Is made by Veerle van Wijlen | MSc Student Industrial Design (FMP) | Research, Design and Development (RDD) track | TU/e
In my work, I aim to empower and socially integrate people who are affected by mental health issues and as a result restricted to participate in everyday life—I want to enable people to be their "best self" in society.
Therefore, in this portfolio I would like to take you on a journey towards "my best self" as a professional design researcher. A journey without ending, because there is always something new to learn.
The portfolio functions as a representation of my vision, professional identity, and as reflective document around my development and growth within design research competencies & expertise areas over the past five years of Industrial Design education. How is my vision created through past projects and courses? What defines me as professional designer? What are my strengths and weaknesses? And what did I learn from all past design (research) activities, extracurricular activities, my final master project, multi-disciplinary work, multi-stakeholder involvement and (client) collaborations? And how did that affect me as design researcher? This portfolio aims to answer those questions, showing how all deliverables, feedback and reflections contributed to the design researcher I am today: a multi-disciplinary and UX / interaction - oriented design researcher supporting mental health.
Make sure to check out my vision & main design research interests; professional identity, expertise, competencies & collaborations; highlights of past projects, courses & extracurricular activities (PAST); my final master project (PRESENT); and future plans.
Nowadays, western society is performance-oriented and characterized by individualism. People feel pressure to perform well, socially integrate and fit the high societal standards in a variety of daily contexts and situations. This inner and societal pressure can make people feel uncomfortable and vulnerable in daily life settings, especially those with special needs and (mental) health problems. According to Alper et al., “Individual freedoms at the core of modern democratic systems have brought unprecedented quality of life to their citizens.” (Alper et al., 2012, p.363). These include amongst others freedom of expression, freedom of worship and freedom of fear. However, for people with special needs and (mental) health problems these freedoms are even more challenging to acquire in daily life (Alper et al, 2012). Therefore, in my work, I aim to empower and socially integrate people who are affected by mental health issues and as a result restricted to participate in everyday life—I want to enable people to be their "best self" in society.
In parallel to this it can be seen that digital technologies are developing fast, human beings evolve and adapt to these new technological opportunities. Those technologies are often used to socially integrate, fulfill needs of self-esteem and support these freedoms that bring quality of life (Maslow) (Wikipedia-bijdragers, 2021). However, are these digital solutions the optimal way to support people with special needs? within (mental) healthcare? to enhance their empowerment, social integration, and enable them to reach their “freedoms”, and so enhance their quality of life? Through courses such as ‘tactile experience’ and ‘tangible & embodied interaction’ in my first year as Industrial Design student, I discovered the potential of tangible interactions to fit with the human needs of expression and integration. Especially by making a tangible 3D map for visually impaired people to orientate in public places, showed the immense added value tangibles can have, supporting the ever growing digital world, especially for “special need groups”.
That is why I want to create a daily life experience for special needs groups that enhances their feeling of empowerment and fulfills their needs of social belonging which allows them to add value to others in society on a daily basis. This through design research, making use of tangible interactive design probes that fit the complex needs existent in (mental) health contexts, and to bridge the gap in understanding between various stakeholders in (mental) healthcare systems.
Examples of projects that addressed and contributed to this vision include: RELAX-CHANGE (M1.2 / M2.1 / FMP); Talki Talkie (M1.1); Final Bachelor Project; my internship at Studio Tast (B3.1); B2.2 Design Research; B2.1 Design; and projects done for the courses ‘Tactile Experience’ in B1.2 and ‘Tangible & Embodied Interaction’ in B1.4.
1. Alper, M., Hourcade, J. P., & Gilutz, S. (2012, June). Interactive technologies for children with special needs. In Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 363-366).
2. Wikipedia-bijdragers. (2021, 19 juni). Piramide van Maslow. Wikipedia.
I am a multi-disciplinary design researcher focused on supporting (mental) healthcare contexts especially through use of tangible interactive design probes, empathy, various (participatory) UX research methods and mixed data collection & analysis. This to create optimized support for various special needs target groups in their daily lives, and to bridge the gap in understanding between various stakeholders in the complex (mental) healthcare systems. People in special needs groups are often restricted in daily life functioning, making them unable to be their ‘best self in society’, to feel empowered and socially integrated (Alper et al., 2012). Through my personal experiences within the healthcare systems, I have a big urge and drive to enable those groups to inspire and add value to others around in society, which is only possible if they are supported in being ‘their best self in society’. Which I want to contribute to as a design researcher!
