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.


Product Innovation

I discovered this product on Yanko Design which relates to the my project is designing (finished in a few weeks so I’ll post it when finished). Whilst most of these ideas on the website:  are just the concepts , the ideas behind them are impressive and innovative.

(I don’t own the rights to this picture)

This designers are David Sweeney, Jeff Virangkabutra & Michael Korn and they’ve made this product, Water Me When I Tilt.

What does it do?

-When water is poured the vase rises up and stays there.

-When the flower has absorbed the water, the design makes the vase tilt back down.


The vase symbolises what a flower does when treated with water and the simplicity of the design makes it and eye-catching product and something worth considering to put into commercial use. It’s a good reminder to the user of this product to water their plants as they are often forgotten about and left to wilt and dry out.

Flower’s in Fast Motion

This is for my current active form project in uni (see posts below about it) but it’s quite a cool video to watch. Whilst it all looks good with the flowers pulsating like an inhaling, exhaling body but the rose for me is the best as it constantly peels away in a very aesthetically pleasing way

But the flowers involving water are what I’m focusing on. You’ll see why in due time.

Smart Way of Living

My uni project, mentioned in the previous post, is proving to be a bit of a challenge and getting to grips with the whole active forms situation, is puzzling.

One thing that triggered my mind when this project came about was SMART MATERIALS. A bit of boring technical stuff, a smart material is a material that changes it’s appearance when an external stimuli is inputed.

For example, the stimulus can be: heat, light or pressure and the change could be colour, electric power or even shape.

Developed around 50 years ago, smart materials have found their way into some innovative designs and it triggered in my mind because they change form as do active form products (loosely) so hopefully a bit of research into this can trigger some ideas into my current project.

Popular Smart Material Products


1) Photochromic Lenses. Photo =  ancient Greek for light. Chromic = ancient Greek for colour. The glasses changes colour when the stimulus, sunlight is shined on it

2) Thermochromic Mood Ring. Thermo = ancient Greek for heat. Chromic = ancient Greek for colour. The ring changes colour when the stimulus, heat changes due to the mood changing (e.g agressive mood = higher temperature)

3) Another application for thermochromic materials can be a thermometer. Used to find if the child/ adult has a high fever when the colour changes to match a high temperature.



This type of smart material turns a mechanical stress/ force into electricity or electricity into a force. The mechanical stress can be just a footstep can generate electricity.

This idea has lead to multiple designs that have tried to make renewable energy.

One designer, created his own Eco-Energy Floor. A couple pictures taken from this industrial design website (which I’ll be reviewing shortly) show the idea briefly but have a look at the whole concept.



Another concept with piezoelectric materials

I personally believe that there is a lack of products on the market that include smart materials. This might be because they are fairly new (50 years doesn’t seem it but compared to basic materials like metals and woods, its a baby!) and the materials are continually being developed. I think they are an impressive development in engineered materials and they also provide an aesthetic quality that many basic materials lack.

If you have any more innovative products using SMART MATERIALS please let me know. I love discovering cool new things/ products/ materials/ designs so please share them with me.

Active Forms – Designing The Future

At university I’ve been given a project of designing an Active Form product. In terms of quickly summarising what that is without putting you to sleep, it’s a representation of a system or routine due to the similar shape of a recognisable interaction.

WHAT?! Exactly my thoughts when I first heard it.

ASLEEP YET?  It’s a fairly new area in design so I’ll give you a couple of examples of what I mean rather than a fairly adequate description. But before, some  key words popped in my head in this introduction lecture that I think need considering.




My lecturer, Ben Salem, has helped these Active Form products come to life. Here’s the link to his quick overview into Active Forms and pictures/ descriptions of the projects he supervised whilst at the Eindhoven University of Technology


Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 16.10.59(all picture and video rights are reserved by Ben Salem)



This active form represents a petal and a flower. The colour of the device changes due to heat and is ergonomically interacted with like a flower. The petal is opened and closed semi-automatically and reflects the atmosphere of the room whilst the core can be blown on or rubbed to change the temperature of the room. The video briefly shows the working prototype.

The link has and shows all:


Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 18.46.43(again, all rights are reserved by Ben Salem)

This is another form of tangible interaction of an active form. This time it involves making TEA. This follows the routine of making tea and involves the metaphor of flowers in a vase, the vase holding the boiling water and the petals hold different types of tea.

How It Works? As mentioned before, it works by placing different brand/ type of tea leaves into the bulb type petal. Once the stem is pushed down it triggers the water to start boiling (like switching the kettle switch), the stem will rise vertically again when the water is boiled (similar to when the switch is released in a kettle). Then the stem is pushed back down with the cap on the bulb being opened releasing the ready made tea.

On a personal note, I prefer the second active form as a whole. The reasons being the simplicity and the idea of the design is something I highly praise. The other design is simple and clever but I think it fails to beat the tea maker with the 3 words I associate with Active Form. I like how both designs encompass nature and human rituals in one design




iPhone Accessory? No, iPhone Necessity

I’ve already reviewed this website earlier but is an incredible way to get ideas on to the market. It’s great to see a website that doesn’t let an idea go missed. Like I said before, once an idea is set and is then advertised on the website, funding for the project needs to be made with a set target given. Backers then pledge a set amount and depending on the size of contribution the inventor will reward you with prizes.

This particular project managed to reach over 7x it’s projected target and rightly so. The design is so simple yet the idea is so brilliant.

Galileo, the product, is a device by where you can control the movement of an iPhone, hands free, and it’s useful for video chatting so the person on the other side can control what he/she is looking at. My explanation of it is far inferior to the video made so I recommend you watch it.

This is the video of it but look at the kickstarter website below (and above) and have a look at it’s design specs and other projects on the website and maybe you’ll be willing to back some.

2phonesbabyandlanscape(picture taken from kickstarter)

Music for your mood.

Recently I’ve been recommending a few websites, so I thought i’d make a ‘websites’ category so you can see what websites I’ve recommended.

The website is The idea is to type or select your mood or what type of music you want to listen to. For example I put in Study + Motivation and got this playlist.

Most of the songs are songs I haven’t heard of but it’s a clever website with the playlists posted by members (free to join!) and you can post playlists as well. A great way to broaden your music library and to satisfy your mood.

I discovered this band (mentioned below) with this website and I believe they are seriously under-recognised.

The Good Husbands, a Hip Hop group (not usually my type of music but they’re different) that have a good set of music videos on youtube you can watch here. I recommend a subscription