Design Research Project 2, Vitality squad, M1.2 (September 2021 – January 2022), DIS (June 2022), coached by Steven Houben & Kim Sauvé

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Published DIS paper

In the second semester of my master’s, I had to perform design and research project on my own. The goal of my research was to explore how a data sculpture can create environmental awareness, in a home context, by communicating the associated carbon emissions of everyday choices.

Climate change is one of the most imperative environmental challenges to be tackled today. The climate is changing due to increased levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, resulting in a rise in the overall temperature on earth. Research shows that 72% of carbon emissions are caused by household consumption. For decades, scientists expressed their concerns about climate change, but despite the attention, action on climate change has not been there or had little effect, and CO2 emissions continue to rise. The majority of the global population acknowledges the existence of climate change and the problems associated with it. However, people remain unaware of the direct influence their everyday behaviors have on the climate. One of the challenges is that climate change is intangible, hence it does not naturally provide direct feedback on how everyday behaviors impact the climate. In the published DIS paper, you can read more about the project, the process and the results of the study.

I can say that I developed a lot during my research semester. I did not only develop my hard skills, but also my soft skills where I especially gained more confidence as a designer. I realized that especially the combination of design and research fits me since I believe that research can add an extra layer to the design process. Throughout the project, I experienced that I had to personalize my way of doing research and to find methods that suits me identity as a designer. I liked to apply an explorative way of doing research by making prototypes. In addition, I learned to perform an extensive field study. Due to the group interviews/discussions, I have gained more experience in performing the role as an interviewer.

Within this project, I discovered how best to combine my interests in technology and prototyping. In prior semesters, I have developed little physical prototypes that included technology and it was completely new to me to design a system that works via the Wi-Fi. Because of the technical implementation in this project, I noticed that I really developed my programming skills. The development of the physical prototypes came with many challenges, which made me feel very frustrated throughout the process. Nonetheless, I learned to work with new technical components, such as a printer and stepper motors and I used a laser cutter for the first time which allowed me to make more professional prototypes. Besides, programming in Arduino and Appsheet has given me a much better understanding on coding. In addition, I learned new ways to deal with and to analyze data, for example by designing matrices and using design requirements. In addition, I also improved my skills within Excel where I was able to perform calculations that I could send to the ESP32.

In addition to my learning experience during the research semester, I also learned a lot from translating my project paper into a research paper worthy for publication. I collaborated a lot with Kim Sauvé, who taught me new insights about writing a paper and the work activities during a PHD. Also, my mentor Steven Houben taught me more about the process of publishing a paper. I experienced the project as very challenging because it was a continuous iterative process, but I noticed that I have improved my academic writing style. Despite the challenges during the writing of the paper, I have become more interested in conducting research because you can make knowledge valuable for the future.