In this page, the development of my areas of expertise TR (Technology & Realization), CA (Creative and Aesthetics) among the other three are described. I illustrate divergent skills, experiences, tools, and methods that I have learned or applied during my master’s. As evidence for the development, I underpin related practices that have contributed to the acquisition of the described knowledge and skillset and make cross-reference under each standalone project page.
Technology and Realization (TR)
In retrospect, I have extensively practiced and developed various skills in this area of expertise. First, in a hands-on approach, I practiced my hand-crafting skills to manipulate different materials such as fabrics (sewing, trimming), wood (sanding, creating chamfers, painting), foam (building sliders, doors, cylinders, etc.). This has also allowed me to build different fidelity prototypes ranging from quick and dirty to aesthetic and fine-tuned; Then, to boost the functionalities of my prototypes I am able to seek and integrate suitable technology in the artifacts I create, allowing them to be interactive and actuatable. This would allow me to preliminarily evaluate my ideas, resulting in insightful improvements for the next step: deployments in the field. I have become able to develop high-fidelity, qualified prototypes that run continuously in the field, which allows me to conduct extended durations of user evaluations.
In the past semesters, I have expanded my technology repertoire as I practiced developing different technical prototypes for different projects, working with different integrations of sensors (ranging from air quality sensor, CO2, capacitive sensor, potentiometer) and actuators (multi-servo system, step motor, pump, DC motors), as well as shape-changing interfaces (pneumatic containers). Above that, I have also obtained lots of experience working with IoT embedded systems (e.g. ESP MCUs, Arduino IDE), online APIs (e.g. Betaface, Azure Facial Recognition, Firebase Database, etc.), as well as the TU/e-based OOCSI suite, including OOCSImote, OOCSI-esp, OOCSI Data Foundry). Compared to my prior experience, I am now able to understand electronic schematics and develop custom appropriate circuits on PCB boards with the integration of various modules and components (as presented in the FMP). Given these diverse sets of skills I possess, I have been mainly in charge of or highly involved in the implementation of prototypes in team projects.
My second specialization area of expertise is my best-developed competency coming into the program. My previous understanding of CA is addressed on the quality of artifacts, regarding the finishing, proportion ratio, forms, etc. Previously, I already obtained an intermediate-level skill set of sketching, CAD modeling/rendering, and aesthetic prototype finishing during my bachelor’s. This foundation has allowed me to further develop more advanced creative skills during my master’s. For example, during Data-enabled Design, Interactive Materiality as well as my FMP, I learned how numerical datasets, natural or artificial materials or CAD models can be utilized as creative material inspiring the iterative process.
As I was introduced to Interactive Materiality and its related theories, I understand how fabrics and objects from nature can be served as inspiring materials and thus it supports me to explore the aesthetic qualities and resolve potential conflicts in advance. Besides, I was also exposed to how user evaluations can be conducted creatively, for example, from Ensemble, observing how participants would freely explore the interactions. I also practiced holding a design critique to gain constructive feedback and suggestions for my design and analysis with Affinity Diagramming. Simultaneously, upon the CAD skills I have obtained coming to my master’s, I further explored and practiced how CAD models/renderings could accelerate and broaden the exploration of tangible expressions in compensation for the insufficient mechanical knowledge and slow tangible prototyping process.
Apart from that, I have also extensively developed my photo/video presenting skill. During my master’s I have been playing as a role in charge of scripting, directing, filming and post-editing among teams for presenting concepts or prototypes. Although I had rare experience in producing videos prior to my master’s, my photography basics and enthusiast in reviewing vlogs and tutorials have allowed self-education. Selected videos can be found on my vimeo profile.
This is the area that first brought me to the master’s program. Before that, I lacked the experience and opportunity to engage with the end-user during the design process. Being aware of the theories regarding human cognition (e.g. attention theory), interaction frameworks (e.g. TUI model, social translucence, interaction-attention continuum, etc.), I become able to explore fields of interest and evaluate the value of my designs.
With a variety of design and evaluation methods, I am able to utilize user research as a tool to sensitize and understand the design space and challenge, individually or collaboratively develop concepts, and evaluate them with different fidelity prototypes. Specifically, I apply both qualitative (e.g. RSME, data-enabled probes) and quantitative (e.g. design critique, semi-structured interview) methods from my repertoire. As a practitioner of these methods during the master’s, I am now familiar with choosing the proper method in different projects.
Before following the program, I had a mild understanding of what MDC could make a contribution to design or had a little reflection on that. Simultaneously focusing on qualitative data in the design process, I had experience in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting quantitative data in the elective and project.
Over these courses, I became more acquainted with this specialization of expertise on various aspects. Particularly in Data-enabled Design, I have developed the skills in collecting (ESP-OOCSI systems integrated with sensors) data from the field, processing (Excel, Python), visualizing (rawgraphs, Plotly), and analyzing generated dataset for pattern detection; As Artificial Intelligence becoming popular, in the elective Designing Intelligence in Interaction I collaboratively engineered an application incorporated dataset analysis (abstracting facial features from over 10K images), a supervised Neural Network construction, and lastly the accuracy validation. Such practices have laid the foundation for future development of more advanced intelligent interaction designs.
This competency is the one I am least interested in, as well as the least developed. Although I understand and appreciate its importance to me as a designer, only a few prototypes during my masters have reached the quality to be presented on the market. During my M1.1, the prototype I built was indeed presented to Bang＆Olufsen and exhibited on Dutch Technology Week for seeking market opportunities.
Overall the entrepreneurial aspects were only considered during the reflective phases of the project. Besides, my graduation project, unfortunately, did not include a client, but I did make extensive comparisons of market competitors for my FMP and foresee the position of my contribution. The design and producing a factory-ready ESPBoost in collaboration with a couple of electrical engineers were already an entrepreneurial leap.
I developed my competence in the design research process among all design activities during my master’s. These activities have allowed me to experience a variety of design and research processes regarding context sensitization, challenge framing, and thinking perspectives. My bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design, in product design orientation, has cultivated basic design skills in concept ideation and prototyping. During my master’s, the skills repertoire has been broadened and thus enabled me to further obtain constructive knowledge. Apart from that, as the 2-year study involves many documentation, reflections, and paper-formatted submissions to primer conferences, my academic writing skill has significantly improved compared to my bachelor’s, not to mention the practices in reference management, literature review. This has laid the fundamentals for my future as an HCI researcher.