Archive for November, 2008

Insights from elderly homes….

November 15, 2008

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we visited 2 different elderly homes in Copenhagen to try and gain insight into their daily lives and how it could be improved focusing on the areas of social interaction, physical activity and autonomy. We spent the two days talking to elderly people who suffered from dementia and their carers and doing observations of their daily lives. On this post i am going to write up some of my notes from these two days, that we then went on to analyze. (for privacy reasons i have left out the names of people and the elderly home)


Day 1: Fredriksberg

  • Owned by a Methodist church and funded by the Fredriksberg Kommune
  • The manager has been there 23 years, he runs it with his wife, his son grew up there
  • There are 60 residents, 64 full time staff,each resident has their own carer for more personal tasks like washing and getting dressed. It is essential that there is a strong bond between the carer and resident. The carer will be changed until the resident feels comfortable with them.
  • Most residents have either had a stroke and have dementia.
  • Large focus on the communal areas and social activities
  • 30% of the residents die each year (this is well below average)
  • “our job is to give them their identity back, they need their identity to meet people, otherwise their is no point” (Manager)
  • In the first three or four months the residents decide if the want to live or or give up hope, there for during this time it is the sole objective of the home to make them happy, help them make friends and enjoy there time there.
  • “you can make a cold cup of coffee warm with a hug and a kiss on the cheek” When the residents are sad or frustrated they complain about things that aren’t true, during this time they need kindness ad affection that the staff will give them.
  • They make a huge effort to make sure the residents keep their independence, they have their own apartments that they bring their own furniture to , they take them of trips to parks, forests, other cities, other countries!
  • They staff know all about the residents previous life and experiences they have had, so that when the patients with dementia become frustrated, upset or angry they can calm with familiar and happy stories.
  • They have a special room called the “memory room’ It is filled with old artifacts and memories to help the residents remember old happy memories.


In the memory room

  • There is a physical therapy room which is brilliantly equipped that that the residents enjoy using but the machine are very over complicated and hard for them to design, the interface should be put to better use or encouragement etc.



Working out!

  • The patient don’t choose who they end up living with, so there personalities often clash and find it hard to make close friends
  • They all have different experiences from the outside world-these need to be taken into consideration more
  • The staff keep a diary of the residents to help the family know what they have been doing
  • The residents always need someone around otherwise they feel scared
  • “They give you a lot, its very rewarding, when i see them with a smile of their face i know i have done my job” (dementia specialist)
  • “It doesn’t matter if it’s a new house or an old house it’s the staff, it can be a big room or a small room it’s still the staff” (dementia specialist)
  • There i no strict schedule in the home,the residents can decide what they want to do, you have to judge every situation as it arises “Taking the temperature” (carer)
  • “We don’t notice it’s a nursing home, because we are all all alike, we do things together like a family”(Jospeph, Resident)


At the hairdresser

Day 2: Nørrebro

  • Strong connection to the Salvation Army and is supported by your Kommune
  • residents move in because they need 24hour care
  • you move your own stuff into your apartments, and can decorate it the way you want.
  • There is a big emphasis in the residents personal space, rather than the communal area, there is a very big contrast between them. The communal areas are very institutional.
  • One resident said “this is not a very good hospital, I’ve been here six months and i haven’t seen a doctor!” this shows her association with the home is a hospital.


Communical corridor looking like a hospital


In a personal Apartment

  • There 12 staff working during the day for 43 residents, only 2 at night
  • The staff never give up hope,they try to give the residents their individuality back.
  • They focus on their needs, gain their trust, and make sure they know its their home
  • Everyone’s rooms are very different, it is very important for people with dementia that they recognize it to be their own ‘home’
  • They have an old computer in the home at the moment that a few of the elderly use to play solitaire on it, they like it because it is similar to them but just in a new context. they know what to expect.
  • A lot of the residents have a heard of a computer, but they don’t know what it can do, but they are intrigued.


One of the residents looking at her photo’s on an iphone

  • Some of them are scared of using technology in case they do something wrong or embarrass themselves
  • The word media put a barrier between them, they don’t understand the ‘jargon’
  • The residents communicate with friends and family through the phone but are often limited because they need help from the staff
  • the residents are not all friends but they do take care of each other and know of each others needs, they build up their own social structures
  • When talking about bonds between the staff and residents,and when people die:

“sometime i want to cry, sometimes it’s a relief because i know the pain they have been through”

“some people do get a bigger part of your heart, its supposed to be professional, but you do get attached to people’

“It’s a professional job, they are not your family, but you still want to keep a family vibe”

After completing our insights we went on to analyze them to come up with need statements-see next post.

