We are excited to share student projects, department news, event information, and photos from the MFA in Products of Design program. Check back frequently for updates.
Loop is a directional haptic feedback accessory designed by Kathryn McElroy and Joseph Weissgold for their Product, Brand & Experience course. The device and system emerged out of a challenging brief to design a “branded consumer product” that would help in the context of a protest.
The opportunity that Joseph and Kathryn identified was that demonstrators often go into a protest with the presumption that it will be peaceful and non-violent, but given the provocative nature that defines demonstrations, violence can often ensue. In addition, Kathryn and Joseph argue that “one of the strategies for public protesting is that strength is evidenced by the participants’ ability to ‘stay in formation’—a kind of ‘you can’t take us all’ mentality.” And inspired by the motions of schools of fish and bird flocking patterns, the designers saw a parallel in the animal kingdom—a kind of “you can’t catch us all.” Here was an opportunity to use technology to address the challenge of protesters staying together when a demonstration gets disturbed; where forces try to “break up” the event.
Since humans don’t have the kind of subtle instinct that allows them to move in spontaneous unison, Kathryn and Joseph designed a product-service pairing that that would provide just such a capability: a soft, close-fitting armband that provides haptic feedback to the user, plus a smartphone app that geo-locates the user and affiliated users immediately around around them.
The app uses the bluetooth and GPS on the protesters’ smartphones to keep them all within a certain flexible range from one another—allowing mass demonstrations to have enough flexibility to move nimbly and avoid conflicts with the authorities without relying on a cellular signal or wifi. The paired armband has vibration points evenly spaced around the circumference of the band, guiding the user “right” or “left” through a choreographed “pulsing” in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Loop thus allows its users to be more focused “in the environment,” and eliminates the need to look at a phone screen for directions. The designers beautifully sum up the offering: “With Loop, the software, together with the hardware, provide directionality through rotational vibration.”
In other applications, Loop can work with GoogleMaps to provide turn-by-turn directions, but also has an open API that allows the developer community to create new uses for it. From intuitively directing jogging routes, to helping tourists visit hot spots while still looking up at the sights, there are countless applications where a directional, haptic prompt outweighs the nuisance of having to pull out and look at a smartphone.
And since the app helps users stay within range of their chosen group, the device could serve to keep families together on vacation, for example, or friends together at a festival.
The core of the product packaging doubles as an induction charger for the device, and the designers imagine that the product would be sold in stores such as Best Buy and Radio Shack.
“Loop,” at its brand essence, offers users a kind of “directional animal instinct” through the use of technology, while allowing the engagement with that technology to happen without the use of screens. Comment the designers, “Loop leverages technology to allows users to be fully present where they are.” Perhaps that’s the best technology of all.
Richard Clarkson has always been fascinated with superpowers. Presented with the opportunity to study Superpowers for his Masters thesis, he began by researching where the desire for powers comes from. Early psychological experiments included ‘Sculpt-your-own-power’ and ‘Masks of power’ which encouraged participants to reflect on what their true power was. Richard comments that Superpowers could be dissected into two distinct elements:
“Firstly ‘the super’—a fantastic abstraction of oneself. This is based primarily on the wish fulfillment for powers we covet but can never posses. Secondly ‘the power’—an intrinsic understanding of oneself, one’s weaknesses, strengths and uniqueness. This form of power is something we already posses, hidden, forgotten or undervalued. In conversation with expert, such as Superhero artist Issa Ibraham, Richard discovered that the second kind of power was accessible through discourse of the first.”
Further research into mythology, psychology and philosophy (including works from Joseph Campbell) led the thesis from exploring discourse to one of creating experiences. These experiences of the joy and delight relating to power can be leveraged to create a kind of inward reflection. Richard calls such experience-objects “Moments of Power.”
Moments of Power represent a series of referenced gestures, actions and postures that allow participants to feel powerful; a sensory experience of being more than human, followed by a reflective experience of discovery. The extrinsic and the intrinsic come together for a brief moment to create meaningful delight.
In the following semester Richard will expand on and refine certain areas of research such as experiential design, further exploration of what denotes remarkability in different cultures, and methods for better reaching inward reflection through sensory experiences. He continues to develop the Moments of Power collection in preparation for his Masters Thesis Presentation show in May 2014.
We are thrilled to announce our Visiting Lecture Series lineup for the Spring 2014 semester:
Panthea Lee, Founder of ReBoot: Thursday, January 16, 2014
Matthew Manos, Founder of A VeryNice Design Studio: Thursday, January 21, 2014
Tom Gerhardt, Founder, Studio Neat: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 [This lecture is open to the public, but seating is very limited; RSVP here.]
Emily Pilloton, Founder of Project H: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Steven Heller, Author: Thursday, April 3, 2014
Cameron Tonkinwise, Director, CMU: Thursday, April 24th, 2014 [This lecture is open to the public, but seating is very limited; RSVP here.]
First up on January 16th is Pantha Lee, principle of Reboot. As Reboot’s lead designer, focused on the practical applications of ethnography and systems thinking in delivering effective international development and governance programs. She oversees all aspects of the program management process, including research, design, implementation, and evaluation. Panthea has managed complex projects in over 20 countries, including sensitive political environments. In Afghanistan, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and others, she has facilitated cross-cultural collaborations among diverse stakeholders, including government, civil society, donors, and the private sector. Her experience includes work in education, financial inclusion, government accountability, human trafficking, and public health.
Our second speaker, on January 21st, is Matthew Manos, founder of A VeryNice Design Studio. Matt is a neo-philanthropist, creative director, and social entrepreneur that is dedicated to disrupting the way the design industry operates. Manos began his freelance design career at the age of 16, which is the same year he took on his first pro-bono client, and launched his first company. Three years later, he founded verynice, a global design and innovation consultancy that dedicates over 50% of its efforts toward free services for non-profit organizations. Manos has helped build over 300 brands in every sector and industry across the globe, and his studio works with a diverse clientele that range from Fortune 500 companies to small local shops. As of 2013, verynice has also provided over $800,000 worth of pro-bono design and consulting services in 40+ countries spanning 6 continents to benefit 200+ organizations thanks to a team of 200+ people located around the world. Notable clients of verynice have included The United Nations, NASA, MTV Networks, Edison International, Facebook, Kaiser Permanente, UNICEF, Disney Imagineering, and Human Rights Campaign.
Tom Gerhardt, Co-Founder of Studio Neat, visits the studio on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Tom is an internationally recognized artist and designer who works across a broad range of disciplines; and is one-half of Studio Neat. As a hardware and software developer at Potion, Tom helped create interactive installations for some of the Nation’s most prestigious museums and retail spaces. As an artist, Tom’s work seeks to reconcile modern man’s dual citizenship in the physical and digital worlds through projects like The Mud Tub: an organic interface that allows people to control a computer while playing in the mud. Most recently, Tom and his design partner Dan Provost, created the Glif: one of the world’s first crowd-funded commercial products and subsequently founded Studio Neat, a design practice dedicated to making things simple and making simple things.
Our fourth speaker, Emily Pilloton, is the founder of Project H Design. Founded in 2008, Emily believed deeply in the power of design and building to excite learning and citizenship. Her first crush, MacGyver, sparked her love of constrained problem-solving and tinkering. She went on to study architecture and building because it was the one thing that allowed her to geek out about everything, from math and structural engineering to ethnography and the fascinating behavior of people. Emily believes that by giving youth, particularly girls and students of color, the skills to design and build their wildest ideas, we can support the next generation of creative, confident changemakers. Her ideas and work have made their way to the TED Stage, The Colbert Report, the New York Times, and more. She is the author of two books, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People, and Tell Them I Built This: Transforming Schools, Communities, and Lives with Design-Based Education. When she isn’t welding with her 10-year-old Camp H girls or co-teaching Studio H, Emily loves to run, write, rabble-rouse, and eat unreasonable amounts of Mexican food.
Steven Heller visits on Thursday, April 3rd. Steve is the co-founder and co-chair (with Lita Talarico) of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts, New York, where he lectures on the history of graphic design. Prior to this, he lectured for 14 years on the history of illustration in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual arts. He also was director for ten years of SVA’s Modernism & Eclecticism: A History of American Graphic Design symposiums.With Seymour Chwast he has directed Push Pin Editions, a packager of visual books, and with his wife Louise Fili he has produced over twenty books and design products for Chronicle Books and other publishers. For over two decades he has been contributing editor to PRINT, EYE, BASELINE, and I.D. magazines, has had contributed hundreds of articles, critical essays, and columns (including his interview column “Dialogue” in PRINT) to a score of other design and culture journals.
And rounding our season out, on April 22nd (and fittingly Earth Day!) is Cameron Tonkinwise, Director of Design Studies at the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University. Cameron has a background in philosophy; his dissertation concerned the educational philosophies of Martin Heidegger. Cameron continues to research what designers can learn from philosophies of making, material culture studies and sociologies of technology. Cameron is facilitating the School of Design’s creation of a new Design Studies sequence of courses that better prepare designers for a wider scope of work and the more interdisciplinary challenges of 21st century societies. Cameron is also chairing the PhD Committee that is currently restructuring the School of Design’s PhD program. He has extensive experience with practice-based design research, having supervised and examined reflective practice and artifact-based research projects and written about the epistemologies particular to this kind of work. Cameron’s primary area of research is sustainable design. In particular, he focuses on the design of systems that lower societal materials intensity, primarily by decoupling use and ownership – in other words, systems of shared use. Cameron has published a range of articles on the role of design, and in particular, service design, in the promotion of the sharing economy and collaborative consumption.
We are thrilled to announce and welcome new faculty to the MFA Products of Design department, all of whom will begin classes in the Spring 2014 semester!
