Rekindle and Reconnect

This blog post is a brief introduction of my final year design. It aims to explain what I did and why it works. I have attached my workbook below, where you can find the process and motivation behind the project.

~2 signifies ‘about two’ or ‘about to’. The project promotes the concept of a co-dependent relationship through using light as a material that connects people intuitively. It is a poetic interaction whereby air blown by two people is transferred to a ‘living-space’ lighting-source. A series of glass artefacts captures the gesture of blowing, and the project represents a dialogue between art, design and craft.

User testing : Couples are activating ~2 in their home.
Photo: ~2 fits in the home environment.
Photo: ~2 at ECA Degree show
Photo: ~2 desktop version.

This work is the result of an integrated learning-experience combining the theoretical- and practical-knowledge I have gained from the past 4 years. I position myself as a context-driven designer, in that I am concerned with contextual narratives and critical value beyond functions. My process starts with a critical insight or a narrative, which then drives the concept throughout the project. As a critical designer, I have always believed in the middle-ground between marketing solutions and critical aspirations, which is normally regarded as an impossible fusion. Thus, in my final year design project, fundamentally, I am trying to blur the boundaries between the critical design and commercial design.

Through my research, I found that most technologies are changing our lifestyles by empowering individual needs, and the possibilities of using technologies to connect with our physical and social environment are at lost. So ~2 aims to offer a chance for people to connect and appreciate their social(physical) environment.

Through testing ~2 in home and exhibition space, people are reconnected and provoked. Some of them start to imagine the other possibilities of embodied social interaction, for example, heating systems. The others appreciate the engaging interaction. Few of them asked the cost and looking forward to see ~2 in production. However, due to the lack of knowledge in professional producing, the form, the material and the electronics of ~2 are limited to be one-off pieces. There are people who refuses to use ~2, because they are with strangers. As a result, ~2 becomes a tool to deliver social thought experiments, to revaluate our relationship with others.

New Making

Turtle in Edinburgh

In order to raise awareness of the permanent damages of filling waste into the ocean, the project sought to create a series of speculative artefacts(speculative design is a theory proposed by Dunne and Raby, who used design to stress contemporary issues around the world.) The pieces for this project contain wastes from different locations and shares an abstract form of a deformed turtle whose body and shell changed their shapes due to stuck by a plastic ring for 6-pack cans in the ocean.  The project was designed to bring viewers the emotional shock through linking waste created and the unfortunate story of the turtle. From the secondary research, comparing to the works from studio swine, who designed a sculpture in a normal turtle shell shape used the plastic waste collected from the ocean , differently, I designed the shells in a abstract form to leave them open to the viewers who may remember the story of the turtle when they met some similar shapes. Because my project aims to push the image of the turtle into the viewers’ life, and I found the abstraction of the shell looks like a lot of things people appreciate in their daily life, for example, timepieces. Meanwhile, inspired by Ice sculpture from Andrew McGibbon, whose work used ice to join things in a form, similarly, through mixing the non-recyclable materials collected locally, each piece(the turtle-shell artefacts) from the series is indicating waste from a specific location in Edinburgh, because my project aims to build direct links between waste from a specific place to the end story of the turtles. The purpose is to encourage people in different areas generating less waste locally and individually. 

In this project, the sources of materials and applications of materials lead the design process. There are 3 final models indicating ECA studios, student residences, and Edinburgh Remakery, they were made out of recycled plastics and resin, through the application of 3d printing, vacuum forming and casting. The collection of waste mainly conducted through donation and found waste. Signs are posted to collect unwanted waste from residences and ECA studios. Meanwhile, I habituated to seek for interesting waste that could represent different places and people. The collection lasts 2 weeks, and the material is collected such as brims from 3d printing, blue form waste, MDF waste, plastic bags and many plastic bottles. Other than that, under the collaboration with Edinburgh Remarkery, unwanted electrical parts from broken computers and other devices are collected. 

The idea of using recycled plastics leads to explore many materials or processes generally including fusing or joining recycled plastics together. For instance, the products from Ecobirdy are made through grounding and fusing recycled plastics, which was aiming to create a new product with new characters. However, to illustrate the context clearly, joining collected waste is a better method in this project because melting and fusing plastics as processes complex the shapes of the waste, potentially mislead the message behind it. With the help of a casting specialist—Jessamy Kelly, who suggested using resin to be the medium. Surprisingly, the test outcome has the effect of floating waste over the water due to the special transparent quality of resin and different densities of the contents within the mold. In order to reproduce the abstract image of the turtle shell, the final shape is realised through CAD and 3d printing techniques. Then using vacuum form to produce reusable molds for resin. Finally, mixing resin with the selection of collected waste and hand-finished models after they came out molds. 

