Audience and Markets

Moving forward with my thesis research I will be interviewing user groups. Currently I begun interviewing individuals about objects that are meaningful in their lives. Asking questions such as: What one object would you save in a fire? What one object could you not live without? What one object do you want to be remembered by? I am interested in trying to determine what makes an object meaningful or valuable to us. Is it old, heavy or expensive? Did we buy it, earn it or inherit it? To conduct this research I have broken my user group into four distinct groups that interact with objects very differently.Collectors, hoarders, borrowers and minimalists. I will develop these personas over the course of my user interviews. Please let me know if you can recommend any interviewees that fit one of these personas! 

 
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In the augmented age, we will have less possessions, but we will still own things. Shelve Your Things is a project that aims to bring our meaningful objects out of the shoebox and into our lives by imbedding them into the furniture. 

Through online software, the user inputs the dimensions of the shelf and their possessions before arranging them on the screen, essentially ‘feeling like a designer’, as they work with the machine to visualises a design. The prototype here was developed in Processing in collaboration with Lina Pulgarin. 

As Kevin Henry identified in an interview referring to the time it takes to manufacture products, “we don’t value things because we don’t value time” It may be possible that today, we value experience over products because experiences are consuming our own time. Shelve Your Things is an experience - We engage in the design process and this forces us to consider what objects are important to us before we silhouetting them into the furniture of their home. No possessions, no shelf. This develops relationships with each object - including the shelf.  

Shelve Your Things is a custom shelving designer that is designed and built around the possessions of the user. Through online software the user inputs the dimensions of their possessions and arranges them on the screen as the software visualises a shelving design around them. The design of the shelf silhouettes the users possessions, imbedding them in the furniture of their home. Furniture design currently requires the user to fill the furniture with their possessions, Shelve Your Things reverses this process - designing the furniture around the users life. Designing the shelf forces the user to consider what objects are most important to them and what objects they want to imbed into the furniture of their lives - without any objects there is no shelf. 

The design software enables individuals to ‘feel like a designer’ while they are envisioning their shelving on screen. While they are not given control over any specific aspects of the aesthetic design of the shelf, they are given control over specific aspects of the design that matter most to the thesis of the shelf, through the lens of their possessions. After inputting the dimensions of the shelf and their possessions the user can move their possessions around as the design of the shelf dynamically adapts to their preferred positioning. 

As each shelf is unique, each shelf must be manufactured on demand. To achieve this the shelves are manufactured through CNC routing. This enables the shelves to be manufactured and assembled locally by any CNC bureau or manufacture contractor such as 100kgarages.com. In a discussion with Industrial Designer Kevin Henry, I asked where this furniture would fit in the current manufacture sphere - he identified that this next wave of product will fit in well with the IKEA 2.0. 

Envisioning a system in which this furniture could exist I conceptualised a manufacture and distribution system inspired by cement trucks. Cement trucks load up with cement mix and water before dispatching, mixing and essentially manufacturing their product on route. I envision a boxtruck with CNC routing machine in the cargo area. Customers unique products are manufactured in the truck on route and assembled in their homes.

The first Shelve Your Things prototype (pictured) was manufactured in collaboration with Sowmya Iyer for the Products of Design Open House Exhibition. The shelf was designed around 4 sculptural works by other students and a computer monitor. The final prototype took 3 hours to CNC route, required minor hand alterations and cost US$108 in material usage.

 
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Some product as are unique to us. We ‘break them in’ and their sound, feel, look or essence becomes characteristic. Something we cherish and something we never wish to replace. But these things are designed into obsolescence, faster, slimmer and Wi-Fi connected models push our favourite products into irrelevance. However some products don’t outdate naturally. Technology is not pushing these products away - designers and business models are. The core technology of speakers, camera lenses or even cars hasn’t changed drastically in one hundred years. Smart speakers, these soulless devices of aural sterility don’t contain the same aura or character as the objects we grew up with. 

“If the intelligence of our devices feels artificial, it will never stick.” - Tim Brown This project explored how to develop a warm relationship with the objects of the augmented age. Smart speakers intentionally design our existing technology into obsolescence and replace these once significant speakers out of our lives. However the core technology, the speaker, has not changed since the first electromagnetic speaker in 1921.

What I stumbled upon while prototyping is that you can replicate the function of Apple’s upcoming HomePod with items commonly found in our junk draws. through using… Any audio enclosure - Any portable speaker - And any old iPhone.

Listening to music or asking ‘what the weather?’ to the old speaker gives me a completely different relationship and enjoyment from the product - and the technology. I published this project as a free instructable which I hope will bring contemporary function to these objects of aura. This project was the first step into a platform I've been envisioning which takes these objects designed into obsolescence (speakers, camera, cars) and utilised the gig economy to upgrade them. Turning these objects of aura into objects of functional relevance.

