Design for death
Core77 Student runner up

Group Work, Academic
Umeå Institute of Design
Collaboration: Advanced Product Design
Feb, 2016 | 2 Weeks

These days we always try to find a way how to prolong our lives, with advanced medicine, healthcare systems, conscious living, etc. Nevertheless, as much as we try to push the thought away, death is ultimately part of our lives too. Our goal with creating ORI was to bring the topic of death up, stop treating it like a taboo & help people accept the human mortality, be it their own or their loved one’s.

Team: Mehek, Melissa, Justyna, Lu
My Role: Concept ideation, Arduino prototyping, User testing (Wizard of Oz), Video editing, Iterating.



Experience ORI - Concept Video

"Did you and Jim ever talk about what you would want done if he ended up in this kind of situation?" And she looked at me and said, "No, of course not! You know, we always thought there'd be time." Jim was 94.
- Peter Saul, TED , “Let’s Talk About Dying”



How ORI works?

User A records his / her thoughts in ORI and passes ORI to User B after passing away. User B who receives ORI will get sound messages randomly or on special date decided by User A.



Survey - How do you feel when thinking about death?

We set up a survey, asking people about How they have dealt with death of a loved one in the past; How they would like other people to feel when it is their time to go.
We got over 50 responses from interviews, paper questionnaires and online research platform. Some quotes are listed below.



Mood Board

Make death be Light, warm, touchable, soft yet stable.

Presentation for A Design 1.jpg


Sound Board - Gentle, Soft and Faraway

To communicate the details of sound as a key part of the whole experience, the team used visual - the common language of Interaction and Product designers.

Presentation for A Design (2)-02.jpg
Presentation for A Design (2)-03.jpg
Presentation for A Design (2)-04.jpg
Presentation for A Design (2)-05.jpg



With very simple code on Arduino, we were able to synchronize lights and sounds in the product.



Wizard of Oz Testing

With a prototype with lighting effect, audio recorder, tiny bluetooth speaker and a remote controlled by me hiding behind the chair, we are able to achieve authentic testing experience of ORI.



Selecting The Testing Users Wisely

Though we was quite proud of the set up, we didn't get good results during the first few testings.
After reflecting on that, we found that because of the intimacy & private elements in the product, the hardest part of this testing was to found two users who have strong emotionally bound and, ideally, being apart for a while. 

Luckily, we found two girls. They are very very good friend but have been apart for 1.5 years. They have been re-united just for a couple of days, which makes it excellent for testing the product. 
During the test, we asked them to think about the feeling of being separated, then try to put themselves in the scenario and use the product.

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Test the context & emotion, not just the product! - The Epiphany Moment

Comparing the last testing to the previous ones, one of my major takeaways are User Testing should be more about only testing the product itself. Of course, the usability of the product is always important. But the appropriate context and emotional state of the user when they are doing the test should never be ignored, especially when the product conveys the topic of DEATH.



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