Monday, March 1, 2010

Feeling cold? Hug the chair.

Critical design is meant to raise awareness on different issues that the users would otherwise ignore. The theme of this project was indoor climate in Alsion - our university building - and the goal was to create an artifact that would address some of the problems that that its inhabitants currently have.

Looking back, I realize that in a way, the point of the project was to learn more about the creative process itself. We went through 3 different phases: getting to know our users, presenting them with a critical artifact and then designing the final prototype based on all of the above.

Having a broad definition of indoor climate - ranging from noise to room setting to temperature and CO2 levels - the first challenge was to narrow down the palette of options and focus on the most important problems that our users had.
Probably the most important lessons I've learned working on this as part of a team was that "brainstorming" is not just a word for "let's see what we can do", but a process - and it needs to be managed accordingly. Our initial failure to stick to any brainstorming recipe lead to competing ideas and tension inside the team that, in turn, prevented us from moving forward in any way. We took a step back, did our homework and then started from a clean slate and doing everything by the book. It worked wonders - in no time, we had literally produced a wall of ideas.
After two long days, the specifications for the Hali (which means "hug" in Finnish) Chair finally saw the light of day. This is a rough list - we prioritized it the next morning and then I was off to sewing and tailoring.

To be honest, this was all unexpectedly fun. Coming from a software background, I always find it incredibly rewarding to build something tangible that you can interact with rather than abstract lines of code.

Oh, look at the mess I've made :)

This is the final artifact. The Hali Chair is all about personal climate: using a few simple gestures, the user can warm up or cool down the chair - depending on how he's feeling. In addition to this, the Hali Chair communicates with the building's indoor climate system and its supervisor (the Window Master) so that, on the long run, the conditions in the room could be adjusted accordingly.

For a better description of the prototype, see the video in the next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment