Sleep Ecologies: Lego to Sleep

Jackie Chou
May 11 · Unlisted

This is my project documentation for my project sponsored by Philips as part of Studio for Environments Spring 2019, taught by Dan Lockton.

This submission is a summary of my project, and should be considered my final submission to Philips Design. It contains more in-depth thinking, as well as photos, videos, and slides.

For the most up to date version and to see the videos, please go here (link is unlisted):

The project brief was very simple: explore the idea of designing around sleep and wellbeing, in the context of young adults (college students). Additionally, we were encouraged to design probes or kits to help us conduct additional research, as part or all of the project.

Initial Thoughts

As a class, we began to discuss various ideas to frame the project. I was personally intrigued by the framing my project around a bedtime routine, mostly inspired by my own personal experience. From my own experience, following a bedtime routine by preparing myself for bed properly often leads to an enhanced quality of rest and me falling asleep more quickly.

By bedtime routine, I don’t necessarily mean the time someone goes to bed, though that could be part of it. Rather, I’m more interested in the series of activities or rituals that someone partakes in to get ready for bed.

For example…

A sample bedtime routine.

I felt that there was a lot that could’ve been done in this space. When you search bedtime routine, you’ll see that a lot of results focus on building these simple habits for kids (Potty, brush your teeth, etc).

For adults, there is less of a focus on creating a healthy, effective bedtime routine. I focused this project around two key questions:

I sought to find (partial) answers to these questions.

Starting point: Game Cards

My ultimate final project was borne out of my very first idea/approach: I created game cards that assigned points to different bedtime activities, depending on how much effort they required, on a scale of 1 to 5 points.

I called 1 point cards the “bare minimum”: the least you needed to do to hop into bed. For example, brushing your teeth and changing into sleepwear. I also created a scoring system that ranked the quality of your rest according to the number of points you had from following your routine.

I created the cards in Adobe InDesign and printed them out.

InDesign file of my own personal bedtime routine.
A very basic (and half-baked) scoring system.

At first, I was simply intrigued at the idea of assigning points to these activities. I wasn’t quite sure what the context of these cards would be or how they would be exactly used, but I did know I wanted to distribute these to people.

So my next steps were this: how could I package these in such a way that anyone with limited resources could use them? I created the cards so that anyone could fill them out on their computer using Acrobat, print them out, and cut them out.

The PDF.

I also began to flesh out the context of this “game” (as I was calling it). In the PDF, I included a first page of instructions for filling out the cards.

On each card, two interactive text boxes allowed you to assign a task and points. Then, you could print them out and cut on the dotted lines. They looked like this:

What’s Next?

I showed Dan my progress and he saw the potential in it, but he pushed me to expand it in a more physical direction. Now that I was collecting all this data, how could I make it more tactile? Was there anything in the field of physical data visualization I could get inspired by?

In the beginning of the semester, Dan brought in a cart of fun little gadgets and tidbits to tinker with. Included in the box were a few boxes of legos. Immediately I was really drawn by the idea of using legos to track the points.

Sketches + Thoughts

I decided to create a self-contained kit within a box, where the box would contain everything you needed to track your bedtime routine.

First prototype kit

After I created a second prototype of the kit, I started giving it to people for their use .The kit contains color-coded legos (1 to 4 points), a pen, baseplates, and instructions.

Second prototype.

To give the kit to additional people, I created a third kit, modeled after the Philips SmartSleep Band box that Philips had lent to us.

1) Smartsleep Box 2) My third prototype kit 3) Inside of the third prototype

Philips Integration

During the latter part of the project, we had access to a Philips SmartSleep band. I knew I immediately wanted to go and try the band at home to see how it worked and I used it for a few nights. It wasn’t long enough to fully develop an opinion on the band itself, but I was really interested in the SleepMapper app that the headband integrates with.

Some of my SmartSleep data

I was most intrigued by the aspect of the app providing me with a quantitative sleep score, as well as a detailed breakdown.

I noticed that there was a bedtime routine section, but it included no way to consider or track what a user of this technology was doing to get ready for bed. All of the data was captured after the user had fell asleep. I developed two ways for the Philips SleepMapper app to integrate the collection of this data.

First way: Hybrid Physical/Digital with Kit

The first integration was a hybrid digital/physical approach that used the kit. Using the SmartSleeper app, users can scan their kit with their phones camera and automatically count the points they tallied for their sleep routine.

Second way: Digital App Integration

If someone didn’t have the kit, I also created an interface within the SleepMapper kit for users to manually log their bedtime routine.

Final Show + Photos

Testing Results + Final Thoughts

I ended up giving the kit to 3 different people, to vary degrees of success. Here’s a quick summary what I think worked and what didn’t:

What worked:

  • The simplicity of the kit. People knew how to use it and they didn’t have any issues with it.
  • The physical aspect. Because the kit was a physical device, people didn’t forget about it. I asked people how the kit was integrated into their life, and they simply said by putting it by their bed, on their desk, etc, that they would see it and remember to use it. I think people would’ve forgotten to use it if the kit was an app, buried on the fifth page of their home screen.
  • Behavior change. People said that the kit made them actually think and consider their bedtime routine, even if it wasn’t an aspect of their life they had thought about previously. One user was even so encouraged by the kit to seek out new activities to add to her routine to prepare herself for bed. For example, one of her cards was “Take a walk before bed.” When I asked her about it, it was something she had never done before.

What needs work:

  • As a way to just track one’s routine, I think it works well. However, as a catalyst for behavior change, it could use more refinement. While it does show potential (see above), I sometimes was confused by the activities people put down. People put down activities that I, and others, think of as poor ways of getting ready for bed, such as eating a lot and spending time on electronics. Are these practices actually beneficial? Are these routines considered personal and should they be respected as healthy practices? Or is there enough research that exists that scientifically proves that these are considered poor practices for most people? Should the kit have more instructions to teach people more about healthy practices?
  • The kit is currently a short-term object. What’s unsure is how this behavior is sustained even after use of the kit is over. Also, the kit could be repackaged to be more suited for long-term use.

What I learned:

  • I learned so much about how creating a physical artifact can be a better solution than jumping straight to an obvious solution (like an app). When approaching a design problem, it’s good to not assume a mode of prototyping or thinking, but to rather do research and test multiple versions.
  • Participatory design is powerful. While I’m not quite sure this kit counts as true participatory design, I think aspects of that are seen here and are used effectively. People liked creating their own cards and having a kit that was customized to their own habits, which I think helped with adoption of the kit.
  • The value of designing “modular” systems. I really appreciated that my project’s kit could live on its own, and it didn’t depend on the integration with


Jackie Chou

Written by

Junior Design Student at Carnegie Mellon

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