When designing for these vulnerable groups such as people with anxiety disorders, dementia, older adults in nursing homes, visually impaired, or even children growing up to be their unique selves, I believe it is of utmost importance to empathize with these target groups, beyond understanding. I see empathy as a “superpower” within design research for (mental) healthcare. This cannot be done through desk research alone, not through a design evaluation alone, not through a co-design session alone, and not through the lense of a design researcher / the target group / an expert alone. It is a mix and match of different design research perspectives, approaches, methods and tools. I find it key to empathize through a combination of various inspirational and evaluative UX-centered design research approaches, from literature research, first person perspective design research, participatory design research to personalized design research processes. In which I use various methodologies ranging from user/expert/stakeholder interviews, contextual inquiries, user observations (in relation to design brought in context), user tests (product and interaction-level), co-evaluation sessions, focus groups, in situ diary studies or even material probe studies. And through discussion and reflection with various stakeholders in the field of mental health, to optimize mental health support from a multi-stakeholder perspective which is needed in a wicked problem atmosphere. And through collaboration with stakeholders from multiple disciplines such as: clinical psychology, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, education & didactics and more.
Furthermore, interactive tangible probes play an important role in my design research. I like to ask myself the question, whether digital solutions are the optimal way to support people in special need and within (mental) healthcare. Are digital solutions the pathway to enhance these target groups’ empowerment, social integration and do these allow them to reach their “freedoms” and optimal quality of life? Together with my passion for music creation, multi-sensory stimulation design and playful interaction design I believe that tangibility is the gateway to access the empowering and socially integrating and participating benefits of music and playful interaction for these vulnerable groups. Next to that, within user / stakeholder studies, tangible probes are unique in their ability to enable tangible thinking — thinking through bodily actions and physical representations, which allows us to gather deeper insights about complex problems beyond what’s expected (Shaer & Hornecker, 2010).
Next to that, within UX design research I love to do mixed methods data collection and analysis, with most experience in qualitative data analysis. The combination of qualitative and quantitative user insights allows me to create! It is my creative design material. An example is my design of a 3D printed map for public areas for visually impaired (as part of Tactile Experience course). Here, I translated the insights from a user-experience material study with a visually impaired woman, into a “simple” map that contained rubber parts to represent obstacles and smooth hard plastic parts to represent passageways. Complex contexts need deep dive data collection and analysis to provide “simple” solutions. Being a fish on the bottom of a sea full of data, allows me to see clear interrelationships and carve out novel designs.
1. Alper, M., Hourcade, J. P., & Gilutz, S. (2012, June). Interactive technologies for children with special needs. In Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 363-366).
2. Shaer, O., & Hornecker, E. (2010). Tangible user interfaces: past, present, and future directions. Now Publishers Inc.
Multi-Disciplinary Design Research Supporting Mental Health. Through tangible interactive design probes, empathy, UX research methods and mixed data collection & analysis
Final Master Portfolio
Collaborations & Expertise
Strengths & Weaknesses
Do you actually need to know this?
Most recent work
M2.1 Design Research Abroad, discovering the value of RELAX-CHANGE at the psychotherapy research department in Giessen (Germany). User & Society / Technology & Realization / Creativity & Aesthetics / Math, Data & Computing / Business & Entrepreneurship / Multi-disciplinary & multi-stakeholder collaboration
M1.2 Design Research. The creation of the design probe RELAX-CHANGE and exploration of its potential to support relaxation for people with elevated anxiety. Design Research Processes / Creativity & Aesthetics / User & Society / Technology & Realization / Math,Data & Computing / Multi-disciplinary collaboration / Dealing with Scientific Information
M1.1 Design Project. The design of a product-service system that empowers elderly to communicate their (healthy) eating opinions through voice agents. Business & Entrepreneurship / User & Society / Technology & Realization / Math, Data & Computing / Presenting / Multi-stakeholder Collaboration
Course Project: Design for Behavioral Change. A design research project about how to influence behavior around wearing face masks in public spaces (in the pandemic period). User & Society / Design Research Processes / Math, Data & Computing / Reporting and Dealing with Scientific Information
Course Project: Researching the Future Everyday. About the influences of infinite thing-centered learning on everyday practices, in relation to co-performance (imagining the future everyday). Design Research Processes / Creativity & Aesthetics / User & Society / Reflecting
Track Course Project: User Experience Theory and Practice. Exploration of a designer's quality to emphatize, as a superpower within innovation for healthcare contexts. User & Society / Design Research Processes / Business & Entrepreneurship / Creativity & Aesthetics / Reflecting
Course Project: The Sound of Smart Things. The sound design for the Lucid Bar of 2030, in which the data processes amongst the bar's smart objects is made visible and experiential. Creativity & Aesthetics / Design Research Processes / Math, Data & Computing / User & Society / Presenting
Final Bachelor Project: Design Research exploring personalized designs for older adults. User & Society / Design Research Processes / Creativity & Aesthetics / Math, Data & Computing / Organizing & Planning / Reflecting / Cooperation
B3 Internship at National Company: at educational design studio, Studio Tast. Creativity & Aesthetics / User & Society / Business & Entrepreneurship / Math, Data & Computing / Reflecting / Planning & Organization / Multi-disciplinary cooperation
B2 Design Research around guiding cooking tools that motivate seniors with dementia engage in a group activity. User & Society / Design Research Processes / Math, Data & Computing / Creativity & Aesthetics / Business & Entrepreneurship / Presenting / Reporting and Dealing with Scientific Information / (Client) Cooperating
B2 Design around a playful tool to encourage the bonding between parents and their visually impaired child. User & Society / Creativity & Aesthetics / Design Research Processes / Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration / Client cooperation
B1 Design around enhanced social dinner experiences for family members in restaurant contexts, through light experience design. Creativity & Aesthetics / Technology & Realization / User & Society / Cooperation / Presenting / Reflecting
Course Project: Intercultural Design. Re-design of Social Light from a Singaporean perspective. User & Society / Design Research Processes / Creativity & Aesthetics / Reflecting / Cooperation
Course Projects: Exploratory Sketching. Various sketching assignments. Creativity & Aesthetics / Presenting / Reflecting
Course Project: Tangible & Embodied Interaction. A tangible way to filter your Facebook feed, an application of Tangible Thinking theory. Creativity & Aesthetics / Technology & Realization / Cooperating
Course Project: Tactile Experience. Design for an orderly experience for visually impaired when navigating through public spaces. From a UX and material perspective. User & Society / Creativity & Aesthetics / Math, Data & Computing / Cooperating / Presenting / Reflecting
These activities include
commissioner of external affairs within Lucid's ID Career Committee; Dutch Design Week Visits; Talki Talkie on digital Dutch Design Week 2020; applying RELAX-CHANGE for Dutch Design Week 2021; digital skills teaching & awareness challenge in collaboration with Korein (ongoing collaboration); graphic design activities; and learning 3D modeling skills (Blender tutorials).
