Lit Makeup Mirror

UX Prototyping Final

Our UX Prototyping course required us to use three prototyping techniques learned in class to make something new, fitting within the scope of either usability, desirability, or feasibility. We spent just over a week building a lighted makeup mirror from scratch for this project.

Concept

We’re Josephine and Mackenna. We started this final project for UX Prototyping with similar passions and a willingness to work with each other again after almost a year of separate classes and group projects. We found that when all was said and done, the two of us relished in the idea of doing something hands-on for the final project. We constantly design and build digital solutions in our department, and will continue to do so in industry. This final project presented us with the opportunity to flex our newfound physical design muscles.

Final makeup mirror prototype

In an attempt to synthesize the skills and mindset that came with being in UX Prototyping, we had a few ideas (and tricks) up our sleeves. The first idea we agreed on was wanting to do something with lights — rigging lights in some way that enhanced a product or brought forth another form of user interaction. From there, we brainstormed ideas for products and appliances that utilize light, such as a smart home lighting system or a stuffed animal with a light-up beating heart. Ultimately, we settled on the idea of a lighted makeup mirror.

Inspiration (thanks Pinterest)

Using the techniques we learned this quarter, we set out to build a makeup mirror with two cosmetic storage dishes and a lighting component around the mirror. The makeup mirror was assembled using 3D printing, physical computing, and model prototyping techniques. We obtained the following materials to start:

→ A round, double-sided mirror
→ 3D print filament for storage dishes
→ A wooden dowel for stabilizing pole
→ Spray paint (optional, for aesthetic purposes)
→ Arduino kit, flexible LED strip, 12v power supply, etc.

Goals

The goal of creating our mirror was mainly to evaluate the product concept based on:

  • Desirability (Is this a product that people are interested in using?)
  • Ease of use (Does the product offer freedom of user control and interaction?)
  • Aesthetic design (Does the product appear high fidelity and professionally made?)

We want to know if our product is viable through consumer demand, so our main goal of the prototype is evaluating consumer desirability. As a part of this desirability, we had other goals related to why people might want to use this product: is it easy to use, or aesthetically pleasing? We used these goals as guidelines in designing all aspects of our product. For example, we considered different materials to judge if they would contribute to the overall aesthetic of the product.

Implementation

We assembled the makeup mirror using different parts made with different prototyping techniques — model prototyping, 3D printing, and physical computing. For each technique, we explored our product concept and design to ultimately bring the prototype to life.

Concept Ideation and Sketches

First, we created a shared Pinterest moodboard to establish the overall aesthetic we wanted our design to achieve. Visual design elements we extracted from this moodboarding activity included:

Our Pinterest board
  • Color — light neutral hues with low saturation
  • Shape — organic shapes, rounded, circular
  • Texture — a smooth visual texture lacking harsh edges, corners, or bumps

From this collaborative moodboard, we started to sketch makeup mirrors with adjoined organizational dishes, weighted bottoms, and brainstormed various ways to add LED lights. The sketches below guided our process in terms of brainstorming the mechanics necessary for attaching these pieces, as well as reasonable ways to rig the LEDs. Once sketches were agreed upon (the final rightmost sketch became the inspiration for the physical model), materials could be found and modeled, respectively.

Post-moodboarding makeup mirror sketches

Modeling and Printing Elements

We drew a 2D side-view of each dish in Sketch and then imported the drawing into Rhino, where the drawing was easily 3D rendered through the revolution function. The bottom dish was designed to hold larger items and be a sturdier base to properly balance out the weight of the mirror, so it has a hidden space underneath to fill with weight. The top dish is simpler, just intended to hold small items. Due to their large sizes (6–8 inches diameter for both), we used a specialized larger printer called the Ultimaker 2, which limited us to very few filament color choices. Each dish took 16 hours to print with black PLA filament. We later altered the dishes to a different color, which we explain in an upcoming section on painting.

Top dish (left) and bottom dish (right)

Sawing and Drilling the Stem

The makeup mirror we bought from Goodwill was silver, had a double-sided mirror, and was weighted nicely on the bottom. When we first brought it home, the joint that held the mirror head in place started unscrewing, which made us think the entire mirror head unscrewed easily from the remaining stem.

After unscrewing and prying off some nuts and washers, the joints of the stem of the makeup mirror shed away, but what was left was a daunting fixer-upper in itself. The entire mirror head was connected to a large threaded metal screw, which was roughly 7 inches in length (pictured in the middle right — the makerspace staff member holding the long metal screw connected to the mirror).

Go find help when you need it!

After conferring with staff, we used a hacksaw on the metal screw to reduce it down to about 2 inches, just long enough to thread into our wooden dowel for the main stem of the new mirror.

A wood saw was used to cut the three-foot dowel into three 12-inch pieces, which were then sanded down to make rounded (safe-to-touch) ends. After all was sawed and sanded, we drilled a 2-inch hole into a dowel to test if it would hold when screwed around the metal threading. We were able to successfully connect the dowel and the mirror, pictured in the bottom right.

One of the main lessons we learned here is, Go find help when you need it! We learned you can cut metal with a simple (but very sharp) hacksaw, and that sawing/drilling takes a lot of trial and error to get it right. These lessons would help us in the final version of the wooden dowel, used for the stem of the final mirror.

Painting and Putting Together

Although making the dishes was easy, we still found a problem with the appearance of our dishes–mainly, the black filament that we had to use, due to the limited color choices of filament for the Ultimaker 2 printer.

Original black PLA print, and after 5–6 coats of spray paint each

Because we were evaluating our product on desirability and aesthetics, the black PLA filament didn’t meet our standards. We had agreed on light, natural, and low-saturated hues early on into the design phase. We bought white spray paint and applied several coats to hide the black color underneath. Achieving a pure white was difficult, even with a super fine 3D print like we had: the color kept leaching through the surface, and multiple coats were the only way to mitigate this issue.

After we painted our white dishes, we threaded them onto the wooden dowel (a near-perfect fit) and sealed their position with hot glue. The next step was making the mirror stem and printed dishes heavy enough to support the weight of the metal mirror head!

Something that came with the original mirror was this heavy plastic disc, used to weight the bottom of the stem to whatever surface the mirror was placed on. We figured we could use this as a weight on our mirror as well, and even made a space for it to fit in the 3D printed bottom dish model.

After painting, however, it was obvious this disc was not going to fit into the space we had made for it. We considered sanding around the edges, but it was a harder plastic and would have definitely been time-intensive. Instead, we decided to take an exacto knife to the edges of the disc and cut away some in order to wedge it into the 3D print.

“Why is there sand coming out??”

This is precisely the moment that sand started pouring out of what we thought was just a heavy plastic disc. We collected all the sand into a plastic bag and held it up to look at it. All we could think about what how weird this was. What’s a project without pitfalls?

An idea came up. Since the sand was the main source of weight in the plastic dish, it made sense to hold onto it. Not only that, but we had a nice divet in the bottom dish 3D print, perfect for filling with something heavy to keep the mirror upright. Perfect for… sand?

Sand used as weighting material, then sealed with hot glue

We filled the bottom of the dish with the entire bag of sand, covering the last inch or so of wooden dowel that was protruding. We used a soft, circular piece of non-slip rubber from the original makeup mirror, and hot glued it to the bottom of the dish, creating a seal for the sand. This move was definitely trial-and-error, and we found ourselves crossing our fingers that hot glue would save the day and keep the sand in the bottom dish. And it worked!

With the sand acting as a weight, the mirror was finally able to sit balanced on a table. We are firm believers in “MacGyver-ing” something until it works, but the sand definitely surprised us. Really glad it worked out!

Physical Computing Elements

In order to integrate our third type of prototyping, we first paid a visit to the Make Lab. It was here that we were able to borrow an LED strip, longer wires, and what we thought was enough of a power supply. Visiting the Make Lab was just the beginning; we borrowed multiple parts from various people in order to make the dream work (shout-out to Kristen, Brock, Andrew, and Haley for their parts that we are definitely returning).

The Make Lab was able to provide us with a single-color white LED strip in a 5m reel with red and black wires already soldered to one end and secured with electrical tape. This reel had pre-defined cutting zones, and was bendable enough to wrap around something curved, such as our mirror. The LED strip had 12V listed on its packaging, and we knew Arduino could only power 5V. Entering this new territory with voltage differences required external help.

With help from Dr. Brock Craft, we were able to borrow and program a relay to switch on the LED strip using augmented Arduino Blink code. This 120 ohm relay contains a gate that physically opens and closes the circuit when supplied with charge.

The next step was supplying 12V of power to properly light the LED strip. A 12V power adapter was acquired in the Make Lab, and fitted with a converter that could hold both ground and charge wires to the breadboard. When both the Arduino is plugged into a power source, and the wall charger is plugged into an outlet, the LED strip lights up for a total of 100 seconds, and then shuts off for a delay of 100 seconds to conserve power.

Showing this schematic in Fritzing proved to be a difficult task. The Fritzing library did not contain anything similar to the LED strip we used, so the circuit schematic looked incomplete with just a relay and some wires.

After searching for how others have created this schematic on the Internet, we found that others had found the schematic to be simple enough to photoshop in the LED strip and mark where wires connect. We chose to do the same, but in a way that communicates the system as a whole.

Physical Arduino schematic, including power supply and LED strip (image made in Figma)

The code for the Blink method is quite simple and is provided below.

Now the LED strip was ready to get cut down and attached to the balanced mirror, saving perhaps the most challenging task for last.

Attaching LEDs to the Final Prototype

After we got the LED strip to work properly, it was time to figure out how to attach the strip around the mirror. We started by roughly taping the strip around the edges of the mirror to measure the ideal length and position of the strip along the mirror face, planning to to cut off the remainder when measurements were finalized.

Work-in-progress shots of attaching the LED strip

This task was a little easier said than done. As with the rest of the prototype, we ran into several challenges along the way. We wanted the light to point towards a user’s face regardless of which side of the mirror was being used (regular or zoom). Doing so would offer more freedom of control and interaction, which necessitated flexibility of the LED strip in tilting between mirror faces.

An additional constraint existed in a desire to keep the LED strip as one long strip instead of breaking up into two smaller strips to fit around each mirror face. We did not have sufficient materials or power supply to have two separate LED strips, and would have to make do with one single length of LED to light both mirror faces.

We also experienced difficulty when dealing with the thickness of the LED strip when double wrapped and taped. Because the strip had to be taped thin to facilitate the tilting movement of the mirror face, the mirror would be unable to fully rotate if the LED strips overlapped too much around the edges, a necessary step to get the full length of the strip around both faces of the mirror. Lastly, the strip had a deep orange color on the sticky backside that didn’t align with the metal material of the mirror, so aesthetics was once again an issue to be mitigated.

So, we had to somehow attach one long strip around both edges of the mirror, not allowing the strips to overlap too much, in a manner that allowed for full user control, and wanted to cover up the strip’s backside color to keep up with the overall desired aesthetic.

Reaching the best solution doesn’t always have a clearly defined path. We were able to carefully attach the LED strip around the mirror using tape, but still had to cover up the LED strips to make it blend in more with the mirror’s metal. We found various metallic colors of duct tape in the makerspace, which we used in attempt to cover the strips.

The duct tape worked okay, but the colors were a problem. The first color, gold, wasn’t ideal since we believed that it didn’t complement the silver mirror metals. Next, we had regular gray duct tape which resembled silver, but wasn’t quite silver. We were fine with this until we turned on the mirror and saw that the light from the LEDs shone through the tape too clearly.

Gold and gray duct tape coverings, and the transparency of the tape.

Finally, by chance, we found something that worked: reflective foil tape. This tape was a true silver material that was much more reflective than the gray duct tape, and it was thick enough to prevent light from shining through the material.

Finished LED rigging with foil tape

Using this new and improved material, we were able to achieve an aesthetic that was more closely aligned to what we originally had in mind. With this last touch, our prototype was now complete and fully functioning!

Final Prototype

We went through a long journey to get to the final prototype, but we learned a lot along the way. Here are some photos of our makeup mirror in action.

