Honours Project: Phase 0

Phase 0 is described in the documentation as ‘before the brief’  – which is apt. This is the part of projecting where you “Go wide” as Colin Burn’s described to us (talking about his companies “Fish” design approach of going wide to idea’s,narrowing, going wide again and narrowing to a final).

At this point we were required to assess what interested and drove us – then research + explore the potential for idea’s to be generated around these passions.

At this point it was equally as interesting to hear what everyone else was coming up with as it was to explore all the avenue’s in my own mind – is there such a thing as a brief being too open?

For those of you who don’t know me personally I can tell you that although not a technophobe – I have very strong feelings about when technology is over encroaching on aspects of life (especially the social interaction) – So I knew I had one sentence that could describe my project – No matter what it was going to be – because I wanted to say something. “I want to bring the physical aspect back into social networking”.

It sounds pretty simple – but the specifics of it are deeper than the fires of mount doom and just about as frightening to comprehend.

Deep, Fiery, thoughts

I already had a sort of inspiration for this project in the form of a project called “Sweet Tweet”  done by the Uniform design company – headed up by a previous lecture of mine Pete Thomas (A very cool project in its own). The bare interaction of the project of something happening in the virtual world (twitter) triggering something in the physical world (delicious sweets) is a prime example of what I wanted to achieve.

Sketching is really important at this stage

At this point we were given a 1-day pressure project to make a cultural probe. I knew I had to gather information about the times that people would log onto the social network – so of course I created a clock which could be printed and handed out, which then the user could stick dots on indicating which time they had checked. As a probe it works – but is that ALL it could do?

Probe MK1

Although I hadn’t yet come to a final decision about what my product is or what I wanted to do – I had a clear idea of what I wanted to say, or to make the user think about through use of the visual language; which were really two things I wanted to convey

1: Work – I started to draw comparisons between Facebook and a full blown job – You feel compelled to attend, you do it periodically – it can dictate your life and there may be dire consequences should you choose to ignore it

2: Time – When it comes to social networking, its all about who is online and when – the physical time of the day no longer is the most important driving force – Has it indeed been replaced by the social network?

Its these two aspects that gave me the driving force for re-designing my cultural probe for my research stage. I wanted to contrive a probe that not only would provide useful information to myself; but would convey my feelings to the user also. Not only this but perhaps make the user step back and interpret the information; while still being fun to use through innovation – which is my real goal in all of this.

Thinking about al of this put my back to my summer job at AES engineering – Where I had to clock in and out using an old style clock in card that would print the time’s I came and went from the job – It is this that gave me the inspiration to create the next cultural probe beta

Cultural probe MK2

This prototype was designed to work as an old style punch-card. Simply when the user checks or has an interaction with Facebook – they punch out the relative timeslot on the card (accurate to 5 minutes) over a 24 hour period. I wanted to experiment with different materials and further refine the design to a final probe – but this is pretty close to the one I intend on distributing.

Want to take part?

I will be distributing as many of these probes as I can – To all ages, demographics and geographical locations. If you wish to take part in the research stage please contact me via twitter (@lifebydesignuk) or via email (aaikman@dundee.ac.uk) and I will inform you when the final probes are ready to be sent out.


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