Active Forms Project – Self Assessment

active form bulb

This project is the 3rd of the year and once again, the topic was up to date and modern. The selection of groups for this project was in our own hands for a change. Personally, I found this more satisfying as we all knew each other and straight from the start we were able to bond as a team whereas previous projects took about 2-3 weeks of getting to know the group. This section of the project is a self assessment where I pick 6 competencies to discuss my input and understanding of this project.

Group Link:

List of competancies to choose from:


This stage of the project was done more effectively than the last time I did this in the Mobile Phone Symbiosis project. This time the user persona was done immediately within the first few hours of our first group meeting which meant ideas could come earlier in the project. Of the 7 groups allocated this project, each group was given a design objective they had to work to. Our groups design objective was value in a domestic environment. This meant our concepts and ideas had to focus on the aesthetic look of the product whilst maintaining an active form. Idea generation went a little slow after it took a while to understand the active form concept. After a couple of weeks, the group and I managed to grasp the concept of active form and the idea of finding a metaphor and a ritual to encompass in our product. After analysing our persona we developed, we picked a ritual of cooking a traditional meal. From this we picked the ritual of washing hands. The idea of the tap was formed but the metaphor was to come next. I came up with the idea of using water running off a flower after being inspired in a lecture and looking at multiple products on the market now from which the group then looked into. After looking at relevant media we were able to come up with the idea of water running off the leaf. This beginning stage of the project went off to a good start I feel and our time management was on track.

User Focus, Usability & Usefulness

After creating a thorough profile for our persona, the relevant information to our product were as follows. Our persona was a student trainee chef who doesn’t like the prep and washing of the job when he’s at home so an aesthetically pleasing tap was key for us. The product works by using sensors underneath the leaf making the water come out each leaf. The right hand side is blue, for colder water and the left hand side is red, for hot water. When the water is coming out, the bulb on the top reflects the temperature of the water by changing colour (similar to a leaf changing colour due to the season). Coming up with the washing hands ritual was done quite quickly and the whole group agreed on it. Whilst we documented the ritual well by using storyboards capturing a member to wash his hands I feel like we didn’t use this information enough to our advantage. Also, I noticed in a few other groups (group 3 and group 6 for example) that they had multiple people using multiple storyboards to perform their ritual. If the project was done again, I think the group would have gathered better information by using more storyboards. I would also criticise our groups decision to not pick an actual chef to study the ritual. It’s a possibility that it wasn’t achievable but the idea to not even discuss it was wrong. What better way to design a product for the user by studying that user and how interacts with the ritual?

Market and Business

Because the idea of active forms is relatively new and grasping the idea, like mentioned before, took some time, researching current products was more challenging than before. The way I went around it at first was to research into products that contain a valuable metaphor. For example I discovered this product that houses a metaphor:

metaphor product)

By looking at this I was able to then think, “right, how can I turn this into an active form?”. Our group did this with multiple products on the market today and the results we came up with was the flower metaphor, as mentioned before.

Before the group came up with the flower metaphor, I did my own little research into active forms. I first took some projects that Ben Salem helped run and tried to analyse them. Because the project is about a tangible interaction with the product and then the product giving back a response, I then looked into smart materials and how they could be put into use for this project. This is a stage of the project I wish the group would have looked into a little bit more. Because a smart material product is one that requires an input to make an automated output, I thought this could be used to the projects benefit but the group didn’t seem to want to go into further detail. I regret not pushing this further on the group but I do feel the final outcome was a satisfying one.

However, one piece of research I did, turned out to be quite effective in the final deliverables. Because the project was water running off a leaf I thought I should find evidence of this happening in nature. I then blogged about this video I discovered and it shows the water running off a leaf which we used for our final video. Research and existing products, I learned in this project were vital. Yes, there maybe some research that in the end, is invaluable, but the more research one does the more useful it becomes and a better understanding of the issue is gained.

