"Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing."
The natural experience of light is anything but static. It shifts as the sun chases across the sky, and the clouds and weather patterns change influencing color, angle and intensity of light. AVAST is the first smart lighting system that connects where you are globally with local weather conditions. AVAST was designed as a response to the smart lighting systems that have been developed for modern work environments to optimize peak human performance often to the detriment of good mental health practices. Designed for the future of work and, in particular, working at home, AVAST brings natural, changeable, experience of light and light cycles into your home office. It offers opportunities for enhanced “presentness” with a nod to the role cycles of nature play in our well-being and sense of self.
Avast’s wings respond to changes in atmospheric pressure. When the weather is cloudy and there is a greater chance of precipitation; AVAST opens enabling more light to filter out during low-pressure systems. During high-pressure systems, when the sun is out and skies are clear, AVAST will sink down and close its wings, cueing the user to take full advantage of the natural sunshine. Along with the physical movement, the light quality subtly shifts underneath AVAST’s wings in response to open weather data.
In looking at the market of smart lighting there are two general areas that are being explored at the moment. The first area is what I’m calling “the Hammer”. This lighting is responsive solely for the purpose of optimizing human productivity. The second category comprises high end products developed to mirror an experience of natural light. However they are only responsive to the apps that are timed to turn them on and off. The core of what AVAST does is to connect real time natural shifts of light from right outside your window to the artificial lighting experienced inside. AVAST aims to improve mindfulness, rhythm and connections to the shifting natural world.
AVAST is the culmination of three strands of development which occurred simultaneously. For the final form, I went through a rapid ideation process working in scaled models before moving to one to one. The wing shape and placement of the mechanism was designed to minimize the torque needed to gain a maximized movement. For the mechanism I went through quite a bit of trial and error, before landing on the use of a rack and pin system. Everything is housed inside a cylindrical light unit that is nestled into the top of the wings. In terms of the software, AVAST is connected to an open data weather API from Open Weather Map and downloads updated weather information every 15 minutes.
Throughout the development of AVAST I repeatedly testedwith users using the ESSS or “Embodied Sense of Self Scale” developed by psychologists to understand participants sense of “presentness” through measuring a person’s feeling of agency and ownership of their own real-time narrative.
AVAST, Project Video
How AVAST works throughout the day.
Form and Material Exploration
The Potters Chair
The Potters Chair was designed to assist ceramicists working on the wheel, while celebrating the art of making. Throwing creates an interesting ergonomic challenge, often leaving the potter bent almost in half in order to support their arms to center and raise the sides of the piece. In the development of the Potters chair I worked with several ceramic artists who use the wheel quite frequently. Their insights on details such as the angle and size of the armrest, height of the chair in relation to most standard potters wheels in the UK and the flex of the chair so it moves with the artist informed the final prototype design.
The chair was designed to be sat on backwards so the potter could use the front-rest to stabilize their arms, while keeping their body in a more neutral position relieving strain on the lower back. Made of hard wood and steel with forms inspired by the soft curves of ceramics, the chair was created to resist moisture and dirt that are common in all ceramic studios.
One of the artists at the Royal College of Art I worked with in developing the chairs features.
Early drawings and model for the Potters Chair.
Scale concept models.
More testing with artists at the Royal College of Art.
First full scale working prototype.
Voice Blox is the first language training tool that embodies your pronunciation as a physical form, allowing you to explore your accent with your hands. Mandarin speakers teach tones with small finger gestures. We have found a way to teach everyone this intuitive gestural tonal language using simple shapes to guide a learner’s hand – making tones easy.
We observed that people rapidly understand subtle tonal difference when comparing between two tone blocks - hence we have created a 2 block format for our interaction - ‘’The Master and Mirror Block’’. The master block leads the lesson plan, demonstrating the ideal tones through its surface structure and audio playback. The mirror block listens to you, and embodies your tonal pronunciation in its structure, allowing the user to hear themselves through tactile exploration. The product was designed in consultation with multiple language professors, interaction design researchers, and speech therapists at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. We conducted an iterative experimental design process where we responded rapidly to user and expert feedback. Users and professionals described Voice Blox as being fun, engaging and intuitive.
When activated, Voice Blox will listen and analyze your daily speech, building a database of your most common mistakes. Simply Download, review and work to improve your accent through a completely customized lesson, addressing your personal problem areas. The Voice Blox idea started with a future forecasting vision for learning and education. With more and more curriculum going on-line, we wanted to find new ways to add hands on learning opportunities to educational technology. Analyzing the market we realized there wasn’t much being developed when it came to learning language. This started our experimental approach culminating with the Voice Blox tool and system.
Voice Blox, Project Video
Inside Voice Blox Studio
Ido uses capacitive sensors to retreat in response to human touch. The goal of the project was to use basic electronics, material and sound to spark intrigue and play for all. Made from white tissue paper, the 576 hand cut flowers where designed to slip easily into cones to minimize the force on the four servos as well as maximize the visual impact.