Abby Covert, who is teaching Thesis II, is an independent information architect working and living in New York City. With a proven track record in establishing user-centric practices in a variety of creative environments, Abby also has a reputation for stellar information architecture work in a variety of consulting contexts. Her diverse portfolio includes work for among others: Staples, Nike, IHOP, Herman Miller, Kraft Foods, Sharpie, JELL-O, Prismacolor, Expo Markers, Valspar, KMART, Taco Bell, KFC, State Farm and The United States Postal Service, BlueCross BlueShield, JSTOR, Fidelity Investments, Bank of America, The Hartford Insurance. Abby prides herself on being an active organizer and mentor within the design community. She served as Executive Producer for the IDEA conference in 2010 and the Information Architecture Summit in 2010 and 2012. She holds a dual degree in Graphic Design and Multimedia from Northeastern University. Abby speaks and writes under the pseudonym Abby the IA, and currently serves as faculty for Parsons, The School of Visual Arts, General Assembly and Hyper Island. She has given guest lectures for NYU, Miami Ad School and the University of Michigan.
Janna Gilbert, who will be teaching the second part of Dynamics and Strategy and Design, is a Client Partner at Luminary Labs where she leads a range of client innovation projects focused on operationalizing innovation, including the design and execution of multi-stage open innovation competitions, organizational design efforts and translating deep customer insights into new opportunities. Janna also runs the Analyst Program at Luminary Labs. Prior to joining Luminary Labs, Janna was an Associate Principal at McKinsey & Company. While at McKinsey, Janna served clients on a variety of topics, focusing on innovation, growth strategy and marketing and sales. While there, she worked with clients to deliver large scale, multi-year global innovation transformation programs, identify new growth opportunities and led the development of client and internal innovation training programs. Prior to joining McKinsey, Janna worked as an analyst for a private equity and corporate development firm, focused on the insurance and risk-related sectors.
Created by Lucy Knops, Brandon Washington and Jung Soo Park for their Intervention Interaction course taught by Sigi Moeslinger and Masamichi Udagawa, “Running Errands” is a speculative intervention designed to activate, educate and motivate Americans to increase physical activity during their weekly shopping trips. More than 35 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in America are obese (Source: CDC.gov). 90 percent of Americans live within 15 miles of a Walmart and more than 100 million Americans shop in Walmart every week (Source: Walmart.com). This intervention hopes to reach those millions of Americans through a campaign for Walmart called “Stay Fit.”
Stay Fit is designed around the insight that most Americans spend around 30 minutes shopping, several times a week, and over an hour on weekend trips. This is a significant amount of time, which if reframed, can be allocated for physical activity. A 155-pound person can burn 130 calories in one 30-minute shopping trip while pushing a grocery cart for example (Source: Livestrong.com), so this amount of time alone will meet the 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity recommended by the Center for Disease control to combat obesity.
The two core components of the Stay Fit initiative are the physical “Burn + Earn” Shopping Carts, and the Stay Fit digital platform. Users of the system carry a “Burn + Earn” Membership Card containing the shopper’s profiles and activities on the platform. The carts feature an interactive touch screen centered on the handle of the cart that shoppers log into by tapping their card on the built-in reader. The carts track the calories burned by the user during each shopping trip, and customers are rewarded with discount points for healthier food options. By learning about shoppers over time—logging their trips and reconciling them against their purchase profiles—the software provides personalized tips, and points them (literally) to discounted healthy options. Additionally—analogous to a Nike+ FuelBand—the system tracks their miles walked and calories burned over time so that shoppers can track their continued progress at home via a web portal or mobile App.
Unique to this system is that the carts provide “guided journeys” through the store, moving shoppers along prescribed paths that increase their calories burned, and direct them toward discounted Great for You items—a labeling system for healthier options launched by Walmart in 2012. As customers travel through the store, the touchscreen on the cart will ping shoppers when they are about to pass these discounted healthy options, offering more detailed information and suggested recipes.
For customers waiting on pharmaceutical products, the screen will provide notifications when their prescriptions are ready for pick-up at the dispensary. Again, this will allow the shopper to walk and burn calories, rather than sitting and waiting for their medications to be filled.
Finally, for customers uninterested in pushing a cart around the store but prefer to use a hand-held shopping basket, a mobile app can be used to access the Stay Fit platform to activate the smartphone’s pedometer and add to the progress in their profile. (Plus, of course, they’ll be “carrying” increasing weight in their hands as they progress through the store—presumably all-the-while adding items to their basket!)
Other potential features of the Stay Fit campaign include fitness installations located throughout the store, and a Stay Fit juice bar. The campaign may be expanded to include themed workout days at Walmart, and downloadable workout soundtracks.
From a business perspective, the Stay Fit campaign is mutually beneficial for Walmart and their shoppers. By creating a valuable reason for shoppers to stay in-store longer, customer spending is likely to increase, adding to Walmart’s sales figures. For shoppers, the visualization of calories burned, and the ability to earn discount points, motivates them to walk farther with the carts. And along the route, they are provided with valuable health information that they can apply beyond the aisles of Walmart.
Finally, the Stay Fit campaign creates a healthier brand image for Walmart, as well as a new and unique platform for customer engagement.