Final Master Project & Development
for mental healthcare
February 2021 - July 2021
Coach & Mentor
Assistant Professor dr. Max Birk
The relaxation effects & future design directions of a novel expressive, multi-sensory, playful and tangible design probe RELAX-CHANGE — a drum to decrease anxiety for people with elevated anxiety in daily life.
To everyone who suffers from anxiety on a daily basis. The onsetting thoughts, sudden high emotional rushes and muscles that are so tensed that it feels like you can barely take one extra step forward. It is so difficult to control, it controls you, it takes control of your every-day life. I feel you and I empathise. It is time, yes the time is now, to change our perspectives on anxiety reducement and relaxation support
within the field of mental health, it is time to RELAX-CHANGE.
In my work, I aim to empower and socially integrate people who are affected by mental health issues and as a result restricted to participate in everyday life—I want to enable people to be their "best self" in society.
However, people with elevated anxiety (18-35 years old) experience periods of everyday negative thinking that are difficult to control. This limits their daily functioning and ability of being “their best self in society”. Therefore this target group has a high need for effective pathways to cope with phases of negative thinking and to come to relaxation.
Current literature elicits the need to bridge the gap between effective relaxation notions from music therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, designed playful interaction relaxation interventions and accessible practical tools for relaxation in daily life contexts. As a multi-disciplinary design researcher in mental healthcare, I aimed at bridging this gap with the previously tangible interactive designed probe RELAX-CHANGE — a novel playful, expressive, multi-sensory drum to decrease anxiety. The probe supports building towards an expressive peak in drum play (tension), through multi-sensory feedback, flowing from there into relaxation (release). In this final master project, the efficacy of this drum to distract from negative thinking, flow into relaxation, and release anxiety responses is researched and future design directions are outlined. For which I used the interactive tangible RELAX-CHANGE prototype at the center of constructing knowledge around the use and experience of the design probe for relaxation support.
Alignment with vision
Alignment with professional identity
Furthermore, I explored the use of the Experience Sampling Method (ESM), using diaries, semi-structured interviews, and questionnaire data at multiple points in time with a small pool of participants (n=3). A UX method that was new to me, that I wanted to add to my UX research toolkit, and allowed me to gather mixed data in context about the relaxation effects and unsatisfied needs around the probe. Which I could use to not only visualize the relaxation / state anxiety effects, but also as creative design material to outline future design directions. Moreover, ESM allowed me to implement a first person perspective diary study in the first iteration, incorporating own experiences and gaining empathy beyond understanding with the target group around the probe.
Therefore, in this master thesis, the relaxation / state anxiety effects of the probe in daily home contexts is researched (in 2 iterations); and the probe’s future design directions are explored. To provide an overall contribution to enhancing accessible “daily” relaxation support for this target group and to making a start of evidence-based and accessible products that offer a novel pathway to relaxation for people with elevated trait anxiety to be used in daily life “mental health” contexts, where individuals first seek assistance.
Through the 1-week diary studies, with 3 participants, and mixed methods data collection around usage of the prototype, the relaxation and state anxiety effects are overall positive, with an average decrease in the participants’ state anxiety levels of 17.5. A decrease that can make the difference in daily functioning. Four unsatisfied needs around the probe’s relaxation support are presented leading to three suggested future design directions. Including: 1) optimizing expressive
bodily drum play; 2) optimizing light interaction; and 3) the exploration of playful drum guidance through multi-sensory interactions. The main focus point considered to inspire future designs of the novel drum for this target group includes: the drum mat concept, providing whole body interaction, combined with contextual and reflective guidance. To support increased flexibility in bodily expressive drum play, release of bodily anxiety tensions and to provide a fit with different types of expressive and contextual daily relaxation needs.
