Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Oppurtunity Statement

To design an ambient device that is harmoniously worn around the wrist, that enables the user to be seamlessly connected to their significant other over periods of separation. Utilizing the sense of smell, through aromatic cues as subtle indications, and other senses to make this an intuitive device.

Concept Sketches

Concept sketches

For this phase of the project, we explored forms that could be worn on the body. Some of them were included on such areas as the neck, shoulder, face (eye), arm, and wrist. We explored various “bracelet” concepts, which are to be worn by two people. Each bracelet consists of nodes that send and receive information from another user with the corresponding bracelet. Lockets, charm-bracelets, friendship bracelets, and rings are all forms of jewelry that represent an intimate connection or commitment to another person. Some of these concepts use these commitment symbols as a metaphor, representing the concept of a locket, but taken to the next level through the use of technology. A key feature that we felt was appealing, was allowing our device to unite with another bracelet, by having an alternating and uniform node-like design. We feel this is a strong concept because it relates back to our definition of poetry, “A commonplace expression or quality that resembles a poem in some respect as in form or sound.” Our design is poetic and symbolizes its users, the separation and coming together again as a couple, is reflected by the act of taking the bracelets apart, and nesting them together as a pair.

Lisa's Explorations:

Lisa Thomas

Jonathan's Explorations:

Form evolution

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Project Introduction and Criteria

Project statement: To create a fashionable wearable that includes an interactive element. An example of interactive is a program that responds to human activity.

Research direction:
The structure of today’s societies can be described as constantly “coming and going.” People’s lives require them to leave the home in order to accomplish certain tasks such as traveling, running errands, emergencies, school, work, or vacationing. All of these disconnections describe degrees of separation. The length of time in between these disconnections is the major difference between them, but they are all related to separation.
When people are separated from their homes or daily lives, the result is a loss of connection or contact between people, objects, or companions (for example: pets). The time gap between the separated users can cause them to feel worried or concerned about the unknown.
Our goals for research are to figure out how people communicate wile being separated from their environments, and what tools allow them to do so. Also to learn how these tools are affecting them. By figuring out what tools they have and use, we can discover what they may be lacking. I also hope to gain an understanding of the users thought process during periods of separation. Are they concerned about loved ones? Are they worried they may have forgotten about something? How do routines change while they are gone? Do they feel disconnected from their normal lives? These are all examples of questions I want to explore through contextual research by interviewing, tape recording, photo documentation, and simply observation to find differences and common issues in order to narrow our focus. Lastly, I want to learn how each individual achieves flow or if they feel they do at all. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl’s definition for achieving flow involves an “optimal experience when things are going well as an almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness.” By conducting research while people are at Airports (hopefully), hotels, work environments, schools, or even running errands, we can gain an in depth understanding of how separation affects them, emotionally, physically, and subconsciously.

We will focus our research on the type of user who keeps up with current fashions and is willing to pay $1200 dollars for a watch.

Initial research

Jonathan did some initial research at Barnes and Noble by immersing himself into the current fashion world in order to explore and grasp different aspects of our project. We briefly got together with Lindy and Jordan and brainstormed about what is considered fashion, then we parted and came up with our own definitions for aspects of fashion. This guided us to narrow our focus and proceed with research.


Lisa and I felt it was important to define key terms that became the platform of our project. We first looked up definitions of Poetry, Technology, Fashion, Culture and Sub-Culture to help us better understand what it was that we were trying to accomplish.


  • A commonplace expression or quality that resembles a poem in some respect as in form or sound.
  • Poetry is an imaginative awareness of an experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language choices so as to evoke an emotional response.
  • Poetry subconsciously draws off users past experiences.

Our Interpretation:

  • An imaginative awareness of an experience expressed through meaning, sound, and rhythmic language; subconsciously drawing off of users past experiences.


  • The innovation change or modification of the natural environment to satisfy perceived human needs and wants.

  • Digital technology has progressed since the 90’s incorporating style and convenience, along with added function, to appeal to the user lifestyle. Fashion is at the forefront of individual expression. People express their personal styles through the clothes and accessories they wear. Technology is starting to replicate this concept.


