designer, creative technologist, tinkerer
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Beyond Ornaments - a self-discovery design exploration

 
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a self-discovery DESIGN EXPLORATION

Beyond Ornaments is a series of interactive pieces of jewelry that exposes an extraordinary side of ordinary phenomena. The objects, composed by paper, ice and electronic components, explore and discuss unusual circuits, ephemeral artifacts, and whimsical experiences. This project was a curated compilation of an exploratory independent study for Creative Technologies Master Program, at ATLAS Institute, University of Colorado Boulder. Mentored by Prof. Ellen Do and Clement Zheng.

Shake&Blink Earrings, Vibrate&Melt Bracelet, Tilt&Listen Headpiece

MOTIVATION AND GOALS

The world of creative technologies feels enormously vast. This aspect can be as exciting as overwhelming. In a sea if numerous possibilities, which ones are the most interesting to pursue? How to not get lost or distracted by a trendy technology? How to create projects that truly resonate to your skills, potentials and passions?

This independent study had a purpose to explore my identity as a designer, to deeper understand what are the type of projects that resonates to me the most and why am I attracted to certain materials, technologies and concepts.

EXPLORATION STRUCTURE

The explorations were initially structured in three themes: paper, food and sound. They were chosen to be both open-ended and also have constraints that helped to guide the explorations. Later on in the project, the food theme was broaden and changed to “edible materials”.

First sketches and ideas for paper experiments

First sketches and ideas for paper experiments

PAPER EXPLORATIONS

The purpose of these experiments were to explore initially how paper could be an interesting and powerful material to incorporate with other technologies. 

Also, paper was always a very familiar material to me, which I could be very comfortable working with in my first set of explorations.

The concept that I found to be both inspiring and interesting was “paper jewelry”. There is a sense of irony in designing something that would normally be durable and expensive (jewelry) while using a cheap and short-life material such as paper.

 

Before ending into a finished design of a blinking earring, some other related explorations were made. A material that showed potential for the “paper jewelry” concept was the conductive thread. It is mainly used in e-textile contexts and sewing circuits but in this exploration it was used as part of the circuit and as part of the necklace (cord).

The idea of using conductive thread tassels seemed to be the most interesting idea since it can be similar to a shaker sensor but with a very simple circuit. Therefore, that was the chosen idea to be deeper explored. It was also turned into the design of earrings instead of a necklace. In this way, the earrings could be light-up by shaking your head.

 
 
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FOOD EXPLORATIONS

The purpose of these experiments were to explore initially how could I share my perceptions regarding color, food and taste. However, simulating specific flavors appeared to be far more complicated than expected and also have too many variables (texture, taste composition, etc) that would demand another study only for this topic.

Then, the strategy used was to use an edible material that could be easier to work with and also gave me less variables. The chosen material was ice.

Ice appeared to be an interesting material to build unfamiliar types of circuit due to its conductivity. Although its ephemerality could be seen as an issue, it could be seen as an opportunity to again explore an ironic concept: a bracelet that breaks itself.

 
 
 

Experiment I: playing with the conductivity of gummy bears. Experiment II: attempting to share how I connect music notes, colors and flavors, in a form of popsicles. (The popsicle stick was covered in copper tape, so when the tongue touches the popsicle, it closes the circuit)

As mentioned previously, simulate specific flavors would require an amount of time and research that could fit into the scope of the project, so the final experiment for this theme was made with ice.

This bracelet was made using a   lasercut   acrylic mold, in which wires were added before the water turned into ice.   The   circuit was composed by a coin battery and a vibrating motor. When the bracelet started to melt, the connection between the wires was lost and it would stop vibrating.

This bracelet was made using a lasercut acrylic mold, in which wires were added before the water turned into ice. The circuit was composed by a coin battery and a vibrating motor. When the bracelet started to melt, the connection between the wires was lost and it would stop vibrating.

SOUND EXPLORATIONS

The goal of experimenting with sound was to explore how would it be if sound was seen as a material. Some experiments for this theme overlapped with the previous one since there was also sound involved in the food experiments.

Inspired by the previous experiments, both of them were related to movement. The earrings reacts to head movements and the bracelet reacts to its own vibrating movement. Therefore, to keep the consistency, an idea to manipulate sound with gestures emerged. For this experiment, some explorations on music softwares were needed, such as Pure Data, MAX, Glover and Ableton Live.

The main exploration was a headpiece in which the user controls the volume of the sound by tilting the head. The softwares used were Ableton Live 10 and the beta version of Glover, combining with the Micro:bit microcontroller.

PERSONAL LEARNINGS

The most valuable insight from this independent study was to understand better how I explore materials and technologies, and most importantly why. Taking the time to actually pay attention and recognize patterns about the projects I am attracted to was essential to build the perspective I have about me as a designer. I always had a very clear sense of the projects I liked but never really understood the reasons behind by interests. This independent study made me reflect on how much I see a type of beauty and magic when transforming familiar materials into unfamiliar experiences.

Transforming paper into jewelry, ice into interactive bracelets and sound into a manipulable material. Also, there is an ephemerality and instability in all of those experiments that fascinates me and intrigues me. Coming from a more traditional industrial and graphic design background, it is more common to seek for durable and reliable interactions and materials. So creating experiences that were meant to be unstable and ephemeral was both freeing and new to me.