Projects Social Narratives

A detached Population

Social media has connection users with the wider world and enabled the population to explore new cultures and follow people of interest.

However, these platforms have become our second nature, evident in the way we commute to university or our places of work. Looking at our mobile devices, messaging or scrolling our Instagram feeds.

This has negatively impacted our ability to form new contacts in the physical world, limiting us to our digital identities and detaching us from the physical world.

Anxiety, depression and lowered self-esteem has increased by 70% of the past 15 years, which is in line with the increasing number of social media platforms emerging from the world wide web.

IunGo, our mobile application uses environmental ques to engage users with their surroundings in order to reach their destination. We feel this is more beneficial for the user due to studies of which have highlighted how the use of linear directions dis-engages part of the brain used for problem solving, whereas manually planning routes stimulate memory and enable the user to gain much more knowledge of their immediate environments.

Our application uses techniques from Eco-Therapy which helps to combat patients suffering from depressive tendencies become mentally fit once more. By immersing users in their surroundings, we hope to reduce the increasingly level of depression and anxiety within our society.

Please follow this link to watch our short promotional video:

Social Narratives Project – Findlay Macdonald, Amos Wheeldon 


Activities Projects

Week One with Super Power Agency and Civic Soup

For a full and intensive week, Product Design and Design Informatics students will be working together with Super Power Agency and Civic Soup to design interventions for the Super Power Bus.

The Super Power Agency is a new and exciting charity founded by The Invisible Woman and some like-minded superheroes to help some of Edinburgh’s most deprived children close the all-important attainment gap in education. The Super Power bus functions as a fun mobile classroom for these children, where learning is part of a playful experience, an exciting opportunity for design.

Project Launch: Monday, 15th Jan, 12.30pm in the West Court Theatre, Main Building ECA. Participation in the project is core for 1st, 2nd and 3rd year Product Design students, optional for 4th years.

Final Presentation: Friday, 19th Jan, 12pm Product Design Studio R16 at ECA Hunter Building.


Schedule for this project

15th Jan 16th Jan 17th Jan 18th Jan 19th Jan
12.30pm Kick off 10am Visit to Leith Academy and Super Power bus 10am Feedback Civic Soup 10am Feedback Dave Murray-Rust 12pm Final Presentations Product Design Studios: R5, R7 and R16
1pm Feedback Super Power Agency in the Studios 1pm Feedback Isla Munro 1pm Feedback Sam

Projects Transactions

Paper Planes

Alexandra Ross and Guillaume Gauvrit

The creation of a tool kit aiming to encourage users to act deviantly; challenging this self-centred notion of constantly being watched.


Instagram: plane_deviants

Transient in nature, and purpose-driven, airports can feel like socially empty spaces. Spaces where people get from A to B, all the while adhering to a set behavioural code. They stand out amongst other communal environments, with governments, businesses, and passengers occupying this space; together dictating and enforcing what is deemed socially acceptable.


Paper planes provides the tools to challenge pre-conceived notions of acceptable behaviour, doing so through a series of playful challenges and activities. Through these tasks, users are encouraged to discover the airport, its social norms, and all those who actively shape it.

The set of products gives way to a community of users, using social media platforms as a common ground for experiencing and sharing deviant acts, together unveiling the true nature of the space. Influenced by our own observations and interventions, Paper Planes focuses on our relationship with spaces, our personal biases and fears, and questions purpose.


Having carried out the interventions ourselves, the predominantly observed feeling was of anticipation, hesitation and fear. Wanting others to question and explore similar intra-personal experiences, Paper Planes was designed to create opportunities for otherwise abnormal activities.

Initially just the one product, the design from its inception was aiming for a bare aesthetic; wanting to maintain some sense of mystery and discovery, whilst being minimalist in nature. It was decided that the product would be part of the packaging itself, allowing for it to be a very temporary thing or kept, as it is sturdy enough. Having tested various packaging shapes and nets, we settled on the box.  The tube and smaller flip box followed. The in-laid content was screen-printed to allow the use of white paint. This made the pictograms stand out from the parcel paper, while providing a splash of colour complimenting our bare aesthetic.

All products were marked using a branding iron. A permanent means of branding, it effectively conveyed an authoritative quality. Stickers were made, to both be used for tasks, and for promotional purposes.




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 Transactions


Matt Copeland & Julia Jones Hellstrom.

‘Infringe’ challenges the boundary between public and private spaces.

video of the design process.

As society relies more on technology and digital surveillance creates more transparency, we are left questioning the need for defined physical boundaries and fences. Boundaries and their restrictiveness are instinctive to humans, holding great historical and symbolic value. We are led in specific directions and halted at certain points. We obey rules and alter our behaviour based on these confines, conforming to an ideal we have always understood.

‘Infringe’ challenges this notion. The range allows an unconventional means of marking a division between spaces by redefining the form of a conventional fence. Climbing a fence has always been recognised as an act of defiance. ‘Infringe’ supports and builds on this idea by allowing users to pass through and question the meaning of the boundary, realising their own level of deviance, based on the route they choose to pursue.


