE | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
12
Dec

The User Experience

Traditionally, design research consists of two separate processes: research on the context and precedents of the design concept, and visual inspiration/creation, often with the aid of a visual tool such as a mood board. The interactive mood board is designed to allow the designer to integrate these two processes in a way that may provide some symbiosis—the user can see images that relate to the topic of his or her choosing without having to devote full attention to internet searching, all on the same board as the swatches and photos that have already been selected as visual inspiration.

How it works.

When the user is working on an ongoing project, instead of conducting the two disparate tasks of online research and visual inspiration, they can pull out their interactive inspiration board and get to work. The designer first has to decide what four aspects of the project they are looking for inspiration or help on, and can then label the different quadrants of the board to denote which is which with dry erase markers on designated label spots above the LCD screens. They then go on their computer and enter these four topics into the form provided in the corresponding web interface. Once the tags have been assigned (i.e. entered into a web form) the program does the rest—the script will perform a Flickr image search on the search terms entered in each tag, and display the images found in this search on the LCD screens for each topic.

The images will rotate through the display for the user to look at next to their other pieces of inspiration and are entered into a database that keeps track of all the search results it has returned to the board. If the designer likes the particular image, they can press a button to “star” that particular search result—this will trigger the system to (optionally) email them a link to the article where the image was found and will make a note of the result’s preferred status in the database. If a particular search result is either off-topic or simply doesn’t suit the project, the user can press the “skip” button in order to remove the image from the group of images rotating through the frame. This image will be flagged in the database as irrelevant and will not show up in later searches of the database (unless the user specifically wants to browse rejected search results). If the user simply wants to hold the rotation for a minute to look at the picture for a longer period of time and make a decision, they can press a pause button that will freeze the rotation until they press it again.

This allows the designer to continue working on other aspects of the project but to glance up at the board from time to time and see if any new pieces of inspiration have appeared that help them create new ideas or simply flesh out their precedent research. Once the user has decided to return to their research, all they have to do is go back to their computer and view the database of collected search results via the provided web interface. There they can view a list of all search results returned with notations by the starred entries, a list of only the starred entries, or a custom search query or their choice.

Pulling back to a larger scale, the interface will allow each user to have multiple projects running on the same account on different mood boards, so if they have multiple projects going at once, they can retrieve their search results for all the various tags in one interface. (Or if the user only has one interactive mood board, projects are saved so that they can switch back and forth between projects on the same board if necessary.)

Mood Board | Storyboard

(Click on the image to see a larger version of the storyboard.)

What it looks like.

Below are some sketched prototypes of what the image will look like (on a general level).

Mood Board

Mood Board

The web interface.

The web interface will feature an area to select one of several projects that belong to the user, and a tabbed view of the four topics when a project is selected. The user will be able to change or modify the search queries at any time, and the system will retain a record of all past search results for later review. This way the user can change one quadrant of the board if they feel satisfied with a certain aspect of the design without losing the research they gathered in the process.

Mood Board

Inspiration Board Control Panel

 

The following is an example of the types of images and search results will be pulled onto the LCD screens, stored in the database, and which can later be reviewed using the web interface. The search term used in this particular example was “Red Bench”.

Red Bench Search Results

Category : Databases | Fall 2010 | Final Project: visualMUSE | Major Studio: Interface | Blog
11
Dec

The inspiration board project had started to creep away from me back into the web coding sphere, so this week I decided to switch back to something that was both more relevant and in many ways more fun and satisfying: interactive jewelry. Below are some drawings of concepts I’ve been thinking up, and a further iteration of the ring I had done a couple weeks before.

Drawings

Drawings

Drawings

The ring prototype.

I was able to improve on the ring from before by finding a small (yet no to small it can’t be soldered by a non-professional or computer) surface mount RBG LED—by using this new smaller part I was able to fully embed both the LED and the battery (two hearing aid batteries attached together) into the body of the ring itself, bringing everything out of sight.

Underside of ring

LED inside ring

Inside ring
Top of ring

Category : Fall 2010 | Final Project: Gesture Gems | Physical Computing | Blog