  • A set of behaviors temporarily adopted by people because they are perceived to be socially appropriate for the time and situation.
  • Fashion is the prevailing style or custom as in dress or behavior.
  • Fashion is old ideas in new ways. For example Converse shoes are becoming trendy once again, as they were in the 70’s.


  • Totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns arts, beliefs institutions and all other products of human work and thought.


  • A group of people with shared value systems based on common life experiences and situations.
  • By defining Subculture, we can get an understanding of our target audience, and what makes them unique to an overall culture.

Flow: The word Flow was another topic of class discussion that we felt was important to define to understand the user experience, and an actual object. We defined flow as:

  • Balanced spontaneous system.
  • Sequence of operations without disruption.
  • Based on the book Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow is an automatic effortless state of consciousness. It is achieved more often when people are doing what they love.
  • Not because of money, fame, or praise. When someone is experiencing flow they tend to lose self consciousness, time and fear of failure. Often the more arduous the task the longer it takes to get flow, and often any physical and/or mental distraction can end it; recovery can take hours or more.

We then took those definitions then tried to find similar terms and ways that they were connected to each other.

While analyzing our core terms we encountered other notable terms that we felt were necessary to explore and define to guide us throughout this project.

Wearables, linked to fashion, can be described as a small device worn on the body, carried habitually without interfering with the user. Incorporating a wearable with the latest technology is the main focus of our project.

Necessities are important to all cultures and subcultures. Where antelopes develop faster legs from evolving and adapting to their environments to run from predators, we, humans, developed cars in order to adapt and enhance our lives. We defined Necessity as being essential, indispensable, and peoples’ perceived needs and wants.

“There needs to be a rebirth of curiosity,” this quote highlights the fact that as we get older our curiosity diminishes. Curiosity sparks excitement and evokes thought and questioning tied to learning and discovery. Discovery is an exciting experience, thus curiosity can enhance life. Curiosity arouses and provokes desires or thoughts during exploration, which essentially motivates a person.

This leads to Creativity, another important term we came across. The basis of creativity is inspiration and motivation. We defined creativity as the ability to process, which everyone can do; everyone can create experiences, which makes life fulfilling. Creativity is connected to poetry, fashion, technology, flow, and experiences. Understanding these terms directed us to the question, which I briefly touched upon in the previous paragraph; when shared experiences are disconnected, how are they affected? Answering this question is something to keep in mind during our research phase.

Accessory: An optional part that may be fitted to something to perform an additional function or enhance performance


  • New experiences.
  • To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion.
  • To stimulate energies and emotions from experiences.
  • Inspiration comes from old experiences. Inspiration is an abstract personal experience. Inspiration effects motivation, self worth, and mood. Focus, trust, letting go, and listening are all characteristics of inspiration.
  • Focus involves detaching oneself from normal ways of thinking.
  • Trust involves the attitude of being ready to stop think in a purely rational way, letting whatever ideas come to mind.
  • Letting go involves the action of trust vs. the attitude, and the reflection upon it.
  • Listening involves actually listening and putting into use the ideas that come forth through the process of letting go.

Lastly, we explored the meaning of Experience. All of the previously mentioned definitions are connected to an experience. Poetry reflects on past experiences, Technology is something the user experiences everyday, Fashion can enhance an experience, Subcultures are based off of shared experiences, and Flow defines a user experience.

  • The apprehension of an object, thought, or emotion through the senses or mind.
  • Active participation in events or activities, leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill.
  • The totality of such events in the past of an individual or group.
  • Our Interpretation: The active participation in events, activities, thoughts, objects, or emotions, through the senses or mind leading to the accumulation of knowledge or skill, based on an individual or groups totality of past events.

By researching literal and alternate definitions of Poetry, Technology, Fashion, Subculture, Flow, and Experience my partner and I were able to create our own interpretations of their meanings to direct our focus to the user experience. This inspired us to focus on the user’s relationship with a significant other, and how they share experiences, and how they stay connected when separated.