Form and Aesthetics

The design style of the product we went with was minimalistic. We chose this because it fitted in with the designs that panasonic produce, our chosen brand. Panasonic was chosen as a brand because of its high value technological products, which was our design goal. Like I mentioned before, the aesthetics and the beauty of the product was our number one goal. For this to happen we were to make a product representing a high valuable flower and looking like a panasonic type product. I personally feel like we achieved the panasonic side and most of the flower side. I don’t believe we achieved the 100% value for the flower because we based our design to that of a dutch tulip. I understand that it is a moderately expensive, common and well known flower and it does provide a aesthetic beauty to it so we hit the nail on the head with associating it with a popular brand. However, I criticize this now as I wasn’t aware of it earlier, but perhaps if we were to look into more research into expensive flowers, the results could have been better. Also, if we were to look into japanese flowers as the brand we were using are japanese. It seems unlikely that Panasonic would base their design on a dutch flower rather than one of their own, like a japanese magnoli which could fit in with our tap.

Modelling Visualisation and Communication

Unfortunately, due to a little dispute in the workshop, we were unable to provide a full physical model for the final design. Obviously, this is disappointing that were unable to provide a model to show during the presentation because the client should be able to pick the product up and get a feel for it rather than looking at it through a screen. This meant we had to make our prototypes using CAD. The group leader allocated the CAD work to myself (after I hinted I wanted to do it) which was the first time I’ve been allocated this in this module. I took it upon myself to build the model stage by stage. At first I would start with the stem and then contact the others to see if they approve. Then came the leaves, spout and faucet. And finally the bulb. Once I did this, I then rendered it through Keyshot 3. I was then able to hand it out to the group members for the posters, movies and final presentation. I was impressed with my first attempt at such a complicated shape and I felt that the group approved too. Otherwise they would have mentioned it in the different stages I built it. The final deliverables of the project was a very risky time for the group leader. There was a mutual agreement that some of us wanted to contribute to this project something they haven’t done before. For example, Harpal wanted to design the posters and Dan and Callum wanted the movie. All fresh new experiences for the group turned out to be affective. We were all happy with the duties we were allocated and all gave a hand in every stage to the group members. This was an effective strategy as no group member felt like they were on their own at any point. From the last few projects, it’s been a clear problem that the presentation skills were lacking. To improve this, we made sure every deliverable was completed a couple days before the presentation and then a professional looking rehearsed Prezi was developed. This meant that we were able to continue the flow of the presentation without halting for an awkward pause.

Self Assessment and Criticism.

From looking at the previous projects in this module and the problems that held the project back, I focused on improving these. I mentioned it in previous competencies but heres a few examples I was able to improve in this project:

Previous Projects Problem

  1. Generating ideas before we had persona and design style
  2. Avoiding tasks I’m unfamiliar with
  3. Not going further into researching the problem
  4. Not producing a flowing final presentation

What I did differently 

  1. Developed a thorough persona before developing ideas
  2. Taking upon myself to work on the CAD renderings, a process I haven’t done on this module
  3. Spent longer producing research and putting them on my blog
  4. Finished the deliverables earlier and prepared for the presentation earlier


  1. Saved ourselves 2 weeks of backtracking and spent more time on research
  2. Produced a high quality rendering that the whole group was approving of
  3. Research being put into the final video of nature showing flower running of the petal. However some research wasn’t expressed enough
  4. Able to produce an effective Prezi without pausing and clicking back. We were able to get our message across.

The critical side of the work has probably been mentioned earlier. If the project was to be redone, more effective research and expression of that research should be made. Another weak point that I think should be addressed in the project was time management. A time/ gantt chart was created but I feel like we didn’t stick to it. At times we were ahead which was positive but then suddenly, we were behind because we weren’t time managing well enough. This created more work in a shorter timescale which meant it was more rushed. Other than that I think the project was a success due to the reaction of the client after our presentation.

My input to the project I feel was greatly improved than the other projects. My attendance, my input, my design (sketches and CAD) work I feel, was all improved. I took on new challenges which is important for a designer and I hope to carry this project on further to an actual working prototype because I enjoyed the project, the concept and the design of the idea.


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