Design Process for Ixd Studio : Project one

Manjari Sahu
Oct 22, 2016 · 26 min read

Research for Screen and beyond.

// Exploring Sleep

Why do we need sleep?

  • energy conservation
  • preservation + protection
  • physical restoration
  • early brain development
  • memory processing
  • learning

How much sleep do we need?

Sleep and age are directly related. How much sleep do we need, changes with the stages of our lives. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the general guidelines for different ages are as follows:

Source: National Sleep Foundation

The amount of sleep we need decreases throughout our younger years, up to adulthood. It then reaches a constant of 7–9 hours. However, the amount of sleep we get also decreases as we age. It depends on various factors such as work, illness, personality, etc. Important points about age and sleep:

  • younger children have a higher arousal threshold, and can sleep through even quite loud noises, which helps them to achieve the long sleep periods they are required for their growth.
  • Teenagers and young adults typically sleep substantially less than optimal amounts, and as many as a quarter of all college students are chronically sleep deprived.(1)

What is the Biology of Sleep?

There exists an internal clock in humans known as the circadian rhythms. It is located in the hypothalamus organ in the brain, is the main mechanism that controls the timing of sleep.This internal clock is coordinated with the day-night / light-dark cycle over a 24-hour period, and regulates the body’s sleep patterns, feeding patterns, core body temperature, brain wave activity, cell regeneration, hormone production, and other biological activities.

But circadian rhythms alone are not sufficient to cause and regulate sleep. Sleep-wake homeostasis is an internal biochemical system that reminds the body that it needs to sleep after a certain time, and it works quite intuitively: the longer we have been awake, the stronger the desire and need to sleep becomes, and the more the likelihood of falling asleep increases; the longer we have been asleep, the more the pressure to sleep dissipates, and the more the likelihood of awakening increases.

The practice of consciously following daily guidelines in order to regulate these external factors and ensure a more restful and effective sleep is known as “sleep hygiene”, and can have at least a moderating or reinforcing effect on our underlying sleep patterns.

Two Types of Sleep

Quiet Sleep or Non-REM Sleep

  • “an idle brain in a movable body”
  • phase of dropping into sleep
  • body movement occurs
  • Has 3 stages — N1,N2 and N3

Dreaming Sleep or REM Sleep

  • “active brain in a paralyzed body”
  • deep sleep
  • rise of body temperature + heart rate + breathing speed
  • phase which involves restoration of the mind
  • facilitates memory + learning
  • occurs 3–5 times a night or every 90 minutes.

Week 1 : Exploring Family, Sleep and Technology

Group brainstorming : Exploring Sleep

What defines a family?

A family may be broken down to two formations — Nuclear families or Joint families. However, looking at todays times, families can also be categorized as single parent homes, divorced families, families which are not legally defined, same sex families and so on. Questions to ponder:

  • What is defined as a family in todays world?
  • Do family dynamics change with culture/ethnicity?
  • How is family sleep viewed across different cultures and religions?
  • Does the economics of family affect sleep?
  • How does individual health and family sleep relate to each other?
  • Do roommates and close friends also constitute as part of your family? What does sleep have to do with family dynamics?

Researching more into family sleep dynamics, I am interested in looking at the following scenarios for our sleep studies:

  • Family sleep where a member has a chronic illness
  • Woman + pregnancy and sleep disorders (that may affect existing family dynamics)
  • Couple sleep with relation to travel/long distance
  • New parents and sleep
  • Cultural family sleep

Next meeting : Brainstorming on scope.

Week 2 : Defining our design space

Defining our design scope

First we performed some initial research into the area of family sleep. When we reconvened, we started to organize our findings. We wrote down potential target audiences, different contexts for sleep and a variety of factors that may influence sleep quality.

Our team was especially interested in how sleep issues can affect the entire family unit. We began ideating different scenarios from a change in routine (dad traveling for business) to the impacts of mental health (sleep disturbance and ADHD). Our team was most eager to tackle a sleeping disorder, so we decided to focus on children with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Focusing on ADHD families and listing our next steps forward
Looking at ADHD and family relationships

Week 2: Research

What is ADHD?

ADHD symptoms usually start before age 12, and possibly as early as 3 years of age. ADHD symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe, and they may continue into adulthood.

The exact cause of ADHD is not known, although it’s hypothesized that genetics may play a role and environmental factors may increase risk. There is no cure for ADHD, but it is currently treated with medication to reduce the severity of symptoms [1].

Target Audience

ADHD and Sleep

If a child with ADHD is having trouble with sleep, here are some of the behaviors he would display:

  • He has trouble settling down at night.
  • Even after he’s in bed, he says he can’t stop thinking about things when he’s trying to get to sleep.
  • Throughout the night, he experiences restlessness. It disrupts his sleep or wakes him up.

A lack of sleep can have serious ramifications for children, both the next day and in regards to long-term development. Sleep directly impacts a child’s cognitive, physical development and behavior. If children don’t get enough sleep, they are more likely to have behavioral and social issues. Children and adults act differently when they’re sleepy. While adults feel sluggish, children overcompensate and become hyper.

Week 3: Feedback from Philips

Defining our user ecosystem

Week 3: Interviews

1.0: Interview with Families

Insight highlights from our family interviews and observations

Case Study One

Richa and Madhan are both working professionals. They have a 4 and a half-year-old daughter, Anvi. Anvi is an energetic, happy and curiosity filled child. She has day school (pre-school) which she goes for from 9 to 3. There is usually a dedicated nap time during school. After school, she comes home with her nanny and has a schedule of play time. Once her parents come back from office, between 5–7pm, she likes to interact with them. They sometimes like to go on walks together in the evening. This helps tire Anvi for sleep. Richa starts mentioning bedtime to Anvi at around 8:30–9pm. Anvi loves to negotiate at this point, trying to extend her activities. She tries to talk more about watching television or playing with her toys. But Richa starts talking about getting ready for bed on her own. Anvi and she usually start getting ready for bed together — they wash their hands, feet and face, brush their teeth and change into their sleep clothes. This routine of getting ready together is important for the mother and daughter, as it’s a bonding period, where they talk about their day and share stories. Once Anvi is ready to go to bed, she usually requests a story and her favorite pillow. The stories are all familiar with her and the books are kept next to her bed. Anvi selects the story and her mother reads her to sleep. These days Anvi is having a few night terrors, but they have been tackling that by saying prayers before sleep as well as having a night light within the room — giving Anvi some reassurance.


  • Anvi has had a regular sleep routine since she was 13 months old.
  • Because of the familiarity of the schedule, she does not fight it, or try to delay it.
  • Her parents have a strict control on her diet and avoid giving her any sugary food before sleep time.
  • She has a bond with the pillow and needs it every night to sleep — value base. She also requests stories from books she knows. The introduction of new books takes time and she usually always goes back to the old ones.
  • Her mother stresses importance on being actively involved in the whole routine. The connection shared between them in these moments are important to both of them.

Case Study Two : Observation With a Family

Ganggang is a 9-year-old boy who goes to school as a fourth grade student. His dad is a surgeon working at UPMC and his mom is a professor at University of Pittsburgh. The observation took place on the 15th; it started at 19:30 and ended at 23:30. The mom was not at home during the entire observation period.

19:30–20:00 play time

The children were mainly playing Minecraft on TV. Occasionally they would pick up nurf guns to start an imaginative war in the living room.

  • 20:00–21:00 dinner time

When eating, the dad constantly said “No” to certain bad behaviors that his child was performing, such as eating too loud or grabbing too much food. However, he rarely give any explanation to the kid of why he thought that’s inappropriate. The child just fought back with a even more dramatic version of the same behavior.

  • 21:00–22:00 play time

During this time period the adults were performing all the chores and the children were playing even more wildly. The child asked his dad about a promise the dad made a week ago: “dad you said last week that I can have ice cream today, can I have some now?” The dad refused it and said “We’ll talk about this some other time.” The child was really upset about this.

  • 22:00–22:30 homework time
  • 22:30–23:00 bedtime

The child started to ask for food and beverages. When all his wishes are fulfilled, he went to upstairs and stayed near the fence of the second floor. He tried to have a dialogue with his dad who was watching him from the first floor. After that the child started to take a tour of every single room on the second floor. When he eventually went back to his own bedroom, he started to walk back and forth around the bed with wails and sighs. The dad did not respond to any of these; he just lied on the couch reading things on his cell phone. Eventually the kid started brushing his teeth and went on to the bed all by himself.


  • Parent wants to create a bedtime routine but is unable to implement it.

Case Study 3

We spoke with Michelina about how she helps her 4 year old brother prepare for sleep. A technique that she suggested led us to explore meditation more extensively.

First a stuffed animal is placed on the child’s belly. As the the child breathes in and out, the stuffed animal will rise and fall. Counting the rise and falls can help the child to focus on their breathing and reach a more restful state.

She also emphasized the importance of establishing a routine prior to bedtime and of providing positive reinforcement for children. For example, when she puts her brother to bed, she’ll leave the door open a crack, in order for her brother to feel some sort of connection with her. If he doesn’t stay in bed, however, the door is shut. The positive reinforcement, the door being open, encourages good behavior.

2.0: Interview with John Zimmerman

Insight highlights from our interview with John Zimmerman

We had the opportunity to talk with John Zimmerman — an interaction designer and researcher with a joint appointment as an Associate Professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and at the School of Design. He has had core research in ‘Designing for the Self’ where he has investigated on value creation and emotional attachment to material possessions. His work looks at how to make things that help people become the person they desire to be; how a product can help a person feel they are moving towards their idealized self in a specific role. He has also worked on creating sleep solutions that harbor independence in children.

Meeting him and getting his insights on value creation and family sleep optimization helped us to create a way forward with our research and concepts. Some of the learnings from the interview :

  • How do you address a profitable need?
  • When creating solutions, focus on what do the parents want — keep the parent’s goal as starting focus.
  • Parents associate children bedtime as a very involved system — the desire to impart values comes into strong play.
  • Parents of growing children, take ‘celebration’ as a tool for progress. Celebrating an achievement, let’s say the transition from sleeping in a crib to a big kid bed, helps reinforce a sense of growth and independence.
  • Parents associate bedtime routines with emotional bonds in objects — they tend to keep a storybook that they read to their child forever. A kindle would not hold that much emotional value to them. How do you create a product that uses this emotional value?
  • Creating consistent routines are important for child sleep. A child usually always wants to read the same stories that he is used to.
  • Think of memories as emotional bonds. Can revival of memory in a visual format help create storylines for children?

3.0: Interview with Aaron Jennings, Program Manager at Center for Children and Families

Insight highlights from our interview with Aaron Jennings

In our research we found that a high percentage of children with ADHD have sleep issues. Our hope was that research in this area could help inform our solutions for children in general. We had the fortunate opportunity to interview, Aaron Jennings, program manager of the Family ADHD clinic at UPMC.

Aaron has worked with ADHD diagnosed children with sleep issues. He’s also worked with children that have been misdiagnosed with ADHD. This is because the symptoms of ADHD look alot like symptoms of sleep deprivation in children.

Here were the key insights that we took away from the interview:

  • Aaron emphasized the importance of having a consistent bedtime routine, but he’s worked with many families that don’t realize the importance of this. Parents that may not have structure in their own lives, may not know how to provide this for their children.
  • Parents should track the quality of sleep and the impact this has on their child’s behavior, whether that be through a sleep journal or app. For example, my child slept 9 hours tonight and this impacted his behavior this way….
  • Quiet time 1–2 hours before sleep can be effective in helping children mentally prepare for sleep. Parents need to choose activities that help relax their children. And these are unique to each child. Certain activities may activate children, while others induce relaxation.
  • Mindfulness based breathing has helped Aaron treat children with sleep issues and anxiety. He uses a technique called the three B’s — breathing, body and brain. The deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen in the body and calms the child down. It also connects them to their bodies, detracting focus away from the worries on their mind.

Week 3: Insights

After the interview we had all of last week, we listed out our main insights. A a group, we felt that interviews helped us better understand the dynamics present between parents and their children during bedtime. (expand on)

  • A routine is paramount to achieving successful bedtime with children
  • Positive reinforcement encourages children to improve their behavior
  • Quiet time allows children to reflect on their day and get ready for bed
  • Mindfulness breathing can help children calm down and prepare for sleep

Week 3: Objectives

We arrived on four objectives that could be challenging to address through our solutions.

  1. How can we reduce child’s anxiety around sleep?
  2. How do we help parents create optimal routines?
  3. How can we empower kids to be independent in their sleep routines?

(expand on)

Week 3: Concept Ideation

We categorized our concepts mapped all under relevant ones. Next steps are to come up with concepts individually that align with our objectives. If our solutions address more than one objective that’s a win.

Concept V1.0

  • 4 concepts

Concept 1: Collaborative schedule

The first concept helps parents build routines around bedtime. It uses positive reinforcement and rewards to incentivize the child to complete his bedtime tasks. I also helps families that may not have structure build optimal routines.

  • Together parents and the child select which tasks to put in the system
  • A family schedule is generated by the system
  • The family completes their assigned tasks. As the child completes his tasks he earns stars.
  • The child can use his stars get fun prizes like movie nights, candy and desserts.

Concept 2: Companion

We were inspired by the mindful breathing techniques used by a family we spoke with and our discussions with Aaron, the UPMC program manager. Additional research showed us that a lot of families were using these techniques with their children. Our concept of a companion could help with mindful meditation and deep breathing techniques to relax the child.

  • The parent puts the child to bed and gives him the companion toy
  • The parent activates the toy and guides the child through a deep breathing routine. The companion and the child breathe in unison, helping the child relax.
  • The child falls asleep with the companion. As the child is sleeping, the toy measures the quality of the child’s sleep throughout the night.
  • The next day, the parent receives the data analyzing their child’s sleep.

This data is important for parents for a couple reasons. Studies have shown that parents who don’t sleep well, think their children don’t sleep well. This causes parents to relay unreliable information to healthcare providers. Our goal was to provide parents with objective information and reduce their anxiety.

Concept 3: Dreamscape

Our goal with this solution was to provide an activity for children before the bedtime routine begins. From our research we inferred that having quiet time 1 -2 hours before bedtime can help children reflect on their day and mentally prepare for sleep.

  • The child colors on a softly lit surface
  • As the child colors the table dims, which provides a visual cue indicating that quiet time is coming to an end
  • The child goes through his normal bedtime routine with his parent.
  • When the child climbs into bed, the parent can project the child’s drawing and it becomes a dreamscape. The projection dims and the child drifts off to sleep.

Concept 4: Immersive story

Our research showed that story-time was an important aspect of bedtime routine and for this concept, we were inspired by our research in AR and the future of sleep. We wanted to make way to make story time more delightful while incentivizing children to complete the bedtime routine in a timely manner.

  • Child is immersed in play time when a forest slowly grows around him. It’s a visual cue that his bedtime routine has begun.
  • The child and parent follow the visual cues and hurry through the bedtime routine.
  • The child gets into bed and the parent begins story time. The story only starts when the child is in bed. It’s his reward for making it through the routine.
  • The parent narrates the story and they both enjoy the immersive environment.

Week 4 : Feedback and Critique

Feedback on:

1) Collaborative Schedule

2) Companion

We were advised on a couple things such as breathing techniques, and to look at different way to provide visually cues and also various ways to execute breathing. Austin particularly liked this concept and pushed us towards building this concept further to make it more adaptable, using projection for visual cues and using light as an interface for breathing.

3) Dreamscape

4) Immersive story

Thus from our feedback we inferred that our final concept should hold true value for parents and help in reducing anxiety within children

Week 5: Concept V2.0

  • How will you form an emotional bond between the companion and the child?
  • How value based will the data that the toy collects be? Will that data help the parents understand their child’s sleep behaviors?
  • Can we visualize the meditation? What kind of light immersive environment can we create that relaxes the child and parent?


Concept 2.0 structure: Creating a multi-sensory immersive experience

“Perhaps most surprising is the main finding that young children do anthropomorphize their toys but only the ones they feel especially attached to — their attachment objects,”

As a group, we looked at the big drawback of our concept — the emotional bond. It would be a herculean task to create an emotional bond between the child and our “companion” smart toy. We looked at other forms to recreate this eco-system.

Our big idea was to not actually replace these emotional toys. We reframed the problem of how to introduce a companion meditative toy to the children with how can we enhance this emotional bond that the child has with their existing toy and use it in our meditative sleep solution? That’s when we designed the smart accessory. We envisioned our product to be an additional accessory, that can be added to any existing toy the child has. This accessory would then be able to bring that toy to “life”.

Introducing Aurora

  1. An accessory
  2. Visualization of breathing “Aura”
  3. A mobile application
Product Eco-system
  • Parents control the Aurora belt and projector with the mobile application
  • Once parents have set the “aura” visualization style and timing, the app prompts them to activate the belt by letting their child “hug” the toy.
  • The projector begins the breathing visualizations and the parent and child are guided through the mindfullness meditation along with an audio guide.

Concept 2.0 : Service Map

Concept 2.0 : Belt

[Insert photo (accessory explorations)]

We also started to envision what function will the accessory accomplish.

  • One initial idea aligns with the narrative of “bringing toy to life”: we envisioned that the patterns projected out is the visualization of the toy’s breathing.
  • When the child hugs the toy, the accessory should be able to take that pressure inputs and activate the entire system, which projects out the breathing pattern.
  • The accessory should also have audio function that guides the entire mindful breathing process. This is because meditation around bedtime is relatively novel for parents and children.
  • We hope to use audio guidance to ease user’s learning curve, and allow them to enjoy the meditative experience rather than struggling with the procedures of the system.

Based on the considerations above, the team agreed that a belt form is the best choice for the accessory. We then started to design the belt, aiming to make it children-friendly in both form and materiality.

