Connected agenda with rich interactions


The ‘Connecting Rich Interaction in Growing Systems' (CRIGS) squad is research and a vision-driven squad that tries to explore systems design (Fens & Funk, 2018). The squad aims to familiarize students with a new arena for design while engaging them by experimenting. During the project, we designed for organizing and synchronizing activities within and around the house. Within this scope, we looked at several interesting design challenges to solve. Finally, we focused on improving the process of planning together while being physically together.

Within the final concept, it is possible to create new appointments by yourself or with others. By stacking multiple agendas physically on top of each other, the timelines overlap and the users can plan an activity together. If the users cannot find a suitable moment, the agenda is able to suggest a moment.

To be able to validate the concept, a working prototype was made. The prototype contained basic functions of the concept. Where our first made prototype helped us exploring the possibilities, it only worked via the wizard of Oz technique. Our second prototype worked within a combination of the computer and the device to get a better understanding of the mechanics and the tangible interactions. This prototype, however, was made to work on its own and consisted of more functions, which we wanted to analyze with the use of sensors.

To get a better understanding of our concept a week of user-deployment study was held. The working prototypes stayed at a family and collected quantitative data about their activities for one week. Besides our products, other products of the CRIGS squad could join, so there could originate a collaboration between these involved products. After the interviews, we found several improvements and opportunities based on the combination of quantitative and qualitative data.


Concept development

User interaction design

Data design

Development hardware


User interface

Data collection

User deployment

Analyzing user experience

Analyzing user data

User deployment research: field study

Low-fi prototype

Final prototype for user deployment research

Envisioned interaction Aiko

User & Society

Before the deployment, we had a hard time figuring out how the design of the family and child agenda would look. After the deployment, we got a lot of points for improvement. Therefore, we made a shape change, something I was very confident about. I believe that if we deployed the child agenda as well, we could have a nice shape change for this agenda too. Besides this, I realized that it is sometimes good to start a deployment anyway, even if you are not satisfied with some parts of your concept.

As a designer, many times you think you know how the user will interpret your product. During this deployment study, a few times, the opposite happened. Example: One of the users stacked both agendas on top of each other without the presence of the other user. He could see when his wife was done working and planned in an activity with both agendas as a surprise. This is a scenario we did not see coming and shows the value of a field study. This would have never happened in a lab approach. However, if we wanted to get more out of the deployment study, we had to extend the timeframe of the study, since our product is an agenda, very little data was collected in one week.

Technology & Realisation

Because of my background, I had very little experience with Processing and Arduino, which is why this was one of my learning goals for this semester. During the realization of our working prototype, I focused on the software, data collection and the collaboration between Processing and Arduino.

To get a better understanding of the mechanics and the tangible interaction we created a working low-fi prototype. The prototype was connected to a notebook, which would show the interface and contained a rotary encoder and buttons. I am really glad we did this before we started making our final design. Not only was I able to practice with all the different sensors and materials, but we also improved our concept. Normally, I would not do this, but by making this iteration I avoided mistakes in the future.

During the realization, we were too much focused on the realization of our design and meeting the deadline instead of the study setup for our user deployment study. We focused too much on the realization of certain functions of the product and this was not necessarily required for the deployment study. We should have put more focus on our project goal instead.

Math, Data & Computing

As I said before, we had to look more at the data at the beginning of our project. When the squad organized a data-market we started to realize what possibilities were possible. When the products of our squad got more concrete and we made smaller groups, the possibilities got way more realistic for me. This was a moment where I realized that sharing data with different products could add more value. Since that moment, I tried to focus on this goal, but I should have done this earlier.

My team and other project teams had the ambition to create a scenario in where all our products collaborated by communicating data. However, one of the teams, who was responsible for the output of our scenario, could not deliver their part. After the deployment study, we tried to describe the possibilities of the collaboration between our products in an interview, but this was too hard to imagen for the user. Meaning, these scenarios need to appear in real life in order to rate these situations.

Creativity & Aesthetics

Within the CRIGS squad students design new products and systems for a fictional family. The persons within this family were described in detail. This resulted in a new way of idea generation for me as a designer, because I was able to get more personal and I could emphasize better with our users. However, because of this new technique, I did involve less literature. Therefore, I should have move more back and forth between the abstract and the concrete.

Within our design, we focused a lot on rich interactions and eventual put it all together in our final prototype. Because of the available hardware, some interactions required extra effort and resulted in less engagement with our participants during the user deployment study. This showed me the importance of aesthetics within a design process.

After the creation of our prototype, we were able to collect real data. Seeing and playing with the data made me realize that we might missed some opportunities during the ideation phase. In addition, talking to the different project teams about their data and potential collaborations right before the user deployment study, made me realize what kind of we have missed. This shows that we should have put more focus on our data collection and data collaboration during our ideation phase.

© 2020 Jesper van Bentum