To complete the bachelor’s part of this education, I have chosen for a socially relevant topic, namely sleep and particularly sleep disorders. For this group of people sleep is not as natural as it should be; sleep deprivation during the night lowers vigilance when working during the day. Therefore, getting enough sleep during the night is extremely important.
During the course of the semester I have researched the phenomena involved in sleep regulation. From this research I have distilled the most interesting and useful information in order to design a useful product.
Vigilo is an intelligent wristband that monitors the user’s skin temperature throughout the day. During a calibration period, Vigilo will learn the user’s temperature cycle: when does the user have his highest skin temperature, and when is it at its lowest? After calibration, Vigilo can easily spot differences from your normal temperature cycle, caused by bad night sleep, or sleep attacks. Vigilo can make the user aware of these dips in vigilance, and can help getting over this by applying mild cooling to your hand via the integrated cooling module. This way Vigilo raises awareness about the temperature cycle among the users, so they can be more productive during the day.
The most convincing parts are the fact that you established a clear user group with an explicit need that you might serve with your design, and that you showed that reliable temperature monitoring over prolonged periods of time seems indeed feasible.
This shows me that choosing a specific target group and pinpointing design decisions around this target group makes the design more convincing, as well as one of my specialties; the correct elaboration on technological aspects.
You seem to underestimate (or only have a limited understanding) of the steps to take next, towards an actual product proposal. While some parts are difficult, because of the inherent complexity and uncertainty (such as concerning the required signal processing), a more convincing vision on how even the available information (temperature recording) could be made useful should be within your reach.
In the future invest more in developing a stronger understanding of end users and their values (which in turn forms the basis for developing a more mature business perspective).
This semester I have worked with a product proposal for the first time, it was really valuable learning experience. But as the feedback mentions, more experience using this technique will probably increase my understanding of the steps towards a product proposal.
You have expressed interest in a more structured validation of your concept in a later (research) semester, which seems like a very sensible idea.
I hope to resume the project in a later research semester. I have created a solid ground for performing measurements to verify my statements in a real-life situation. Carrying out these measurements can help me answer the question that is still left unanswered: Will it actually work?
During my internship previous semester I have mainly worked on acquiring skills, such as working with machinery and programming as a means to design a useful artefact for my internship company. At the university I realize this is a radically different approach from what I learnt here. I use these skills as a means to design prototypes, that each can have their own goal within the bigger whole called “design”. In this case, the “design” is not necessarily a physical representation of the skills a designer has, but a concept that has been developed in multiple areas, which can be communicated in multiple ways. Thus, the activities alone do not tell much about the design thinking behind the project, but the context of the design can justify the activities.
I have had difficulties in estimating the potential of a proposed design. I have designed a product for a specific group of people. This makes the product more interesting for that group, but less interesting for the rest. However, the technology behind it is interesting for other target groups as well. I should be able to estimate the potential of separate aspects of a product. This way I am able to design products that appeal to the largest quantity of people possible in order to increase the odds of a product succeeding in the market.
This was my first project in the Comfort & Bonding theme. The medical domain, and sleep in particular was new to me. The kinds of products that are designed in this theme are characterized by their added value to the user’s quality of life. Projects that run here appeal to people in the most fundamental way: trough their sense of comfort and bonding.
Being able to work on such a project was exciting and motivated me throughout the semester. Looking back at the project’s result I believe I have designed a product that fits within this theme. Working in the comfort & bonding theme made me aware of more responsible duties as a designer. Products should prove their existence in this world, by actually adding value to the life of the user. This can only happen when a product connects with the user in one way or the other. Not only the vision on design was different within this theme, also the design process differed from typical design processes in other themes.
The design process differs each time I work on a project. At first I thought this was because of my vision being in development; a designer with a clear vision would also have a clear and structured design process. I found out this is not true; creating a vision is not about creating a static design process that works for you, but more about understanding the underlying aspects of a design process. Within our education, these underlying aspects are the four activities within the reflective transformative design process.
After all these years I am starting to get a grip on the design process model that is pictured in the “Eindhoven Designs - Volume 2” booklet. I can categorize what I have done according to the four different activities (envisioning, making, synthesizing and exploring). It is not that I didn’t want to do this at first, but only after working on multiple projects I recognize the terms that are used and I am able to relate these terms to work I had done in the past. The model can actually be a helpful tool in guiding the design process, rather than a fancy marketing tool to describe what we do at this faculty.
Competencies I have developed during this project should be representative for my whole development, since this is my Final Bachelor Project. Therefore, I have aimed at showing my development through the activities in my project. For example, I have set the following goals:
Academic level literature research into the subject. If I want to change society using design, I should be able to quickly gather knowledge about a subject, and determine what is useful information for design. This project I gathered lots of information regarding sleep. Not all the information I have gathered was relevant for the product I have designed, but all the information contributed to getting there.
A working prototype demonstrating the purpose in real-time. In my opinion, a prototype should always serve a purpose. I try to integrate as much functionality aspects in the prototype as possible. This way, it can be used to test the product in context, and users can get a good sense of how the final product will be. The prototype I have developed is a functional prototype, it can be used by different persons, and it can gather data from these user tests. This way I am able to improve the design based on the results of user-test sessions.
Designing a product using roadmapping techniques. I have created a value ladder and a product proposition. With these tools I have delimited the area in which I want to design the product. These tools are useful, because they help me in answering the question: What exactly is my product? From that point, I can create a full-fledged roadmap to define how this product should be developed in the future. Determining how the future of a product should look is also based on actual sales and developments in technology and fabrication. This is beyond the scope of the project, since it is not even a proper product yet.
Concept validation in context. I have contacted my user group directly via a community forum. This allowed me to communicate with the target group over a timespan of multiple weeks. This gave me enough time to prepare a structured survey. Reactions I received were anonymous, but because of the nature of these fora (for people with a disease) I can say the reactions are authentic and honest and represent the target group. Once again, I found out it is difficult to gain quantitative evidence to prove my claims and once again I decided to do a qualitative analysis of the results, rather than a quantitative one. The results of this analysis were surprisingly positive, and reflected the values I set up in the value ladder. This showed me how qualitative analysis enables me to validate design decisions in context. A way to significantly improve the result of my project, is to provide the prototype to an actual narcolepsy patient. Comparing the temperature data of this patient with the data of a healthy person could give me insight in the exact differences between these two groups of people.
Data Analysis. This is the first semester in which data-analysis is addressed during my project. Creating a prototype with a sensor is one, but creating a sensor and logging the data is another import aspect. Just assembling this prototype is a pointless activity, but being able to analyse the data and reflect on the results is an important activity during the design process. Only when I have gathered data for some time I can decide how to improve the design, based on this data.
I have prototyped in iterations: first make a prototype, then try it, reflect on it and create something totally new, based on the conclusions from your last design. This can be a painful process, but with each iteration the design grows significantly. Before starting a new iteration, I should decide what I would like to gain from a particular iteration, so I will not work too long on iterations from which the result I will dispose later.
Even though my vision grows over the years, it remains difficult to choose a direction in the early stages of the design process. With the information gathered from extensive literature research, it is possible to see all kinds of possibilities fitting within the boundaries of the project description. This semester I have listed the ideas and tried to define what I would like to gain from this project. Next, I scored these ideas according to my goals. This was a pragmatic way to decide which idea should be continued, saving me lots of valuable time.
My vision also played part in making this decision. I recognized the problems narcoleptics have, since I also encounter some of these problems myself. I was able to use this experience while doing research about the disorder, leaving me more time for other aspects of the design process.