In my Critical Making module, my class was challenged by Tigerprint to critique the meaning of celebration, and to design a product in response to our analysis. We had to design with the future of celebration in mind, and craft something that would fit perfectly into a scenario in 10 years time.
The significance of the Christmas Tree recurred throughout my initial research of Christmas and the celebration around it. The symbolism of the tree as a focal point for festive celebration seemed like the ideal foundation to build a project upon, with themes of family, vitality and goodwill surrounding only with the tree but the meaning of Christmas itself. By participating in workshops involving emerging technologies such as BARE Conductive Paint and 3D printing, I saw an opportunity with these processes to develop a new perspective on Christmas and how it would be celebrated in the near future.
My research led me to reimagine the Christmas bauble. Adding an elegant touch to the Christmas tree, I felt that the Christmas bauble was part of a family tradition, with the act of putting the tree up and decorating it with your favourite baubles an event that signalled the start of the long awaited day. Yet with my product I wanted to extend those feelings of anticipation and interaction with the Christmas tree – so that it stood in the living room as a constant reminder of the upcoming event. To develop bold, crazy ideas quickly, I used a technique called rapid ethnography to pen down all of the possible solutions that I could think of which drew upon my current understanding of my topic. Inspired by art installations and children’s games, one of these ideas became the definition of my project – a set of interactive Christmas baubles.
I developed the form of the bauble from a simple cylindrical design to a string mesh, a popular style that recurred throughout my research. However, the frame was fragile, so I instead 3D printed it in order for the design to be more structurally stable, with a simplified mesh in comparison to the string. My main issue in the latter half of the design process however, was what the interactive element of my baubles would be. Drawing again on Christmas traditions, I likened the themes of family and unity that the tree represented to festive music and Christmas carols. The music of Christmas brings together families across the world, and for many will be remembered throughout their life. Therefore, to add to the feelings of excitement and anticipation that I wanted to develop for the user, I altered the popular carol, “The 12 Days of Christmas”, so that each verse applied to each individual bauble in the set. The physical form of each bauble would then comply to the verse it played (a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves), allowing the user to touch each bauble to play out the song, almost as if their tree was a musical instrument.
With this interaction of the tree, I aimed to engage a family at Christmas time as they gather around in excitement, playing out the music together. To achieve my final concept, I used a BARE Conductive Paint board with built in MIDI sensors, to allow not only the ease of programming the music played the baubles, but also the integration of the electric paint that coated my 3D printed designs. For the presentation to Tigerprint, I presented using one bauble, however I created 11 illustrations to depict the other baubles. I developed the brand as well, using the colours and shapes from the form of the bauble
Creating a product using emerging new technologies for a future setting provided me with new skills and insights into the devices that people will want to use in the future. On reflection, I would’ve refined the form of the bauble itself, to make it more appealing for families to have upon their tree. However, creating a system using exciting technology such as the conductive paint, and the opportunity to present to a company of the stature of Tigerprint was one that I relished.