Methods, results & contribution
& Integration of expertise areas
User & Society
To be able to translate my vision — enabling people with mental health issues to be their 'best self in society' by enhancing their daily empowerment and social integration, my core aim as design researcher is to excell in the selection and use of various UX research methods. I have built out my UX research 'toolkit' in previous projects and courses, including data collection methods intertwined with mixed data analysis methods (Math, Data & Computing). I have gained lots of experience and knowledge around user-centered data collection, from participatory design research ('RELAX-CHANGE' ; 'Talki Talkie'; 'Kooko'; 'Miause'; 'Internship Studio Tast') to personalized design research processes ('Library of Wisdoms') to lab studies ('Constructive Design Research Course'). In which I used various inspirational and evaluative UX methodologies such as user/expert/stakeholder interviews, contextual inquiries, user observations (in context / with design probe in context), user tests (product and interaction-level), co-evaluation sessions, focus groups and even UX-related material studies ('Tactile Experience'). To allow myself as design researcher to empathize with people in special needs groups, navigate within the multi-stakeholder & multi-disciplinary healthcare systems and add value to these target groups. It is a mix and match of different design research perspectives, approaches, methods and tools that these wicked problems in current society requires, that I want to excell in. Furthermore, I have deepened my theoretical knowledge around user-experience design and interaction design, especially through the courses: 'User Experience Theory & Practice', 'Design for Behavioral Change' and Constructive Design Research' combined with bachelor courses as 'User-Centered Design' and 'Aesthetics of Interaction'.
Moreover, vulnerable target groups within healthcare require empathic, sensitive design research, that goes beyond understanding and sympathizing with your user. As part of 'User Experience Theory & Practice' I have therefore investigated the role of empathy as superpower in the field of healthcare, turned into a UX manifesto.
This final master project draws from constructive and data-enabled design practices. In which the design probe and research object RELAX-CHANGE is key to constructing knowledge around the effects of the probe’s underlying relaxation principle and the users’ user-experience (UX) around expressive drum play for relaxation, for people with elevated anxiety. That's why I aimed to learn about methodological ways of data collection, in which the design probe could be central to data collection around the users’ relaxation effects and users’ drum play experience for relaxation. This, within the natural context of people with elevated anxiety (target group), and studied over time, to also evaluate changes in effects and UX, to enhance the value of user insights. Therefore I aimed to become acquainted and skilled with the preparations and execution of diary studies and the experience sampling methodology (ESM). Furthermore, due to the nature of experience sampling data collection using a research prototype as a data gathering device and researching effects on relaxation / anxiety, I aimed to get acquainted in mixed methods data collection literature and improve my skills in gathering a combination of qualitative and quantitative user-data. Focusing on using new methods within quantitative data collection as questionnaire scoring and video observations and annotation.
Creativity & Aesthetics
For me creativity & aesthetics entails the translation of user insights and “mixed” data, from all kinds of user studies and approaches into thought-through, data-based and theory-based novel concepts. Concepts that fulfill multi-stakeholder needs, with the user in the forefront; generated from multi-disciplinary collaboration and idea generation; properly positioned within a gap in related work, requiring extensive literature research & benchmarking; and based on multi-disciplinary theories (e.g. from psychotherapy and music theory such as in RELAX-CHANGE or behavior change theories as in the course ‘Design for Behavioral Change’). In past projects and courses I have enriched my ‘toolkit’ to make this creative translation out of user insights through the use of personas (‘Re-design Goedwijzer’), user journeys (‘Talki Talkie’), thematic analysis of discussions or interview results (‘RELAX-CHANGE’), value mapping (‘User Experience Theory & Practice’), or empathy maps (‘User Experience Theory & Practice’ / ‘Kooko’) as inspiration for mind maps (‘Talki Talkie’), brainwriting (‘Design Innovation Methods’), sketching (‘Exploratory Sketching’), storyboards (‘Social Light’), roleplay (‘The Sound of Smart Things’), rapid prototyping (‘Tangible & Embodied Interaction’), interaction relabeling (‘Aesthetics of Interaction’) or material (‘Tactile Experience’) and interaction probes (‘Talki Talkie’ / RELAX-CHANGE’). Delivering multi-stakeholder value, from a multi-disciplinary angle requires a creative process, shifting between a first, second and third perspective and continuously reflecting in action or in between. Doing deep dive desk research (3rd perspective), shifting to gain multi-stakeholder insights within context (2nd perspective) or deepening empathy with the user through incorporating own experiences in context (1st perspective).
Regards ‘aesthetics’ I have especially explored aesthetics of interaction within the interactive tangible probes I use in my design research. Design research in (mental) healthcare contexts requires interactive tangible probes with clear and intuitive interaction, creating the least bias in user studies. The same holds for the formgiving, this should be ‘simple’ and recognizable, and should not distract or confuse from the probe’s experiential purpose and need fulfilment. Due to my passion for music, and drive to design research in the context of special need groups, the creation of multi-sensory experiences has an important role in my work. I have explored aesthetic multi-sensory interaction in ‘The Sound of Smart Things’, ‘Miause’ and the ‘RELAX-CHANGE’ projects.