Mock prototype for the belt

We created our first prototype out of tissue cloth. We tried to see how the heart form Our first prototype is a simple plate made out of clay. The heart in the middle intended to symbolize the toy’s heart, and the magic that the belt can bring. The quality of clay as a material lies between the hard plastic and the soft cloth. It provides both structural rigidness as well as flexibility. The downside of this material is its weight. Following with these considerations, we continued to explore more potential materials for our belt.

Concept 2.0 : Building the “Aura”

  • To use mindful breathing as the main content of the new bedtime routine.
  • The breathing practice needed to be incorporated into some sensory experiences.

Therefore, the design question that the team needed to solve next was: what sensory experience could the system offer in order to allow both parents and their children practice meditative breathing?

Through research we found that guided visualization — a relaxation technique that involves the visualization of images, usually calm and peaceful in nature — is a core technique of mindfulness meditation. Traditionally mindfulness meditation requires imaginative visualization. In order to make this process less daunting for a child, we decided to bring tangible form to the technique of guided visualization. We were inspired by the Apple Watch application “Breathe”, and decided to use contraction and expansion of the visual cues to represent the breathing effect. We developed prototypes that hybridized different types of visual languages, and analyzed their pros and cons.

Fractal imagery

  • Scientific research has proved that human beings are tuned to prefer an environment that has the self-similar properties of a fractal.
  • As different types of fractals are characterized by what is known as their “fractal dimension” D , we respond best to “mid-range” fractals where D is between 1.3 and 1.5.
  • In such fractal environments, our body automatically dampens its response to stress induced by intensive tasks and reaction to external forces. This implies that fractal images have healing powers.
example of a fractal

Sacred geometry

  • Sacred geometries are symmetrical (sometimes concentric) figures that have long been used as meditative objects in spiritual traditions of various culture.
  • Examples include the “mandala” from Indian culture, the “flower of life” from Egypt.
  • Research has shown that activities that engage with sacred geometry’s repeating patterns and complexity helps to draw individuals into a state similar to meditation, and as a result, alleviate their anxiety.

The visual pattern used in the Breathe App is a sacred geometry called the seed of life.

Examples of Sacred Geometry

The visual prototypes were made according to our findings above.

The “Yantra”: fractal + sacred geometry
Yantra is a sacred geometry from Indian culture, and it is also a fractal.

The “Jellyfish”: sacred geometry + organic objects
The form inherits the concentric and symmetrical characteristics of the sacred geometry, with a moving pattern that is similar to organic objects.

Concept 2.0 : Using a projection

Concept 2.0 : Building the app interactions

  • Educate the parents with the setting up of the belt and the projector
  • Inform them of the eco-system and introduce the parents to mindful meditation techniques through a seven day training module.
Screen-flow concept 2.0

Concept 2.0 : Building the UI design

The home screen starts out as a 7-day training journey map. As you scroll up through the journey map, you move towards the sky, where you will eventually (at the end of the 7th day) reach the galaxy of meditation auras. It is the library for presets auras as well as ones you have saved as favorites.

In the first few iterations, we struggled to find an UI design that balanced well between the two different styles of auras: one was very geometric while the other was more organic.

Explorations of UI language

Feedback and criticism

Concept V3.0 (only on meditation)

Service system

Concept 3.0: The Aurora Belt

  • a pico projector that projects out the “aura”.
  • a pressure sensor that detect children’s hug
  • a mp3 player+speaker that provides audio guidence
  • a Bluetooth Low Energy module that enables wireless control
  • a battery and a charging port

Concept 3.0: The new “Aura”

The final form of the breathing Aura

Since the design intends to help children to calm down and fall into sleep more easily, the team speculated that the third visual approach is more children-friendly and would be the most effective. The user test in later chapters confirmed our speculation.

Concept 3.0 : Final Wireframes

Screen flow concept 3.0
Hi-fidelity screens — training days 1–7
Hi-fidelity screens Day 8+

Concept 3.0 : Prototyping

Exploring form with clay
3D render of the belt
Process of creating the prototype

Another prototype for the belt was made. Silicone was chosen for the strap material due to its softness and non-toxic quality. The shell was 3D-printed and spray painted into purple color to make it more kid-friendly. An LED light was also inserted into the shell to indicate the presence of the projector. The model was tested by the child and the mom during the concept video making process, and the feedback was promising: the child was willing to attach the belt to different stuffed animals to make each of them “breathe”, and the mom felt that the belt was quite adaptable and secure.

Concept 3.0 : User testing

Concept 3.0 : Concept Video

Final Storyboard

Final Concept Video

Five by Five

IxdStudio Project 2016

Manjari Sahu

Written by

India | USA | The Netherlands…A designer broadening her perspective on critical thinking and how to do good by design.

Five by Five

IxdStudio Project 2016