Activities Exhibitions

Product design Exhibition: Made in R.16

Made in R.16: collected works from ECA 3rd year Product Design students.

Named after our place of work, it represents the importance of the studio working environment, and the craft practices that take place within it.

The projects on exhibit explore and articulate new views and possibilities, tackling some of the urgent issues our world is currently facing. One of the main topics is sustainability, and under the collaboration with the Edinburgh Remakery, this concept is explored through 8 works from different designers.

A collection of other selected projects from the year will be shown as well.

Everyone is welcome to join us for the opening night, starting at 18:00pm on May 1st, 2018. There will be food and drinks available as well.

Opening night: 18:00pm, 1st May
Exhibition opening time: 10:00am — 17:00pm, 1st-3rd May

Chains to Constellations

Grow, constellation


by Yifu Liu


Inspired by the Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec drawing style, the constellation of my design life looks like an organic creature. And I believe it is a perfect choice to express how I feel about my own design Life, which nothing is certain and things are in organic orders, almost grown together. I drew very freely with the markers to express the feelings and connections behind these relationships. The type of players are so random and true, for example, my classmates, who are always the first one to be critical on my new ideas. Passion, which is more abstract and deeply rooted in my design life. unfortunately, social media is something that affects your decision every single day…
#After discussing with tutors, the constellation was too complex in terms of characters and it was constructed self-centered. In the second model, I tried to emphasise the relationship between human and abstract meanings in different colours to build up layers. It is also helpful to show the value co-creation. However, I felt it lose a sense of natural and fluence of relationships. On the right, I filtered all the players and made a very simple and direct drawing about all the human relationships happening inside my design life.


New Making

Time Prison

Time as a prison

by Yifu Liu


Taking this design as the final part of the project, I wanted to use all I have learned from last 3 weeks. It is really inspired by the “Collide”, using the support as a metaphor to express time or space travel.

From the massive sketches, I have been through a deep thinking about the relationship between time and different cultures. In general, I want to express the conflict between the vulnerability of time and the eternity of time. Time is so fragile that goes really quick and you can never stay in the moment forever. On the other hand, time is like a prison where everyone is born inside the frame of time and nobody can escape. Once I made my point clear to myself, I started to think how to use support or other material to express these 2 qualities of time. Is it wire? Is it transparent Acrylic? In the end, I decided to use a floating watch and a special support structure to produce a metaphor of prison.

In Cura, I tried all the support structure and decided to use Lines, which could be a fairly risky decision. Not all the surface is getting the proper support. As a result, there are a lot of glitches happened while printing, like cirrus dropping down both inside and outside, which I think it’s beautiful. However, I have to clean the inside, because there is no relationship between these glitches with the context. Surprisingly, the holding element was gone during the printing, so I have to print a separate piece and use super glue to glue it.

Finally, I spray painted it in Chrome, because it was the ideal colour that I can find in the ECA shop. The colour makes the piece look like a piece of metal, which represents the long-lasting and strong. In contrast, the shape looked thin and breakable. The contrast matches the conflict that I mentioned.It could become a working design if I put more effort in it later on, and I would like it to finish a single rotation in years, because the technology can help us track the time precisely, no point making another functional watch. I think people feel something when they notice the clock actually travelled some distance after years.




Projects Transactions

Fokus Visualising deviant behaviours


The course, Transaction, is aiming to explore the role of artefacts within social settings, focusing on borders and examples of deviant behaviours. The context of this project is based on the Scottish National Gallery.

“We all have an ideal model in our heads of how to perform in public, what if the outline of this model is blurred, will people look at the world differently? And how will people criticise  this boundaryless world?”     – Yifu Liu

At the beginning, the design was focusing on revealing unseen deviant behaviours. By creating an umbrella-shaped space, people could comfortably speak about the deviant behaviours that they saw and all the sentences that they said would go on a similarly shaped screen in the same public space.

After testing it, we found that the first design was not inviting people to talk. The idea of observing spaces through a hole then came into our minds, this would allow people to focus on what they otherwise ignore. Based on the functions of observing and speaking, we created a cone-shaped object with a hole in the end, through which people could look and speak about the deviant behaviours they saw. Around the hole inside the cone the sentence says “ anything questionable that you can see from here?”, which instructs people to understand the function of the object.

The final design consists of the cone shape product and the separate screen. The cone stands on a post and to use it the user has to go into Fokus and look through the hole on the opposite end.

After researching different materials, such as a wood, cardboard, metal and plastic, we talked to technicians and chose plastic for a cover and wood as support.

The final design’s purpose is to be minimalistic, but on the other hand a little bit luxurious, keeping in mind the atmosphere of the National Gallery of Art. White colour was chosen because it is inviting and neutral.


Projects Social Narratives

La Moment

Video Link:


Author:Yifu Liu