Within this final master project, I aimed to inspire future design directions for the RELAX-CHANGE probe out of a combination of qualitative and quantitative user-experience and relaxation effect data (a huge mixed data set) from experience sampling (new to me as design researcher). These complex data sets out of the experience sampling, cannot be transformed into known creative & inspirational methods as personas, user journeys, or storyboards. However, still function as inspiration for improved interaction designs of the probe, based on the participants’ user experience and interaction limitations. Therefore, I aimed to learn about new techniques and methodology to translate these complex diary data insights into new concepts. Through new methods from the IDEO design kit and data-enabled design inspiration from the paper by Janne van Kollenburg and Sander Bogers (Van Kollenburg & Bogers, 2019). Furthermore, I aimed to enrich my creative communication skill set by learning 3D modeling in Blender software.
1. Van Kollenburg, J., & Bogers, S. J. A. (2019). Data-enabled design: a situated design approach that uses data as creative material when designing for intelligent ecosystems.
Math, Data & Computing
Although this is not one of my two areas of expertise I have chosen to excel in, it is of great importance for me to bridge the gap between user insights and creating novel concepts.
Complex (mental) healthcare contexts need deep dive data collection and analysis to provide “simple” solutions. I love being a fish on the bottom of a sea full of data, which allows me to see clear interrelationships and carve out novel designs. For me this area of expertise refers to understanding the role of quantitative and qualitative data in providing the user insights needed, and providing the creative inspirational material needed. Understanding and being skilled in different data collection and analysis methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative to provide user insights and design inspiration. Being able to use the right tools and approaches for that, such as coding software (MAXQDA in ‘RELAX-CHANGE’ projects or Rstudio in my USE marketing courses) and basic calculations (e.g. questionnaire scoring in ‘RELAX-CHANGE’ projects). But for me it is most important to enable myself, through understanding mixed methods methodology, to synthesize complex and mixed data sets to contribute to implications of novel tangible designs for the field of (clinical) mental healthcare. To create a daily life experience for special needs groups that enhances their feeling of empowerment and fulfills their needs of social belonging which allows them to add value to others in society on a daily basis.
In previous projects I have built lots of experience with different types of qualitative data analysis, such as open coding methodology by Khandkar (2009) (‘Constructive Design Research’) and different types of thematic analysis (Clarke & Braun,2014) (‘Re-design Goed Wijzer’, ‘RELAX-CHANGE in psychotherapy’, ‘Library of Wisdoms’) such as note-based analysis or transcript-based analysis (Krueger & Casey, 2002) (‘RELAX-CHANGE’ projects).
Not so much with quantitative data analysis, aside from learnings from the Bachelor course ‘Making Sense of Sensors’; interpretations of already scored questionnaire data; and a project within the ‘New Product Design & Marketing Use track’, in which I learned to analyze market segments using R-studio software. However, within the field of (mental) healthcare, the use of quantitative data out of psychological questionnaires and bio-measurements is of great importance to understand the user and his/her context, and effects of designs put in context. This final master project draws from constructive and data-enabled design practices with the RELAX-CHANGE prototype central to constructing knowledge, being put in the user’s context. To enable knowledge gathering around the effects of the probe’s underlying relaxation principle and the users’ user-experience (UX) around expressive drum play for relaxation, for people with elevated anxiety. Due to the nature of data collection in the diary studies in this project, I aimed to improve my mixed methods data analysis skills and more specifically through: mixed methods data analysis procedure preparations (creating analysis frameworks for quantitative and qualitative data; and procedure of combining and comparing mixed data); using video annotation methodology and software (MAXQDA); scoring of psychological questionnaires (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory items); and working with Excel, to explore the prototype’s logged touch behavior data.
Clarke, V., & Braun, V. (2014). Thematic analysis. In Encyclopedia of critical psychology (pp. 1947-1952). Springer, New York, NY.
Khandkar, S. H. (2009). Open coding. University of Calgary, 23, 2009.
Krueger, R. A., & Casey, M. A. (2002). Designing and conducting focus group interviews.
Technology & Realization
In the entire 5 years of Industrial Design courses and projects I have been fascinated by interactive tangible design and research through interactive tangible design probes. Especially the value interactive tangible design can deliver for special need groups and in (mental) healthcare support, providing accessibility for complex learning tasks (‘Re-design Goed Wijzer’), for non-visual bonding processes (‘Miause’), for providing a private outlet to communicate opinions in nursing homes (‘Talki Talkie’) or for multi-sensory and expressive relaxation support (‘RELAX-CHANGE projects’). And the value tangible design probes in providing user insights in all kinds of inspirational and evaluative user studies, either with the target group or in a multi-stakeholder setting. These enable tangible thinking — thinking through bodily actions and physical representations, which allows us to gather deeper insights about complex problems beyond what’s expected (Shaer & Hornecker, 2010).