Research Direction

We then created a visual diagram of how all the terms were related. After creating the diagram and finding relationships, we discovered that all of our core terms were connected through experiences, or an experience. So we used the idea of an experience and then considered when experiences failed.

This is a picture of Lisa and Jonathan while we where interpreting our own definitions from multiple definitions we found in the dictionary.

Problem statement: when people are separated from significant others because there is a loss of connection. As a result, shared experiences and routines suffer.

An example of this is one of my co-workers when I interned at Electrolux would call his wife at least eight times if not more during the work day to talk about things that to others seemed juvenile. Once his wife called to tell him that she was standing next to a dog, and how she proceeded to pet it. Often things like pet names and cutie baby talk could be heard from the person sitting next to him.

Research preparation


In order to gain an understanding of our user in their environment, we conducted Contextual Inquiries to gather customer data. This method of research, based on the Beyer and Holtzblatt methodologies, gives us an explicit view of the work being done in order to understand it on the user's level, and to also gather the "low-level" details of the work that have become habitual and invisible. The idea of context implies going to the costumers' workplace or environment to observe them in action, and developing a partnership in order to talk to them about their work experience, and to engage them in detailed explanations. Through interpretation, we can develop a shared understanding about the importance of the tasks being done. Our initial focus is to study the Separations between people and their significant others, and how they incorporate technology into tools for communication, and fashion to get a sense of their Culture, or Subculture.

To start our research we brainstormed some possible locations that we would be able to find our target user. Locations where the user would be separated from their significant others was where we could gather concrete information.
  • The airport.
  • People at work.
  • Parents at home when children are at home.
  • People running errands.
  • People on vacation.
We then created a list of questions that would help guide our contextual inquiries in the direction that allowed us to discover the areas that pertained to aspects of our focus:
  • When couples were separated, how they coped.
  • Specific instances when couples were separated and wanted to be with the other.
  • Routines that they performed and then how they where affected when the other wasn’t there.
  • What where personal traits/quarks about the other that they remembered.
  • How they felt about fashion, trends and their own.
  • What type of technology they used and what they always have on them.
  • How they communicate when together compared to when separated.

Triba interview

For our first interview we scheduled to meet with Triba at work when her husband was coming in to visit her. He works for Delta Airlines is and is frequently traveling. Unfortunately he was unable to show up but we were still able to perform a contextual inquiry with Triba.

Key points that we discovered from her interview were:

  • Her husband usually contacts her once a day, when he just arrives from a flight and/or at night when he is in a hotel room and Triba and the kids are at home.
  • She misses him only when she gets off work because her routine changes. She has to leave work early to pick up the kids compared to when he is there he picks them up.
  • When they go on vacation together as a family they try to leave the house so it looks like someone is home. Garbage, mail.
  • They also tend to over pack because of the kids on vacations.
  • The children get sad when their father is not there because they are used to routine, and when the father isn’t home they get sad. Triba has to pick the kids up from school later than the father would because she has to leave early from work.
  • Triba does not feel as safe when her husband is gone; she checks the doors are locked twice for example.
  • When the husband is gone it is harder to run quick errands like running to the store because she has to get all the kids ready and in the car.
  • The older you get the less important it is to dress yourself than your kids. What she wears is not as important to her as it was 10 years ago.
  • If an emergency where to occur a cell phone call to him would be her first reaction.
  • When he is home the family orders pizza on Friday bights and plays games, but when her husband is gone they do not.
  • She thinks that her husband relaxes in the hotel and orders food in.

Technology she uses:

  • Home Dell PC
  • Cell phone
  • Watch sometimes, uses phone to tell time

After the interview, Triba mentioned she had a neighbor whose husband went over to Iraq. She could tell that he was gone because of the lawn, the husband kept it so well manicured that when he left she didn’t have time to do the same. We asked her if we could get in touch with her neighbor so she gave them my cell phone number but we never received a call.