User research….working with the elderly

November 10, 2008

Today we started  a week where we will be focusing on skills that we can use to conduct user research and gain insights. The week is being run by Michelle, Oren and Elliot from Red Associates, a strategic design consultancy based in Copenhagen, Hamburg and New York. Throughout the morning we had presentations about different user research techniques and methodologies that can be used in the design process to gain insights. We discussed the pro’s and con’s of different tools ranging from cultural probes (originating from Bill Gaver and Tony Dunne) to Participant Observations. Although i have  extensively used, discussed and designed these tools and processes during my years as a designer it was still great to have discussions with people from more diverse backgrounds about them and to here their personal thoughts, especially when we went on to talk about specific case studies.

After some in depth discussion our task for the week was then revealed……

We will be visiting homes for the elderly to gain insights on the following topics:

  • What is important for the elderly and the staff in terms of the SOCIAL LIFE for the residents
  • What is important for the elderly and the staff in terms of improving PHYSICAL ACTIVITY for the residents
  • What is important for the elderly and the staff in terms of improving AUTONOMY for the residents.

After brainstorming why these themes are important and the difficulties that might arise regarding them….we split into groups and identified  ‘burning issues’ we would like to investigate relating to each theme, these were:

Social Life

  • What transition does someone go through when moving into the home. Does the organization help them feel integrated and socially excepted
  • What are the common grounds between residents that can act as a starting point or catalysts for social interaction
  • What are the issues surrounding relationships, privacy and trust between the residents and staff.
  • Facilitating the elderly to make social contributions, give them a sense of achievement and involvement.
  • Individuality…how does the resident keep their personality and individuality when they are dependent on others in a lot of areas in their life.

Physical Activity

  • What facilities do they have to allow physical activities, it is encouraged and make appealing to the residents.
  • How often do the elderly leave the home to go on visits of excursions….and see the real world- do they have an input into this.
  • How can physical constraints affect mobility, day to day activities and social interactions,is their stigma attached to it specifically within the home.
  • Issues surrounding rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Using exercises to help medical related problems. Choice and compatibility of exercise.


  • Can the residents have an input into their daily routine and make decisions about their day to day activities
  • What is the mindset of the residents do they enjoy being looked after by the carers or are they frustrated by their lack on independence
  • The residents have a lot of life experience and different competences, are they allowed to help other residents, in support or any other expertise they might have.
  • Do the residents feel  that the help they receive makes them feel ‘safe and supported’ or ‘controlled’

For each issue we created a series of questions to ask the staff and residents that will hopefully trigger thoughts and opinions when we are taking to them.

During our visits we will use other research techniques to engage with the residents and the front line staff to gain a deeper understanding and empathy for their experiences within the home. After gaining our insights we will analyze our findings and use them in our first GUI investigation that starts next week.

We will be visiting two different elderly homes tomorrow and wednesday, which will be great to make comparisons. I will report back soon!

Cartoon House 2…..

November 9, 2008

On Friday, as a class we presented our CIID Cartoon House we had been working on. The aim of  the exercise was to think about how a home could be different in the future and to create visual representations using paper based medium. After we had created our cartoon house we then narrated a walk through… doing this exercise it allowed us to see where changes could be made, what ideas were unrealistic and triggered new thinking and ideas around what technology could be used to implement the ideas.  Making the cartoon house was a great way to a story and explain persona’s. The technique originates from Interval Research where they used it as a development tool.

I really loved the exercise and thought it was a great way to quickly come up with ideas and rapidly prototype them in  a very active way….because ideas were in the home environment it gave them far more context which made it easier to critique and build a story around.


Starting to build the kitchen







Virtual 3D video games in the living room!


Interactive widget window

Cartoon house…

November 6, 2008

A sneak preview of what we have been up to today and our plans for tomorrow!


Bill Verplank: interaction-design-paradigms

November 6, 2008

For the past few days we have been very lucky to have Bill Verplank teaching us. Bill is hugely experienced and has had a profound influence in the pioneering and emergence of Interaction Design as we know it…….

“His PhD from MIT was in man-machine systems. At Xerox from 1978 to 1986 he participated in testing and refining the Xerox Star graphical user interface. From 1986 to 1992, he worked as a design consultant with the author to bring graphical user interfaces into the product design world. At Interval Research from 1992 to 2000 he directed Research & Design for Collaboration. He has helped to establish the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea and is a visiting scholar in haptics in the Music Department at Stanford University”


On Wednesday Bill ran an open lecture explaining the context of the history and future of interaction design  and the way people think about the subject. He described the process of designing interactions with beautifully concise diagrams. He’s ability to draw and write at the same time it amazing!

Here are some photographs from the talk.






Rather than me telling you what Bill talked about i would suggest that you watch the same lecture on the ‘designing interactions’ website

Visual Notes from design theory!