 

 
 

Designing emotion into objects has always been core skill of Industrial Design. Well designed objects create an emotional connection with their owners, objects their owners care for and hold on to for longer. How do we design emotion and develop relationship with the objects of the shared economy? 

Countless startups are developing services to move these once possession based objects into a shared economy. For this new economy to thrive consumers must learn to care for their the objects of the shared economy the same way the care for their own. This is currently not the case. In 2017 a Chinese umbrella sharing startup lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrella in a matter of weeks. In Australia users of the recent oBike dock-less bike sharing program have reported finding bikes up trees or in rivers. Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle has had enough of the city's oBikes, signalling he will run them out of town unless the Singaporean parent company can control its wayward fleet. Why do we not respect these objects the same way we do our own. 

 How do we develop relationships with these objects that are only transient in our lives?

From my interviews asking individuals what objects are most meaningful to them, the top object was not even an ‘object’ at all, it was photos. Although traditionally a tactile object, photos today fare information stored in a hard drive or cloud. They are not so much possessions as they are a set of memories in information. It may be possible that the most meaningful relationships we have today are information driven.

This insight enables us to design emotion into the objects of the shared economy, be it cars, bikes, homes or umbrellas.

Exploring the car as a case study - cars have always been a two way relationship. If you look after it - it will cost less in maintenance, its appearance will make you look better, and in the end it will have a higher resale value. How do you retain a relationship with the object?

Taxi drivers have alway had the agency to reject a customer. Uber drivers have also, to the surprise of many passengers, had the agency to reject passengers. Just as the passenger is able to rate the driver, so too is the driver able to rate the passenger. After being notified of a new pickup, the driver is given the passenger rating. If it is bellow average (4.6 stars) the driver will likely decide the fare is not worth while, skip the passenger and just pick up the next. The human agency of these systems, in a way, enforces good behaviour. What autonomy will autonomous vehicles have to accept or reject passengers? The new found autonomy of the autonomous vehicle gives it a new form of agency. No longer a reflection of human agency, the automobile now has the ability to make choices for itself. In a way, the automobile has agency over its user.

Exploring the autonomous vehicle service as a case study. As soon as you request the can it associates with you. For example personalising position of the seat, the music, and in the future possibly the colour, the decoration or the form of the vehicle. The aesthetic of the car 

After the car is docked back into the shared economy, the information associated to the aesthetic, persona and relationship of your umbrella is uploaded to the cloud. 

When you next pick up your next ride, bike, umbrella, or any other object of a shared economy for that mater, the information is downloaded, making the object personal and theirs. Users no longer own a physical object. They own the relationship with the information that makes the object personal to them. However if the shared object is damaged, lost or stolen the information in not updated and the relationship with the object is lost.

 
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Offbeat is a mobile app that connects invisible products such as music, TV and movies with tangible artefacts and public space. Music, TV and movies use to all be tangible possessions - but the records and VHS tapes were always just a container for the ‘invisible’ and intangible products they held. As soon as technology and legislation permitted, these products left their tangible container and transitioned to a service driven economy through platforms such as Spotify and Netflix. While this is a beneficial in many ways - there was a romance in the tangible product that is now lost. As Jack White observes, dropping the needle on a record was the final step in the creation of music. Something essential to the experience - and something that is now achieved through a mouse click. We can no longer collect, hold and be part of what was once a ritual. But there is “no romance in a mouse click” (Sax, 2017), and for the first time since their constant demise in sales, records have made a comeback. Jack White of the White Stripes and more recently co-founder of Third Man Records note that “In the age of invisible music it is important to have a real, physical product you can hold” (White, 2016). What Jack White is referring to is what David Sax terms the ‘Revenge of the Analogue’ - our desire to return to analogue ideologies. But instead of looking back what analogue, tactile, future could the future hold. 

Offbeat draws inspiration from the flaneur of the 19th century. A flaneur wanders for the “sheer enjoyment of the modern city” (Lucas, 2008), and I see the ‘city’ as the collection of stories that fill it. Offbeat enables the modern day flaneur to explore their city through a new lens - the invisible products that populate it. Just as the flaneur of the 19th century is said to “add to the city” (Stahl, 2015), Offbeat encourages users to contribute to the platform, for the people of their city.

