What is One Thousand__?
Initially focused on one location, One Thousand__ is a time-based installation that prompts generative play among passing students in the Doherty Hallways of Carnegie Mellon.
This project uses simple tactile interactions to collect data from a large variety of CMU students, which is done by prompting them to complete a drawing based on a preset system that communicates some aspect of their preferences, habits, or routines.
Interaction + Brand Design
As one of the two designers for this project, our roles were shared equally amongst ourselves. Focusing on interaction and brand design, I worked on the brand identity and scalability of the design system — as well as the interaction itself for each prompt of the installation.
01/ Core Elements
Participants that enter the space would first be greeted with an instruction board holding a pad of translucent sticky notes. They would then be prompted to the activity boards, where they would continue to do the actual activity itself.
Once they’ve drawn on their sticky notes, participants can put up their responses on a designated place marker on the wall. Viewfinders are also available to help people decipher other people’s answers. As for the prompt itself, we focused on “Morning and Night Routines” as our main proof of concept for the scope of this project.
The choice of materials were also intentionally selected, with easy to access materials like pen and paper (or sticky notes in our case) for the general public to easily understand how to use. This is especially applicable for Doherty Hall as it’s known to have a high volume of students in a wide variety of majors to pass through daily.
Our space luckily has a uniquely shaped window that peers into a bench cubby located on the other side of the wall. Taking advantage of that, the window would display a question (which varies based on the prompt during that time) to attract participants walking by. As Doherty Hall can be a highly trafficked area by students going to classes, this window serves as the perfect sign to entice participants to enter the typically quieter, secluded part of the hallway.
How did we choose our prompts?
The general structure of prompts, however, is sorted into three higher-level categories:
Under each, we came up with two or more prompts specific to that category. Each prompt would be put up/changed out in the installation space on rotation as soon as the current prompt reaches ~1000 responses.
So instead of structuring it on a timely basis, (e.g. we switch out the prompt at the location every 2 weeks), we would make note of the start date and then the end date when we reach the approximate desired # of responses. This way, as we’re archiving these responses, the timeline and varied # of responses become a data point in of itself as well.
Physical Archive of Data
Besides the installation itself, we also created printed assets to build our project’s brand identity. This includes:
- Poster designs that follow a strict grid system, styled accordingly to the installation layout.
- Zines that serve as a roundup of previous prompt’s responses and as a takeaway item that serves as a reward that entices them to return to the space.
- (An idea for later!) Archival data books that that would hold all the past participant responses.
02/ Building Blocks of Data Visualization
Inspired by the Dear Data project by Georgia Lupi, we created a set of generative logical systems that would communicate some unique aspect about the individual creating it and could be easily recreated by anyone with the right materials. These drawings are the core interaction of our project, and would be the building blocks of data visualizations.
Sub-Categories of Each Prompt
As mentioned before, from these logic systems that people draw, each set of systems would communicate some aspect of their preferences, habits, or routines. Under each for 1. Routine 2. Preferences and 3. Habits, we came up with:
1. Morning Routine, Night Routine
2. Sandwiches, Love Language
3. Time: Wake Up/To Sleep, Swear Words
The data received then captures the unique habits, mannerisms, and behaviors across the said diverse array of people. The drawings can manifest itself in the unique ways we approach mundane tasks in our daily life, as in doing so, we’re able to discover the extraordinary differences in the mundane aspects of everyday life.
Location + Target Users
Initially focused on one location, One Thousand__ started off based in Doherty Hall on Carnegie Mellon campus. However, due to the expansive and scalable design system of One Thousand__, we are able to adapt it into different locations while matching it with different themes and topics to collect new unique data points from the people in that location. For the sake of proof of concept, this case study focuses on collecting data from CMU students, hence the name “One Thousand __ in Doherty Hall”.
03/ Research + Process
Scouting Out the Location
To be able to start on anything, we first explored various places on campus as a potential focus for the proof of concept for our installation. So between “Place and Play”, we started on “Place” and decided on Doherty for our case study.
Surveying the Location
Once we settled on an area, we then *really* dug into nitpicking this place apart. We took many images, measurements, and took down a lot of observational notes from its physical aspects down to its sensorial aspects and history of the building.
Crowdsourcing Info on Reddit
As design majors, we’re mostly confined in our studios in a whole separate building. So something else that we did, was ask the general student body about Doherty on Reddit, as it’s a place where majors from all over campus usually pass by.
During the brainstorming process, we thought heavily of how we could gather user input in a fun and customized way. We weren't happy with any of the ideas we came up with, so instead, we shifted our focus to: What do we want to know about the people passing by? And on the right side are some of the prompts we came up with based off that question.
Designing the Logic
After more iterating, we landed on a set of generative logical systems that 1) communicated some unique aspect about the individual creating it and 2) Could be easily recreated by anyone with the right materials. That second point was very important to us because our target audience is a mix of people from all over campus — who may little to no experience with fancy art supplies.
In this process, we were heavily inspired by the Dear Data Project by Giorgia Lupi, and the Book Nodes & Edge project based on Conditional Design.
04/ Visual Direction and Branding
For the activity boards, we did a lot of physical prototyping to make sure that our interaction was intuitive enough. And to feed into that, we focused on making sure that the design was simple, easy to read, and easy to follow.
To only have clean and legible san serifs on the board would be too bland, especially if it’s meant to be interacted with. That’s how we began to incorporate our own handwriting into the mix as we figured out ways to promote our installations via posters.
We scanned our handwriting that were later pulled into Photoshop, and picked out assets we might like during our exploration in visuals. We also created our own typeface named “Proud Regular” by using a scanned template and created our own .otf online.
The Physical Layout
How we set up the physical space was equally as important to the visual direction, as it’s one of the core elements to the installation. Here are some very initial explorations of various layouts in Figma, imagining what the wall text would look like, what the banners would look like, or where the sticky notes might be placed.
Through the process of user testing the boards, we learned that the instructions proved to be more difficult to polish than we thought. So in this stage, we put special care in the specific wording, to make everything was understood more consistently.
At the same time, we also kept refining and polishing everything towards a consistent cohesive visual direction. For example, with the layout plan, we estimated where the eye level may be and plotted every material proportionally within the space.
Zines + Posters
As part of the project, we wanted to continue tapping into that physical experience of our project by creating printed assets that go with the physical space. Here is a closer look at the individual pages of what we would have imagined the zine to look like once we were to have collected and analyzed the 1000 responses for a prompt.
To accompany that, we created posters that follow the design system to encourage people to try out our installation at that location.
Type + Color System
Throughout our project, we developed an informal grid system that would allow our visuals to be scalable. With it, the grid system also lets us adapt each poster for different prompts and settings. We chose a very swiss-style typographic system as a way to visually ground the hand written type. Specifically with ABC Diatype by Dinamo Type, we felt that not only were its simple forms well done, we felt like we could use the wide range of weights/styles in the type family to our advantage.
Lastly we also used two handwritten fonts, one being “Proud Regular” and the other being scans of our handwriting for select phrases. We used both of these, as with the Proud Regular, it provided variants between letters what we lacked — allowing certain paragraphs to look less robotic. By using two types, it kept things simple, but added the complexity we wanted.
Overall, this project was really exciting for the both of us, especially when we realized the potential in scalability to different location, prompts, and the general generative structure of our project. Both of us took a lot of inspiration from Giorgia Lupi’s data visualization projects, and it was delightful to recognize the beauty that comes out of a diverse array of responses from a group of very different people. With the generative nature of our installation as well, we found great joy and interest in experimenting with various methods/mediums in sorting and archiving our data collection/visualizations.