In my bachelors I focused in the realization of tangible design aspects through basic rapid prototyping techniques such as laser cutting (‘Re-design Goed Wijzer’, ‘Library of Wisdoms’), manual woodworking and schematics (interior design tasks during ‘Internship Studio Tast’) and sewing techniques (‘Miause’, ‘Internship Studio Tast’). Next to that, I created a base for the creation of interactive tangible designs through developing basic programming competencies in Processing and Arduino and creating simple electronic circuits (‘Creative Programming’, ‘Creative Electronics’, ‘Social Light’, ‘Engineering Design’).
However, after my final bachelor project in which I realized I needed to step up my interactivity prototyping game. What I did in the ‘Talki Talkie’ project in which I created a fully functional interactive tangible voice agent; and in the ‘RELAX-CHANGE’ project in which I created separately functional elements of the novel drum, such as the touch-music interaction and light color change interaction. I learned to program interactive multi-sensory modules as voice recognition, voice playback, sound playback, and light feedback based on touch and movement. Working with a combination of Processing, Arduino, various sensors and hardware components. Furthermore, I learned to create interaction diagrams (‘Talki Talkie’, ‘RELAX-CHANGE in psychotherapy’), electronic circuit diagrams (‘Talki Talkie’, ‘RELAX-CHANGE in psychotherapy’), technical prototype drawings (‘RELAX-CHANGE in psychotherapy’) and multi-disciplinary technical collaboration (working with Innovation Space, mechanical engineers and various electrical engineers).
Within my final master project the focus was on final developments within Creativity & Aesthetics, User & Society and Math, Data & Computing. Therefore, regarding Technology & Realization, I explored the use of the interactive tangible RELAX-CHANGE prototype in context, explored its flaws, improved upon some multi-sensory features in close collaboration with the hired electrical engineering student, and explored its data collection opportunities.
Business & Entrepreneurship
As a design researcher doing the Research, Design and Development master track, this area centers for me around value creation for the multiple stakeholders in the complex (mental) healthcare contexts, strategic market positioning to deliver innovation. Although I focus on design research around novel interactive tangibles in (mental) healthcare, it is important to be aware of the bigger context around the probes and the multi-stakeholder value these can create. Therefore, benchmarking is key (‘all projects’), awareness of implementation issues is key (‘RELAX-CHANGE in psychotherapy’, ‘Re-design Goed Wijzer’) including service design methodology and tools (‘Talki Talkie’, ‘Re-design Goed Wijzer’), multi-stakeholder participatory design research is key (‘Talki Talkie’, ‘Re-design Goed Wijzer’, ‘RELAX-CHANGE in psychotherapy’), multi-stakeholder value mapping, awareness of business needs and economic paradigm a business is moving in is key (‘UX Theory & Practice’); business model creation and financial awareness (‘Design Innovation Methods’) are important just as market segmentation, clear target group definition, market positioning (courses in ‘New Product Marketing Use learning line’).
In this final master project I aimed to enrich the benchmarking around the design probe RELAX-CHANGE, extending research around current relaxation designs, practical tools and psychotherapeutic interventions. Furthermore, through extended exploration of the innovations, interventions and tangible designs in the field of musical expression, musical instruments and multi-sensory stimulation for expressive relaxation support in the field of anxiety. Next to that, this thesis contributes to understanding the role of the novel aspects of the probe (playful tension-release drum play; tangibility; freedom in expression; absorption experiences; and release of multiple anxiety responses) in value creation in the context of relaxation support in the complex mental healthcare system, also outlining improvements for future work and continuation of innovative research in this field.
Moreover, I made a renewed SWOT analysis, based on M2.1’s results (Van Wijlen,2021) to support understanding the implications of this thesis’ results for implementing the probe in psychotherapy practice and elaborate discussion around the probe’s strengths in clinical practice. Such as the probe’s ‘accessibility and flexibility’, ‘visible direct feedback’, ‘engagement and absorption potential’ and ‘support in emotional reflection’ which can potentially create added value in clinical contexts. Furthermore, when implementing a novel technological relaxation intervention as the probe, or its future design directions, within clinical practice, one has to be aware of and critical towards the potential influence of this novel intervention on the individual / provider / systemic barriers for people with elevated anxiety experience in the mental health system, which I investigated through desk research. Especially future design research around implementing the probe or its future designs in clinical practice, has to prevent worsening the individual barriers to mental health support. Such as amplifying stigma; fitting into existing stereotypes around psychotherapy interventions or creating friction with therapy (intervention) expectations have to be prevented. In this way, together with the future design directions and improved interaction concepts around the probe, I aimed to show awareness around a larger value this design research can deliver in the complex multi-stakeholder context that mental health entails.
