Project 4- Lighting engines

“We are Making objects that use simple electronics to emit gentle light.”

The page of notes above were taken during the introduction of the project. Interesting points of emphasis; Steve was expressive in that he “wants us to work with simplicity,” Stacie wants us to explore the “communicative values of form,” and it hit me that the interaction is shaped by the placement of the mercury switch as much as the exterior form.

I built the circuit , with the gravity control attached.

A guide for posting to medium: judge what to post by what will help me. When looking back in a week, what parts will be insightful, and what will I skip over? A key moments scenario.

Round 1,

Have three built iterations for Thrusday (11/17/16)

The above sketches show the thought process for each of my iterations. Physically writing and sketching helps me conceptualize, but the page above became more about communicating to “the viewer” than of communicating to me. Markers and photos led me to cross a line where I was focused more on the page than the project. I change that on the next page, where I develop the interaction behind the manilla envelope.

Iteration 1a

Iteration 2a

Iteration 3a

This is the iteration I will follow.

I am choosing to pursue this iteration because it is the most undefined. The book idea is pretty niche, and though the cup was great fun I don't know where to take it. With prisms, I can change the proportions and make cuts. Ideally, it if raw form for simple communication.

Iteration 1 made of printer paper

Printer paper to Vellum (4-ply)

Iteration 1 made of 4-ply vellum paper.

With the change, the interaction behind this form can actually be studied. The most significant problem with this form is that nothing communicates it’s purpose. Even under the assumption that the form communicates “pick me up,” what part of it says “put me down?” or more specifically, “put me down this way.” Though it is, in a way, a toy, using it should not be a puzzle.

For the first time this project, I am consciously incompetent. I don’t know what extent to abandon this iteration.

When I was talking to Anna (video below) it was late Monday night, so I didn’t give her ideas of reworking everything much attention. I would bring in my brick for Tuesday and then improve the craftsmanship for Thursday. But the new due date changes everything. My reaction to Stacie’s announcement was an irritated Humph! I knew that I could do better, but I had been planning to use the Thursday due date as an excuse not to. Now I have to challenge myself, and I’m glad I filmed Anna’s crit.

Anna asked me “What do you want this lamp to do,” and I didn't have an answer. Given the affordance Juan had just discovered, I was shook by the weight of having to define the interaction.

What to do?

I’m going to keep the frankness of this interaction. I had a really blunt discussion about my light engine with Temple, and we reached some significant conclusions. 1-My aesthetic is straightforward 2-My form focused on frankness so much, that it is barely a lighting engine. It is the most basic form, uses the most basic light, and requires the most basic interaction. 3-My form is lazily simplified because I felt an inclination to do something do-able.

Though I agree Kaitlin, Temple and Anna that my trapezoidal prism is trash, I don’t want to start iterating from ground zero again. I genuinely believe that there is something in the frankness of the interaction on the left. Look at Juan in the video below. He figures it out pretty quickly, and actually shows me the another interaction that my form affords. He assumed that the form was intended to go in it’s side, and then demonstrated the use. And Beth has told me multiple times that she loves the “simplicity” of my light. The mindset of adding on cutting out of a lame takeout box, as Caitlyn put it, is not the right direction. From here, I pursue the frankness of my interaction, and form the shape in response.

Iteration 3C

I iterated a form brainstormed in the earlier sketch. It affords some interesting interactions, but many more than one singular that I could scope in on. My favorite is this poke, where you poe the parts marked by tape- where on the next part there will be some marker- and it falls towards and away from you, on and off of it’s legs (the wedges), as the light turns on when it is upright and off when it is down.


  • Desired interation works well, but other interactions also afforded
  • Do these legs help it or not
  • It is a little to hard to bring it back up, play w/ weight
  • Only works from one of six sides
  • context needs to be considered
  • context needs to be designed.

I want to design this form so that affords two types of use, so that is provides equal satisfaction to those that see the curve as a suggestion of hand movement (like me), and those who see it as a base to roll it back and fourth, on and off (unlike me).

Making the final form


I wanted to make the form stand on three legs. This would serve as a single point that demanded the user press on it, and also appear as an arrow to signal the direction of the turn.

Though this is a sketch from the earlier form, I looked at these sketching next to my last iteration and spent hours just trying ot undertsand how, in theory, I could make the bottom arrow come to one point. It was difficult. I sketched but nothing really communicated adequitely. I felt frustration in that my head is not a CAD program.


The consturction process for these forms was quite tedious, and only got more tedious as the form progressed. Construction was very tedious, and for the curves I got very mathematical. Cutting probably could have been more precise, but I put craft into it.



How well does my form communicate use?

My lighting engine communicates use pretty well. I added this little tab to the top of it at the end, and it contradicted everything that I had designed. The aesthetic of my form was simple, and the interaction was frank. My form suggested with the arrows, the cruve, and the legs, but it did not define. The tab that I forced onto the top of my shape suggested that it specified, and there is the contradiction. The tab’s implication of specificity dominates. Sitting next to the blocked curve, this tab is a tragedy. Gautam pointed this out when I showed him my form. “It looks like a breadbox!” The association of breadbox is formed, and so the interaction is far from resolved.

It is never a good idea to add something in right at the conclusion, but the more significant takeaway from this is that I need to look at the way I iterate. Iterations should find a medium between efficient and effective. For this project it starts with finding a meathod of construction that crafts better and more easily. I only made four actual forms for this project, and that not bad-each one built on the predecessor- but my aspirations required more takes. Everything on a project needs to be finessed, and I barely designed the tab. Next time, I iterate smart.

“Look for a switch” — I find my shortcomings to be quite comical.

A breadbox is on the left, Marissa’s project from last year is on the right
Post Script- Why is medium centered? Everything in is centered. This interface should represent good design