The Come Chileno movement is a campaign born from the vibrancy, color, and flavors of La Vega to raise awareness and pride in Chilean grown food. Over the course of three weeks we partnered with students from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile to examine the new hybrid food culture blossoming in Santiago. Together we created the Come Chileno movement. The campaign celebrates locally grown Chilean foods with simple to follow recipe cards and aids drawing attention to the wisdom of the Chilean people based on interviews with market venders, farmers, and grandmothers. Buying Chilean grown foods supports the local economy, increases biodiversity, sustainability, and will build a stronger community around food for the Chilean people.
Working internationally made it extremely important for us to create a circular validation process throughout the scope of our work in Chile. At each step we went back to our key stakeholders to make sure we were on the right track. The Come Chileno movement offers a value proposition for all participants in the movement, creating a self-sustaining community of sharing and learning around Chilean food.
Example of one of the carts created to spark visibility for the Come Chileno movement at different markets, city centers, and university campuses.
Come Chileno, Project Video
Images of interviews done at La Vega market.
Ask the Experts! Example of a poster with information on finding the perfect avocado by market venders who know the tricks of the trade.
After years of studying photography, lighting has always been of particular interest to me. This project was entirely about play - play of form, color, and pattern. The goal was to create a family of three characters with custom shades that throw light across the wall. Each in a unique way.
The base forms were cut on a CNC router from pink foam, and then used to make plaster molds with which I cast the porcelain bases. Each shade was handmade with fabrics found around the greater Chicago area that spoke to each piece’s character. The lamps were displayed at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s senior thesis show in 2011.
Wayfinding Transportation Study for the MBTA
Over the course of a four-week period we met with 15 user/experts from divers backgrounds with a variety of disabilities included people with all types of mobility functional limitation, sensory limitation and brain base conditions. We met with each user/expert individually and developed trips lasting 2 hours each created based on key stations and bus lines as well as the user/experts experience with public transport. With the goal of this project being primarily on wayfinding we tried to create trips that would bring the User/expert to new lines and trips on the MBTA system that they where less familiar with.
Key Findings Examples:
There was a trend to have directional signage at decision points or points of transfer i.e. stairways, escalators. People would identify the information at a distance, go through the decision point then stop and expect reassuring information again which was usually not there.
Lighting can be a very affective tool for people to navigate through a space, to call out important information like signage and vertical transportation. People instinctually go towards brighter light in order to find their way out of a space.
Paying attention to the design of decision points is important. When people need to engage in higher-level thinking i.e. reading train times, buying tickets; acoustics, lighting, having a place to sit or lean becomes particularly important. One idea would be to identify areas and times (rush hour) where there is likely a higher stress level and bump up the directional information through the digital screens which are currently used primarily for advertisements.
Massachusetts Cultural Council’s “UP” Initiative
The MCC’s goal of the “UP” initiative was to make Massachusetts the national leader in offering the most inclusive, welcoming cultural experiences for everyone across the spectrum of ability and age. MCC, in collaboration with the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD), established a structure to pre-approve organizations that were already leaders in inclusive culture practice and to invite applications from organizations that are committed to becoming leaders.
Each of the 10 organizations accepted into the UP Innovation and Learning Network received an on-site holistic review of their practices by User/Experts who represented a mix of ages, cultures, and abilities. After each organization received their site visit, they identified their priorities, and attended four days of Inclusive Culture Immersion Workshops with the goal to build insight, knowledge and capacity.
User/Expert trying the wheel at the New Art Center in Newton Mass.
MCC "UP" Initiative, Project Video
Image from one of the training days focused on information design.
User/Experts at Historic Deerfield, Mass.
User/Expert testing of website designs.
Review of digital interactive elements for the Mass Audubon Society's Drumlin Farm.
Review of the tactile experience at Old Sturbridge Village, Mass.
Peer-to-Peer Collaboration Grant User/Expert work in Russia
In the context of the UN Convention on the Human Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD), and with support from a US State Department Peer-to-Peer Collaboration Grant, I joined a team from the Institute for Human Centered Design on three trips, to work with Perspektiva a Moscow-based NGO on building capacity and awareness on universal inclusive design practices in Russia. Each trip included training on how to conduct accessibility surveys and work with User/Experts on contextual reviews. The first trip trained eight NGO’s working on disability rights across Russia. The second trip focused on inclusive educational practices and the last trip focused on inclusive cultural practices at the National Museum of Moscow and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
At the core of each training we taught participating organizations to first understand the experience of users. All people encounter space through a combination of their sensory perception, physical and cognitive experience. Second we would break down each setting by using the world health definition of environment. At any given point a user is operating within a physical environment, informational environments, communication, attitudinal and policy environments. Once these definitions were understood, each organization would conduct User/Expert reviews of their facilities and share their findings with the goal of creating a collaborative space for NGO’s around Russia to work together to address major accessibility challenges.
User/Expert review at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg Russia.
User/Expert at the National Museum of Moscow.
Image from one of the training days on inclusive culture trip.
Visiting one of the schools participating in the inclusive education trip.
Special education teacher working with one of her students during the inclusive education trip.
All of the trainings for this project where broadcasted as webinars so NGO's across Russia would have access to the information.