Evaluation & Analysis

In general, we looked for qualitative feedback in the form of comments and opinions from potential users and design colleagues. As a reminder, these were our design goals:

  • Desirability (Is this a product that people are interested in using?)
  • Ease of use (Does the product offer freedom of user control and interaction?)
  • Aesthetic design (Does the product appear high fidelity and professionally made?)

For desirability, we tested this during the class showcase where we knew we’d have a large audience to show off our mirror. We set up the mirror with the lights on, placed small cosmetics in the dishes, and set up a chair for someone to sit and use the mirror in a somewhat-natural setting.

Evaluation

Many curious classmates came over to test out the mirror, and had fun using our creation! Based on the positive feedback and curiosity, we could say that people were generally interested in using the product, or were just curious as to why there was a glowing blue circle in the makerspace. Either way, lots of smiles all around.

Live-action shots of classmates using our mirror during the showcase

In the case of our mirror, ease of use mostly refers to two things: turning the mirror on/off easily, and turning the mirror 180° to use either of the two mirror faces. The only way to turn our mirror on is to plug the 12V power supply into a power outlet. The mirror itself is capable of being rotated to use both sides, but it turns very slowly and must be done so with care.

The slow and careful movement between mirror faces is due to the overlap of the longer LED strip to encompass both faces, along with the foil tape. A combination of these elements obstructs the turning path of the mirror between regular and zoom faces. Some participants during the class showcase tried to turn the mirror, but weren’t using enough pressure and stopped without turning it (possibly because of fear of breaking our prototype).

Because of these two cases, perhaps the ease of use could be greatly improved. We could add a button or switch to the mirror to turn on/off the light without unplugging it every time. In addition, we could make the mirror easier to turn by finding sleeker materials for the LED strip and tape covering, as well as separating into two LED strips for either mirror face.

Lastly, for aesthetic design, this was something that we mostly measured by ourselves on along the way. We made sure to use materials and colors that best aligned with our aesthetic vision for the product. In doing so, we were able to complete our prototype with the design we envisioned. During the class showcase, our classmates who tested out the mirror did say that the prototype looked well-crafted and put together. At the very least, everyone understood what the product was: a makeup mirror with lights and storage dishes. If we successfully communicated its function through visual design, then we achieved our goal.

Analysis

One pitfall of our project was biting off so much, that we weren’t able to make drafts and iterations. Because of the size and complexity of our prototype, as well as being strapped for materials (and borrowing many pieces from peers/colleagues), we made one makeup mirror from start to finish over the course of a week. A success is that despite workarounds and surprises, our initial idea was brought to life in the exact way we had hoped. One could call this successful planning on our part, or merely a bout of luck.

If we were to design another iteration of this, we would definitely do more planning in advance to scale back on the many challenges and obstacles we ran into the first time around. For example, if we had a smaller prototype overall, we could have printed the dishes with white PLA filament using a different printer with more color choices so we wouldn’t have had to invest time in painting the dishes. Our bottom dish could have also had a more accurate space beneath it to fit our weight, so that we wouldn’t have had to face the sand and hot glue. We also would search for an LED strip that was capable of changing colors so that we could incorporate different light settings into our mirror. We would do a lot of things differently next time, but we learned a lot along the way anyways. Challenges are opportunities to learn something new.

Conclusion

We learned a ton about physical prototyping and about ourselves during our final project. Partner projects of this caliber with the time frame and availability we had on hand was difficult, but we made sure to keep each other filled in on the process and split up tasks accordingly. Overall, it was fun to see the prototype come to life over the course of a week, coming together in little bits and pieces. When we were able to get together in person, we were excited to collaborate and put our heads together. In the end, we truly made a beautiful, usable product! Mackenna actually took it home to use for the long-term.

Jojo learned that physical prototyping is a bit messy, but as long as you’re on the path to achieving your goal, don’t forget to have fun along the way. She’s gained a lot of respect for industrial designers and engineers. She also feels more empowered to make.

Mackenna discovered she really loves sawing and drilling. There’s something about putting on safety goggles and cutting metal with a hacksaw that makes a person feel powerful. More of this will be in her distant future.

Thanks for reading! -Mackenna and Jojo