Initially the project involved research into existing fences and their connotations. Notable features were the vertical bars and speared railheads, implying an aggressiveness and a means of intimidation.

 Early iterations explored ways of breaching existing fences in the form of an accessory. Questioning where the responsibility lies in breaching a fence, latter designs focused on a more permanent and anonymous breach that maintained the fences appearance and symbolic value. Different designs models, made first in illustrator then laser cut, responded on different levels to the theme of deviance. Ultimately, they were narrowed down to five designs of varying difficulties to breach, creating a range of visually pleasing but conversational sections that in full scale can be connected in any order and maintain the underlying elements associated with a fence.

Chains to Constellations Projects

Design in the Age of Xanax

As much as there is a difference between a benign growth, and a vicious cancer – there is a difference between a simple grief, and a deep depression. People think of depression as being just sadness. It’s much, too much sadness and much, too much grief at far too slight a cause. Alprazolam, a sedative more commonly referred to as Xanax, is the most commonly prescribed drug in the developed world. It is addictive, unreliable and outrageously over-prescribed. A 2010 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that anti-depressants relieved symptoms in fewer than 25 percent of all patients, (seeing relapse in more than 70).

The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, except that anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication is preventative or symptom-suppressive, rather than curative – they aim to rebalance hormones within the brain, rather than specifically “heal” a portion of the body. Mental health treatments also have a greater effectiveness over more severe cases, for reasons relevant within psychiatry. The introduction of Xanax to the US market in 1981 was without fanfare, party-hats and shame. It was a lower-cost alternative to Valium, the then-most popular anxiety drug, holding the title for the past ten years.

It’s distributor, Upjohn (now Pfizer), had chosen to test the drug as a treatment for panic attacks alongside anxiety. Xanax became the first commercial drug to offer treatment for panic attacks, during a period when panic attacks changed in the public eye from an affliction once thought to be rare, to something nervous mothers joked about.
During the 1990s, Prozac did for depression what Valium had done for anxiety: de-stigmatising a mood disorder into a treatable illness that might be dealt with using a single pill. It is alien to think that in 1993, “Listening To Prozac”, a book riding the wave in popularising a fallacy that Prozac could “cure” depressed individuals, spent four months on the New York Times best-sellers list. Fictional novel “Prozac Nation” also succeeded in fetishising the stereotype of a young, damaged individual reliant on prescription anti-depressants as an achievable and healthy aesthetic.

Three decades later, and America is still a Xanax nation – it remains the most popular psychiatric drug, topping more recent contenders like the sleeping pill Ambien, and the anti-depressant Lexapro. Conversation around over-prescription, particularly for ADHD, has been recently popularised; but lacks solid alternatives to disparage the majority from turning to medication before thinking.

Most psyciatrists, including those at the NHS, have a ten-point list for dealing with acute feelings of anxiety or stress. At the most basic and initial level, the two are considered interchangable with feelings of guilt, worry, and symptoms of cyclic depression. In constructing a constellation for those within a social system of diagnosing and addressing mental health, we can better understand the powers and choices that play to effect positive change in the lives of individuals.

What the sets of interviews show are that within social spheres, there can be a great abundance of support in the form of friends and family – but that often, those affected don’t speak out in fear of being misjudged, or to have the situation escalated beyond their physical control. Those seeing problems develop in friends, on the other hand, are often afraid to speak out in-case they upset their friend or are concerned that they’re not equipped to deal with mental health.

Under a stressed health-service, individual users are encouraged to take their healthcare into further extremes of responsibility – and with resources now only used on the most urgent of cases, departments addressing non-physical injuries have felt the largest shortfall. Mental health wards had already had one of the lowest resource funds, behind only learning difficulty departments; even if anxiety and depression are considered the second leading cause of disability worldwide.

It is as Grahame Cumming, strategic Lead for Innovation at NHS Lothian, describes; “our patients have to get far higher up the Triangle of Care before we can justify intervention”. And in removing immediate healthcare for non-emergency situations, basic and preventable illnesses will often snowball into more dangerous and more costly problems for future healthcare professionals. And so in designing a solution to empower those feeling under anxiety, growing stress, and depression, we can in turn reduce stress on key areas of the NHS whilst also raising awareness and legitimising the importance of telling others if they feel they may have a mood disorder.

If we embed technology into an object that can help us regulate our breathing, we can effectively help those that suffer from panic attacks, and calm those suffering from anxiety or stress. I’ve found often that holding onto an object; a chair, an arm, the walls as they meet the floor, is often enough to give stability in the moments when I find myself losing lucidity. It can be reassuring, however, to know that an object can actively help through haptic feedback; and more importantly for the health practise, recommend whether an individual is needing specialist help.

Grasp is a tool for facing adversity, gaining acceptance, and starting recovery. It provides a platform from which you can take power over your anxiety and control your breathing in times of need.

