Flush is a digital platform—designed for use in bathroom stalls—that encourages people to “flush their thoughts" anonymously as cathartic way to release them. Created by first-year student Alexia Cohen, the website and mobile app are triggered by scanning a QR code with your smartphone.
Starting with a piece of toilet paper (the project asked students to riff on a piece of trash they created after class), Alexia became interested in the bathroom stall as a private space in the public realm—"a place that is often used for self-refection, and a place where people tend to use their phone!" She asked herself, "How could this space be exploited?" And "How could I tap into the use of cellphones in the restroom" in order to bring her project to life.
Alexia became interested in the bathroom stall as a private space in the public realm—a place that is often used for self-refection...but a place where people tend to use their phone!
The first iteration of the project used QR code stickers affixed to bathroom fixtures—leading users to short phrases such as
"I start my day with a sigh. It's my way of coping with what's ahead." Or "I need to catch up on sleep…." Or "Seeking even enough time to do some self-reflection, and coming up dry." After a brief testing period, Alexia decided to invite users participate instead of just read. Here, she branded the new version Stall Sigh—where the QR codes would take users to an online platform where they could anonymously enter their thoughts. Finally, she decided to build an app that would allow users not only to express themselves, but also respond to other people’s thoughts nearby in their neighborhood—through private messages and comments.
In the end, the app and website were re-branded as Flush: Let It Go, and the final prototype took the form of a QR code overlaid onto a mirrored plate. In this embodiment, "the user is confronted with a pixelated reflection of themselves in the bathroom stall—suggesting that their reflection will only be clear once they let go of a thought."
Alexia’s desire to encourage the letting go of thoughts came from noticing a need in herself and her peers: "We all wished that we had a way to express our thoughts, to let go, and to move on," she argued. "Some meditation techniques tackle this issue beautifully. Andy Puddicombe—founder of the popular meditation app Headspace—notes that 'In that moment of awareness, the moment we realize we’ve been distracted, we use the noting to create a bit of space, as a way of letting go, and to gain some clarity…'. I found his framing very inspiring."
"As in meditation, having an understanding, accepting, and acknowledging our thoughts is the first step," Alexia reasons. "Flush provides a platform to aid in expressing that thought, and allowing the user to let it go. And by adding the community aspect to the app, the experience is completed by building empathy and compassion into the overall product offering. I think of it as an equation: Thought + action + community = expression = release + empathy + compassion.
Some process sketches from the early part of the project are below.