Jordan and Laura interview

Our first Contextual Inquiry included a married couple, Laura (28), and Jordan (26), who were celebrating their second anniversary in Savannah, GA. We met them outside of a crowded coffee shop during the Savannah College of Art and Design's International Fair in downtown Savannah. There we observed them interacting as a couple, and ask them a series of questions that helped us to understand them on a more personal level. As an incentive for allowing us to use them as our research subjects, we offered them a $5.00 gift certificate to Starbucks coffee.

By visually representing our notes in a diagrammatic form, we could see connections and breakdowns in the dynamics of their relationship.

Some key findings of their interview were that they have identical cell phones, sharing the same taste in technology. We observed them swapping food, which is something they said they do often to show affection, which shows us how comfortable they are in their relationship. Laura also mentioned “90% of her cell phone calls are to her husband.” This was interesting because it shows that the majority of her communication is with her husband. A key issue or breakdown we encountered, while synthesizing their information, was the “checking in” factor. We found this to be important because “checking in,” indicates work and worry, if you have to constantly check in with someone, that implies that they are worried, why do they have this constant cloud of worry over their heads? Why does calling your significant other have to be a chore? To make things worse, Jordan expressed because of these routine “check-ins,” if for some reason Laura forgets to check in with him, he will get even more worried. This makes using a cell phone a non-enjoyable experience, acting as the bridge between worry and the unknown. An intimate detail that this couple shares is that Laura finds Jordan’s personal smell comforting. When he is away this becomes and issue because she has a hard time falling asleep, due to the interruption of her “comfort zone.”

Technology they use:

  • Cell phones
  • Blackberry
  • Laptop
  • Computer

Views on Fashion:

  • They are not fashionable
  • Laura thinks Sarah Jessica Parker is a fashion role model.

The main takeaways were:

  • 90% of Laura’s calls are to Jordan
  • They like to eat off each others plates
  • They have identical cell phones
  • The say they are comfortable with technology but prefer when it is minimalist
  • Newly wed connection
  • Laura owns a blackberry
  • Laura can watch what she wants when Jordan is gone.
  • Laura feels that Sarah Jessica Parker is Classy
Breakdowns were:

  • Jordan never uses laptop for personal reasons because he is on it all the time for work.
  • They are constantly “checking in” with each other. Jordan gets upset if Laura forgets to check in even though he is worse at it than she is.
  • Jordan does not like feature packed cell phones.
  • Laura misses Jordan’s smell when he is gone.
  • Laura can’t fall asleep when Jordan is gone.

Wilbur Thomas Interview

Lisa interviewed her father Wilbur over the phone and then created a digram of what he talked about and created a list of takeaways and breakdowns.

Wilbur gave us some useful insight about technology stating that, ”technology is only as useful as the people that understand it, use it frequently, and maintain it.” Meaning that there needs to be an active effort involved to use technology, and it is a commitment. One must learn how to use it, keep using it in order to master it, and take care of it to maintain its full potential. This presents the question: Why does the relationship with our technology have to be a devoted commitment? Why do we even establish this technological relationship? Why can’t a gadget simply be a part of the user, and enhance their human-to-human relationships? Wilbur also expressed frustration when describing communicating with his wife via cell phone. He said, ”the cell phone is a pain sometimes, when trying to contact Marcy because her phone is not always on, in service, or with her, she always leaves it in the car.” This shows how cell phones are an inconsistent guessing game when trying to make contact.


Mike and Kathy interview

Our third interview was with Mike and Kathy who were on vacation. We met up with them in City Market. After the inquiry Jonathan transcribed the interview and then I, Lisa, created a diagram of all the information that we discovered from them.

Through synthesis of their information, a key issue we found was during separation, the couples missed out on experiences. Kathy told us a story about how she saw a naked cowboy on the streets of New York. This was a moment that normally they would have enjoyed to laugh about together, but since Mike was not with her, she felt that he had missed out. She expressed “the naked cowboy reminded her of her husband.”