November 6, 2008

Here are some visual notes from my sketch book from the last week.





Physical Computing notes…..

November 6, 2008

To keep track of my work process as well as the project outcomes i will use my blog to take notes on processes, challenges, likes/dislikes etc. It is mainly for my own personal record but please feel free to comment!



1. Coming up with the initial topic of ‘Guerilla free time – how can technology, which has been designed to heighten our efficiency and productivity facilitate break time, helpful laziness, etc.’

2. Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Brainstorm-We spent a day developing an idea around this concept. The ideas built on top of each other and progressed. During this time we always referred back to the brief to ensure we were meeting the key requirements. The idea we decided on was:


The swivel chair is a classic ‘efficiency technology’ that has left aching backs and stress in its wake. In this prototype, we seek to introduce a powerful antidote into the domain dominated by the swivel. We emphasize how ‘rock’, an interaction that all but disappeared from the modern ‘sitting’ context, can be a mantra to soothe frayed nerves, and at the same time serve up a widely appreciated need, thanks to networked digital technology. Via our prototype, the everyday mundane act of fetching coffee during a hectic schedule is transformed into an act of relaxation, a forced ‘quiet time’ that encourages you to use every coffee drinking opportunity to take a break, listen to some music, and simply chill. 🙂

3.When we reached a point where we were excited about the idea and thought it fitted the brief we started to think about the technicalities of it….How would it work?What technology would we use?would it be engaging for the user? What existing physical products would be need?


5. We collected, bought and ordered everything we would need for the project

6. Created Prototype (see stages below)

-get accelerometer detecting motion and creating a reading

-Using the detection of motion to trigger  switching something on

-Built relay into plug board to allow for turning on the coffee maker

-Test turning on a desk lamp when the accelerometer detects motion (with the relay in place)

-This worked so replaced the lamp with the coffee maker

-Make the two Arduino’s communicate wireless with the zigbee

-Incorporate music as an output when the accelerometer detects motion

-Work out timings for turning system on/off, turning music on/off etc.

-Connect electronics/sensors/Arduino to the rocking chair and coffee maker

-test the the system with ourselves

-refine timings in the code

-user test with others

-refine aesthetics and plan/prepare exhibition space

-Chill out and present out idea!


  • finding an idea that we were equally excited about,was do-able yet challenging enough and fitted the brief in a limited time frame.
  • Creating a system that would work even if people interacted with it differently.
  • Even though we only had 3 main variables within the system, numerous complexities on how someone would interact with it emerged.
  • When our necessary parts we needed to progress didn’t arrive it became frustrating as we felt very unproductive.

What worked well….

  • The ‘rocking chair’ gesture was very intuitive so the user would very easily know or learn what do as soon as they sat on the rocking chair and the experience began.
  • The simplicity of the overall concept allowed us to created a well round experience that worked well and looked good. I think the concept of ‘Less is more’ applied to this concept and execution.
  • The addition or music being played through the chair enhanced the user experience.
  • The rocking chair and coffee maker looked completely un-hacked, they appeared as 2 stand alone artifacts. Only when the user interacted with them you realized that they were connected and could communicate together. They used the technology to create a little magic!

Overall i loved the whole project, my favourite part was probally seeing everything come together at the end to create not only two products that worked together but also created a whole experience for the user.

The role of a metaphor in Interaction Design

November 6, 2008

For the last few days we have been learning about using metaphors within interaction design to tells stories, connect ideas and to push forward the understanding of systems.  This is a slide show i found related to this ares that Dan Saffer at an Information Architecture Summit.

Interaction as a Material

November 6, 2008

A few weeks ago Dan Saffer from Kicker Studio came to talk to use at CIID about Interactive Gestures. In this presentation he talks about ‘Interaction as  A Material’ The presentation was used at the 2008 Event Design Summit in Hollywood.

some lovely theory….and a lot of post-its!

November 4, 2008

This week were are doing an intensive design theory week taught by Gillian Crampton Smith, Phillip Tabor and Bill Verplank. When i first heard we were doing a theory i presumed it would be a week of lectures and written exercises. However i have been proven wrong!! For the last two days we have had very insightful presentations from Gillian and Phillip talking about different models of interaction design, using notation within interaction design and metaphors in interaction design…All every fascinating. These talks were then reiterated by a series of rapid exercises to teach us how to put the theory into practice. Some of the exercises included; using flow diagrams, storyboards and state diagrams to map out user experiences, interactions from physical objects and different processes, creating mental models of systems and creating metaphors for different environments. These were very quick exercises that involved a lot of post-its and some quick thinking!


flow diagrams for making a recipe


state diagram of a coffee machine


playing with metaphors


‘riding a bike it like balancing your finances’