Offbeat Records are a tangible artefact that resemble the size and cover art of the CD jewel cases of past. However these artefacts do not contain any media - they contain a direct link to the digital file online. While online service driven driven distribution is so much more efficient, sustainable and reliable that their tangible counterparts - it lacks the physicality. Offbeat Records are a tangible artefact that we can collect, display on our shelves, hand out after concerts and something we can pick up and play - an artefact that make us the final step in ‘accessing’ the invisible music. 

 
 
 
 

Humans have an amazing ability to recall vivid emotional memories, triggered by scent. Retroessence is an innovative company that designs and manufactures product and experience that explore the phenomonom of scent and memory. 

Events, traveling and new experiences are more popular that ever - selling memories has become big business. Retroessence is the first product to capturing these memories through scent. Retroessence captures life’s significant moments by associating an abstract scent to a memory - capturing a moment and space in time. Later, the memory can be consciously triggered though smelling a perfume, recalling a vivid emotional memory of the time and place. 

Retroessence Olfactory Memory Kit is an experience design exploration in scent and memory. When you open the kit, the room will fill with a beautiful aroma you have never smelt before. Moments can be captured. Honeymoons, vacations, celebrations - this moment is captured, forever in association with the scent. The kit contains a perfume bottle, scented candle and note card. After noting the memorable event on the card the memory can be recalled with a spray of perfume or by filling the room with the scent of the candle.

Just like the distinctive smell of Christmas, summer trips to the beach, or Aunt Gena’s house - we all associate scent with times, places and events. Scent is our best way to recall memory and many behavioural studies believe that scent can trigger more vivid emotional memories even better than images. 

Every Retroessence kit is unique. The scent of your memory is unique to you. If you ever run out of the perfume or candle scent use the unique number printed on the memory log card to reorder perfume or candle scents online. This product aims to give people ownership over the scents they co-create through a platform that give them the ability to make, test and envision the such a personal part of our lives

Scent is our best way to recall memory and many behavioural studies believe that scent can trigger vivid emotional memories better than images. Olfactory memory is not a pseudo-science. In the book Memory for Odors, Schab and Crowder hypothesize that humans the only species capable of explicit memories (the conscious recollection of memories) stimulated by scent. Retroessence uses ‘abstract’ scents - a unique combination of essences that have very likely never been experienced before. By assigning a new scent to a memorable moment, Retroessence enables individuals to capture a memorable moment. Recreating this scent through wearing the perfume or lighting the scented candle recalls explicit memories from this moment beyond what other stimuli such as photographs could do alone. 

From high-end designer brands to boutique limited runs, there are thousands of perfumes to satisfy even the most discerning of noses. Currently, nearly all of the top perfume brands are marketed for their 1) brand image and/or 2) quality aroma. Retroessence rejects the status quo taking an innovative and contemporary approach to the product sector. 1) Not based on brand image - Retroessence focuses instead on utilising scents extraordinary ability to trigger emotional memories. This enables consumers to build their own image around what the scent, and their Retroessence product, means to them. This contemporary approach is in line the era of personal branding and consumer trends. 2) Not based on quality aroma - Aroma is a very subjective fashion accessory that becomes very personal to its user. Therefore unlike other products categories it is very hard to buy perfume online, or gift perfume. Retroessence is not based on ‘quality aroma’ and is instead based on 6 abstract scents made from popular and largely approved essences. This makes it possible for Retroessence to be bought online or gifted without requiring consideration to the scent of the product.  

Retroessence was developed in collaboration with Jingting He.

 

One of One Watch

One of One alters the aesthetic design of a product each time one is sold through parametric design and digital manufacture. While still a product of mass manufacture, each product that is produced is unique

This is not the first product to explore the concept of slight alteration - but it is the first to explore it so intentionally. Wood products provided unlimited variation in their grain. Patterned Bakelite products intentionally produced variance in their manufacture. Through wear almost all products achieve a unique patina. One of One creates significant variance in its manufacture making it identifiably unique straight off the production line. Beyond a branding campaign - One of One moves the agency from the designer to the user. The watch becomes an unbranded and untainted product for the user to build meaning and significance around. 

This idea stemmed from a carriage clock gifted to me by my Grandmother. The carriage clock has immense value through its association with our family history - however after seeing the exact same carriage clock at the New York Maker Faire the realisation that my carriage clock was just another product of mass manufacture immediately devalued the significance this object as an object of value. But it wasn’t exactly the same. Minor details such as the shape of the glass on the top of the clock. 

One of One explores the modern equivalent of the carriage clock, the wrist watch. With this idea I am asking myself if this object will have more inherent value simply by adjusting the appearance of it to be unique, one of one, and essentially irreplaceable. Maybe. In an interview with Tim Miller, parametric and custom design expert, Miller predicted that after time it will just be perceived as a product of mass manufacture. To be a unique product, there must be human intervention, consumers or designers that choose a aspect of the design that makes it unique.