Major takeaways:
  • Communicate once a day.
  • They separate for more than a couple days three to four times a year.
  • They try to walk together three miles a day.
  • Read the morning paper together.
  • Enjoy shopping when on vacation at the local stores.
  • They finish each others sentences
  • She falls asleep when he is driving because she feels safe.
  • He feels Johnny Depp has good style and she like Jennifer Aniston’s style.


  • They don’t walk when the other is gone.
  • Their sleeping routines change, becomes harder for them to fall asleep.
  • They are unable to share experiences when they are separated that together they would enjoy.

Target Market

After conducting our inquiries and becoming more familiar with the problems that affected couples when they where separated we narrowed our Target Market.

  • Couples ages from 25-35.
  • In a serious relationship.
  • Established nine to five jobs.
  • 70k to 100+ salaries.
  • Enjoy nightlife.
  • Upscale apartments.
  • Urban lifestyle.
  • Travel often for business.
  • Travel alone from significant other.
  • Use things like laptops and cell phones regularly.

Cell phone analysis

The frustration that Wilbur and many other users feel toward their cell phones led us to further explore the negative aspects of using cell phones to communicate.

From an aesthetic point of view, cell phones today are all typical, “boxy” in shape, and lack style. Cell phones are always improving features and usability, thus leading to such a high turnover rate, which almost forces people to spend the money on the new phones. More issues include: cell phones are not always in their service range; battery must be charged every other day, cell phones are not durable, thus why there are so many “protective cases” sold to suit them, people depend on their phones, without them they can feel lost, and lastly there have been studies done, that cell phones cause accidents, as a result of this, laws have been passed in Washington D.C. that citizens are not allowed to use cell phones while driving.

Some insight we gained along the way refered to “The axemakers gift.” Which is the story of an axemaker who introduces an axe to a preliterate society, who still use rocks and stones to accomplish their daily tasks, and how that axe with change the dynamic of their everyday lives. Their way of life is not the same after the new cultural “meme” takes hold. The cell phone can be seen as the axe in this case, changing our way of life, and even changing our laws.

  • Boxy
  • High turnover rate
  • Not always in service when you need it
  • Battery life is limited
  • Constantly charging
  • Binding service plans
  • Break when dropped from pocket
  • Not durable, screen scratches
  • Bad volume adjusters
  • Cause accidents (car)
  • Easy to forget or leave because they are so small
  • People feel lost without their phone
  • Emotionally affects people

Final takeaways and next step

After conducting our research and thoroughly synthesizing our findings, we reflected on some major takeaways to direct us in the exploration phase of our project.

  • Couples develop a personal language; not necessarily verbal. Mike and Kathy said that they could be driving down the road and each notice a street sign that they find means something funny to each of them and they don’t even have to say anything just look at each other.
  • Routines change when couples are separated resulting in bad and sometimes good aspects. A bad aspect was when Triba wouldn’t have pizza/game night on Fridays when her husband was gone. A good aspect was that when Jordan was gone Laura could watch the TV show she wanted.
  • It becomes harder to fall asleep without your significant other. Kathy said that when you are used to falling asleep next to you for 25 years and then they are not there it is harder to sleep because something is out of place.
  • Do not feel safe. Triba mentioned that when her husband wasn’t there she didn’t feel safe and therefore did things like checked the locks twice.
  • Miss out on shared experiences. Mike mentioned that when he was in Vegas walking down the strip he wished Kathy was there so he could show her the fountains in front of the Bellagio. Something similar was when I was working on the past Charrette with Liz Sanders of SonicRim, the husband of our couple we had test our toolkit created a device that was two buttons, on and off. The on button made his wife appear so he could show her something then the off button he used when he was finished sharing an experience with her.
  • Having to check in constantly. One of the problems that Jordan had was he would get worried and upset when Laura wouldn’t check in although he was worse than she was a checking in.
  • Cell phone trouble. Wilbur mentioned that he always had a hard time reaching his wife because not only was she a realtor and always busy, her phone always lost service and she would forget it behind.

Design direction/next step:

  • Design a device that connects the user through multiple senses to create an intimate connection while separated from their significant other.