Sunday, 8 March 2015

Baffled becomes The Big Book of Calm

Part V of the Advanced Digital Design individual coursework.  Read Parts I to IV here.

Often in meditative practices, we are asked to think of a happy place.  I wanted to have the internal form of my product to echo this sentiment, but without defining it to one particular place - I wanted everyone to be able to imagine themselves within the form.  This was how I began looking at clouds.

In meditation, we are also required to ground ourselves.  This can mean sitting on the floor, or having your feet placed firmly on the floor if you are sitting on a chair.  It symbolises our connection with the earth, and provides a tactile support so you remain focused.

Knowing that I was going to shape the inside form of the book to echo clouds, I also wanted to tie in the grounding factor.  I was inspired by the rugged shapes of the large stones at neolithic stone circles, such as Avebury, Castlerigg and (of course) Stone Henge, so decided to include these in my design.

Working sketches

Once I'd decided on using a traditional book form, the majority of my sketch work had been done in Solidworks, as it allowed me to quickly visualise what my design would look like.

Solidworks Sketch for Left Acoustic Panel

As my design began to take shape, I realised that I had not given the product a proper name.  I felt that the nickname Baffled was more about my feelings towards the project in its early stages, but what I was now designing was far more about wellbeing, and combating anxiety and so the product became known as The Big Book of Calm*

* Some of you may also pick up on the Black Books reference, where a very stressed businessman (Manny) accidentally swallows the Little Book of Calm and turns into a chilled hippy!

One of the specific points in our open-ended design brief was that the product had to have some sort of technology in it.  Though the acoustic felt was technologically advanced, it wasn't in itself, technological.  It had been suggested that I might like to put a set of speakers into the product to produce white noise - a tone that "cancels out" other noises (like you get in noise cancelling headphones).  Though there is nothing wrong with that idea, I didn't like the idea of an acoustic baffle actually putting out more noise into the environment. 

What I eventually decided on was a colour changing screen, down the centre of the spine of the book, that lead a breathing exercise.  It was inspired by an app I have on my phone which helps you slow down your breathing, calming your heart-rate in anxious moments, by playing an audio prompt accompanied by a clock visual.  The medically recommended breathing rate to reduce anxiety is to breathe in for two seconds, and out for four seconds.  Using this 2-4 breathing pattern, the screen in my book would change colour from blue to yellow - emulating blue sky and the sun behind clouds.

 The Big Book of Calm