Mental health issues are the single largest cause of burden worldwide. Almost half of all adults within the UK will have a diagnosable mental health illness, and of those undiagnosed, survey has found that almost 40% will turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol.

The prescription of Xanax, Prozac, and other hormone balancers has been shown to be unreliable with lower-risk patients; and under our current culture of health that emphasises efficiency and diagnosis, almost half of all mental health disorders are left untreated and unnoticed; often leading to a dangerous build-up of higher-risk cases several years into the illness.

Utilising Grasp, you are invited to reach out and have help in guiding yourself back to a place of present mind during difficult times. We might not always have people to reach out to, or feel it necessary to do so; and Grasp offers an object in which you can release anxieties without letting stress compound.

Grasp is designed to monitor heart-rate and breathing and through visual and haptic feedback, guide your senses back to a comfortable space. Sensors will also flag up any potential medical concerns that can be seen by a doctor; such as an irregular pulse and breathing, often caused by stress, or high heart-rates.

Projects Social Narratives

La Moment

Video Link:


Author:Yifu Liu

New Making Projects


Billy Dixon, Joseph Revans and Joanna Spreadbury

The Soundbox is an accessible mp3 player made in collaboration with the Golden Group at Cherry Road Resource Centre. Our clients were a group of older service users at the centre, who live with early onset dementia in addition to multiple physical and cognitive disabilities. From our time spent getting to know the Golden Group, we discovered the importance of music to their lives. However, all of the devices used to select music for the group utilised touch screens, which were inaccessible to them.

In response to this need, and after extensive development, we produced an accessible interface for media selection, to bring greater agency to the service users. The device uses a deck of RFID “Soundcards”, which when tapped on the Soundbox trigger a specific song or sound to play from an integrated mp3 player.

Although this was a 4 week project, as a group we are planning to continue working on this project, to bring further functionality and malleability to the final artefact.

Thanks to Cherry Road Resource Centre, Artlink, Fixperts and Dave Murray-Rust.


Student Work in April 2017

The Student-run Instagram account for Product Design at ECA is always brimming with student work as-it-happens! Follow along here:


New Making Post #2


I tested what I perceived as every manner in which a bottle could be strapped to me. As well as listing all of the ways I could attach things to myself, this showed me what type of attachment was comfortable as well as the sections of the body that caused the bottle to shift more when I moved.

I used duct tape to build four separate methods of water storage, quickly testing my three main ideas for the progression of the project and selecting one to continue with. After this test it became obvious to create a pocket for a bottle to sit in.

Electronic Things Projects

The Work And The Light That Shines Upon It

When studying the Polaroids of Andy Warhol, and examining photographs of his studio space – it is easy to understand how the two arenas went hand-in-hand. The aesthetic style of each Polaroid and the interior architecture of “The Factory” (as it was called) were created and evolve together, in symbiosis – during the early 1960s at the opening of The Factory, his artwork was harshly lit and overblown – taken with consumer Polaroids under cold studio lighting in the otherwise dark warehouse space. By 1986, he had relocated into a conventional office building with a brownstone façade – a much brighter, window-lit space that reflected in his works more tonal variety, subtlety and softness of light.

It is this relationship between light, environment, medium, and the artist that is important to me – and poses design questions not often considered within the remit of traditional industrial light and furniture design. The light which we create work under can influence a great deal of our impressions of it – as designers, the materials we handle can appear drastically different under the right and wrong kinds of light.

Created as an exploration into colour, light, space and the work that we create, Shift is a lamp made intelligent through the use of micro-processing and colour sensing.

Shift is designed to both receive input manually and sense the surrounding environment for information that can be used to change the ways we experience colour, light and space. Interaction with the large track-pad base is a way for users to dictate directly what hues should be displayed – but brightness and colour can also be controlled by automated reading of the surrounding environment, through an embedded RGB sensor.


The lamp is designed to be sleek, almost anthropomorphised in form – with elongated armatures and a geometric head; the circular fillet motifs drawing parallel with the design of a magnifying glass. All hinged joints are suspended with tension grips, in an effort to minimise visual clutter and promote clean interactions.

Light is fascinating to design for – as the environment created through product form is often more important than the object itself – the interactions designed into Shift emboldened through minimalist form.


In choosing a lamp to explore the possibilities of design interaction and relationship with form when electronics are introduced, I am attempting to create an object that has familiar overtones, but pushes the boundaries of what interactions can be achieved in ways thought of as intelligent, or not achievable with mechanical technologies.

Electronic Things Projects

Divine Interactions


Final artefact for PD3 Electronic Things

I made a divination rod enhanced by GPS this semester, here’s a video of it in use.

You message the stick coordinates via SMS and it quivers when pointed in the correct direction.

Over the summer a colleague told me about a nice pub in Duddingston he had visited with his boyfriend, so I looked up the coordinates to see if I could find it.