Van Wijlen, V.S. (2021, January). RELAX-CHANGE: Exploring the Opportunities of Tangibles in Clinical Mental Health Contexts. Project Report M2.1. University of Technology Eindhoven. file:///C:/Users/s158835/Downloads/M21_DPM420_van%20Wijlen_VS_RELAX-CHANGE-Exploring%20the%20opportunities%20of%20tangibles%20in%20clinical%20 mental%20health%20contexts%20(2).pdf
Design & Research Processes
The design research process is different for every project, design challenge, context and target group. Over the course of different bachelor and master projects, I have gained more and more experience in self-directing those. Moreover, user experience centered processes appealed to me most and I have become acquainted with various types, from participatory design research (‘Talki Talkie’, ‘RELAX-CHANGE projects’ etc.) to personalized design research processes (‘Library of Wisdoms’). However, for me it is key that it consists of iterations, continuous reflection and that it is mainly directed by user insights, multi-stakeholder needs and gaps in current multi-disciplinary literature. The user is central in all design research activities within; awareness around multiple stakeholder needs has to be generated; one has not to shy away from multi-disciplinary collaboration and inspiration; and deep dive ‘mixed’ user data functions as creative material. Tangible design probes are key to constructing knowledge, either in the inspirational phases of the research process or in the evaluative phases. In the design research process it is key to switch between the three perspectives (1st, 2nd, 3rd person) to gain thorough empathy with the target group, and it consists of a combination of various UX research approaches, methods and tools creating input for idea generation, conceptualization, realization and validation phases.
I have developed my professional skills in a continuous manner within all course project work, half-year projects, through all deliverables, (stakeholder) presentations, attending TU/e career events, professional skill workshops (B1) and extracurricular activities. Even more, within my B3 internship at Studio Tast and my M2.1 design research project abroad at the psychotherapy research department in Germany. Within my masters I have especially worked on my multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary collaboration skills (‘Talki Talkie’, ‘RELAX-CHANGE’ projects). Collaborating with international / multi-cultural team mates and various experts in the field of psychotherapy, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, food producing and more. With Talki Talkie on the digital Dutch Design Week 2020, applying RELAX-CHANGE for DDW 2021, and working with experts without a design background I worked on my presenting skills. Exploring different media types and visualization techniques to bring across my vision, concepts and user insights. I have also continuously worked on my portfolio and resume to be able to arrange the design research in Germany, to discuss potential FMP company collaborations and so communicate on a professional level. Furthermore, within all four master projects, constructive design research around complex challenges was at the forefront in which I upped my game on reporting and dealing with scientific information, also considering potential paper publication.
The same holds for this final master project. In short, this design research drew from constructive (‘Constructive Design Research’) and data-enabled design practices. It was aimed to leverage experience sampling using diaries, semi-structured interviews, and questionnaire data at multiple points in time with a small pool of participants (n=3) who have worked with the drum for a fixed number of days. To assess the effects of drum play on the participants’ anxiety and relaxation, the State-Trait Anxiety Instrument (STAI) was used, which was used in previous work. Which was combined with qualitative data from the diary booklets and follow-up interviews around perceived experiences of relaxation. To inspire future design directions for the design probe, unsatisfied needs for relaxation through drum play with the probe were collected within the diary booklets and follow-up interviews. Just as through an evaluation of the probe’s top-3 improved interaction concepts as part of the followup interviews.
At the start of my FMP, reflecting on my professional identity and design research process was central. I discovered that the service design perspective taken in my proposal did not seem to fit my core interests and competencies as a design researcher supporting people affected by mental health issues. Therefore, I decided to take a more user experience and interaction design research- oriented approach instead; focusing away from the service and business perspective, and emphasizing on my core competencies within Creativity & Aesthetics and User & Society. Furthermore, within my final master project I have continued to develop my presentation skills, exploring how to visualize quantitative data insights from the diary studies and 3D modeling skills for 3D concept representations. Just as reporting and dealing with the huge set of mixed data from the experience sampling, turning them into clear points of design research contribution.
What did I learn in my final master project?
In this master thesis, the relaxation / state anxiety effects of the probe in daily home contexts are researched (in 2 iterations), with the RELAX-CHANGE prototype at the center of constructing knowledge; and the probe’s future design directions are explored. To provide an overall contribution to enhancing accessible “daily” relaxation support for this target group and to making a start of evidence-based and accessible products that offer a novel pathway to relaxation for people with elevated trait anxiety to be used in daily life “mental health” contexts, where individuals first seek assistance. Through the 1-week diary studies, with 3 participants, and mixed methods data collection around usage of the prototype, the relaxation and state anxiety effects are overall positive, with an average decrease in the participants’ state anxiety levels of 17.5. A decrease that can make the difference in daily functioning. Four unsatisfied needs around the probe’s relaxation support are presented leading to three suggested future design directions. The main focus point considered to inspire future designs of the novel drum for this target group includes: the drum mat concept, providing whole body interaction, combined with contextual and reflective guidance. To support increased flexibility in bodily expressive drum play, release of bodily anxiety tensions and to provide a fit with different types of expressive and contextual daily relaxation needs. In this way, the focus of my goals was merely on some final developments of competencies within Creativity & Aesthetics and User & Society. Which I want to proceed with after graduation, cause design research requires infinite learning.