Why I choose my thesis topic.

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Products have alway fascinated me. I designed my first product when I was 8 years old. Through Windows ’95 Paint, my dad’s first digital camera and an inkjet printer, I made a Lego set that replicated the Lego sets I was obsessed with at the time. But instead of consuming astronauts, cowboys and racecar drivers, I wanted a Lego product that reflected myself. I made the set of myself working on a car - something me and my dad were doing together at the time.  My fascination with products prompted me to begin my academic life in Industrial Design - I wanted to make things, use my hands and reflect myself in tangible objects. 

When I moved to New York to study my Masters, I left a lot of my possessions behind, and also lost touch with the tangible objects of my designs. My Master’s study at MFA Products of Design expanded the notion of product design into a whole range of new fields - where the artefact was not the central outcome, and this concerned me … where was the tangible ‘products’ of my designs. I began to ask myself why was it concerning for me that I was not making things and what was important to me about things?

As I begun to explore my personal relationship with objects I realised that this disconnect was beyond my personal lifestyle change but a cultural shift into an age where services access and experience trumps possession. Through this thesis I have been exploring our relationships with objects, their value, meaning and opportunities to foster personal relationships with as we move into a world of impersonal access.

Speculative Service Design

Customisation in the shared economy.

Pre industrial revolution all objects were all unique to you. Post industrial revolution mass manufacture made it possible for you and your neighbour to have the same design of object. As our possessions now begin to enter a shared economy you and your neighbour share the same objects. We no longer have possession of our own and we don’t care for them the same way we do our own. We take much better of a car we own than a car we lease. 

Designing emotion into objects has always been core skill of Industrial Design. Well designed objects create an emotional connection with their owners, objects their owners care for and hold on to for longer. How do we design emotion and develop relationship with the objects of the shared economy? 

From my interviews asking individuals what objects are most meaningful to them, the top object was not even an ‘object’ at all, it was photos. Although traditionally a tactile object, photos today are information stored in a hard drive or cloud. They are not so much possessions as they are a set of memories in information. It may be possible that the most meaningful relationships we have today are information driven.

This insight enables us to design emotion into the objects of the shared economy, be it cars, bikes, homes or umbrellas. For this new economy to thrive consumers must learn to care for their the objects of the shared economy the same way the care for their own. This is currently not the case. In 2017 a Chinese umbrella sharing startup lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrella in a matter of weeks (http://shanghaiist.com/2017/07/10/umbrella-sharing-fail.php). In Australia users of the recent oBike dockless bike sharing program frequently find bikes up trees or in rivers (http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/inventions/how-do-bike-sharing-services-like-obike-and-reddygo-make-money/news-story/882c22777c7ecf3bef587e0fb8bf44f9). 

Exploring the umbrella as a case study in a speculative service. As soon as you unlock the umbrella it associates with you. Personalising the colour, for example, to the individuals predicted preference. Over extended use with the product machine learning develops a personal connection with the user. In the case of an umbrella this could be reminding the user when they prefer to take an umbrella with them, in the case of a car it could be the users preferred route to a location, in the case of a bike it could the their riding preferences. After the umbrella is docked back into the shared economy, the information associated to the aesthetic, persona and relationship of your umbrella is uploaded to the cloud. 

When you next pick up an umbrella, or any other shared object for that mater, the information is downloaded, making the object personal and theirs. Users no longer own a physical object. They own the relationship with the information that makes the object personal to them. However if the shared object is damaged, lost or stolen the information in not updated and the relationship with the object is lost.

Seeking for Interview Connections

Please contact me if you or someone you know would like to talk!

I’d like to start talking to people who use digital technologies to manufacture or who create objects through more traditional means, anyone who is using artificial intelligence to enhance user experiences or who are thinking about the implications of an increasingly digitally driven world.

 

Pre-research Speculative Design 3

Shelf for Your Things

Shelf for Your Things is a custom shelving designer that is built specifically around the possessions of the user. Through online software the user inputs the dimensions of their possessions and arranges them on the screen as the software visualises a shelving design around them. 

The software enables individuals to essentially ‘feel like a designer’. While they are not given full control over the design of the shelf, they are given control over specific aspects of the design that matter most, through the lens of their possessions.

As each shelf is unique, each shelf must be manufactured on demand. To achieve this the shelves would be through CNC processes. This enables the shelves to be manufactured and assembled locally by any CNC bureau or manufacture contractor. Inspired by cement trucks, that mix cement and essentially manufacture their product on route, I envisioned a CNC truck that manufactures customers shelves on route to assembling them in their house. 

 
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