Enrichment of creative and brainstorming techniques & methodology skill-set
Incorporating and engaging into a first person perspective diary study myself around the RELAX-CHANGE prototype, allowed me to understand which quantitative and qualitative UX data functioned as inspirational material for future design directions and improved interaction concepts. These included quantitative annotations of video logged drum play behavior, and qualitative reflections about prototype deficits and unsatisfied needs for relaxation support, engagement and release of the three anxiety responses. In this way I figured out which data to extract from the experience sampling in iteration 2 to inspire future design directions, combined with the insights from my own diary study. Together with new creative methods from the IDEO design toolkit (IDEO.org, z.d.), such as: ‘extremes and mainstreams’, ‘bundle ideas’, ‘mash-ups’ and ‘top five’ I learned to translate complex mixed user experience and behavioral data into new ideas and concepts. Especially the ‘mash-ups’ method, in which you explore a certain quality a new concept should embody, gave a kick-start to the final most preferred improved interaction concept: the drum mat. In this creative exercise, I asked myself “what is the dancer’s version of RELAX-CHANGE?” and “what is the boxers’ version of RELAX-CHANGE’? To elicit ideation around more bodily expressive directions of the probe to improve its relaxation support and benefits of its novel underlying playful tension-release principle. Next to that, the ‘top five’ method inspired me on how to synthesize the most preferred improved interaction concepts, with the most potential to enhance the probe’s relaxation support in context. In that way, I learned that if my diary participants would all select a top-3 of improved concepts, together with my intuition, would allow me to cluster similar ideas and form an overall conclusion and design research contribution.
Concept and interaction design visualization techniques as 3D modeling
As a side activity to my main final master project activities, I learned to create 3D models and renders within the 3D software Blender. I found it important that as a multi-disciplinary design researcher I am able to communicate my concepts in various manners. So far I had only done that through manual sketches or 2D visualizations (Illustrator). Through about 24 Youtube tutorials by Blender Guru I have learned to create a 3D model from scratch, sculpt it, add materials and textures, render it and how to create a basic 3D animation. I would like to explore the value of these 3D visualizations and especially 3D animations in communicating / presenting novel concepts in user studies or multi-stakeholder / multi-disciplinary collaboration in the future. Combining these 3D visuals and animations with AR software, such as Adobe Aero, could create interesting design research opportunities when there is a lack of facilities or financial ability within a company to create interactive tangible prototypes to evaluate UX and playful tangible interactions early on in the process.
Diary study methodology and mixed methods data collection approaches
Although I have gathered lots of experience with a variety of UX research methods over the past projects and courses, I love to keep on learning and applying new methods. Furthermore, the nature of the thesis’ research questions required in situ design evaluation, with the prototype placed in context. Therefore, experience sampling was a logical and intuitive choice as a UX method to gather the mixed data around the probe’s relaxation effects and to inspire future design directions. Experiencing drum play with the prototype for 1 week, was the optimal way for participants to be able to deeply reflect on the effects and unsatisfied needs, and the best way to gather effictivity data from “a distance” as design researcher. Without interfering with the participants, being sensitive to the target group of people with elevated trait anxiety. Through my own diary study within the first iteration I learned the ins and outs of preparing experience sampling: which phases are needed (introduction, diary week, followup); which data types to collect; which data collection tools to provide (digital diary booklet, video tripod) and how to make the procedure sensitive to somebody with elevated anxiety. I learned that preparation is key to make this work and to clearly introduce the goals and diary procedures to the participant! Furthermore, I got the insight that even though the diary studies were well prepared, for a target group as sensitive as this one, I feel like a diary study is still quite a burden. Especially with a prototype like RELAX-CHANGE that required a set-up procedure. That is why, I would like to explore an even more sensitive manner of experience sampling in future design research, because the benefits outweigh the downsides. What I loved most about implementing the diary studies within my final master project was that it allowed me to explore non-verbal drum play behavior data collection through videos. These videos gave most insight into ‘top’ and ‘flop’ drum play behavior, playful tension-release building (novel relaxation principle), reasoning behind the effects and inspired future design directions.
Mixed methods data analysis
In previous projects I mostly gathered singularly qualitative data out of interviews, focus groups or co-evaluations. However, within efficacy design research around a designed “intervention” for people with elevated trait anxiety (mental healthcare environment) it is of great importance to be able to show “numbers”. Evidence-based interventions are key for implementation in mental healthcare. Therefore, I knew it was the time in my final master project to expand my data analysis toolkit towards mixed methods data analysis. I learned how to score the STAI questionnaires, calculate state anxiety effects (using Excel), annotate videos (MAXQDA), and how to combine those results with qualitative UX reflections. Doing a convergent parallel mixed methods data analysis, based on the research design book by Creswell (Cresswell, 2014), I learned the value of quantitative data to give concrete efficacy results which can be explained (confirmed) or confronted (disconfirmed) by qualitative UX insights. Together, this gave a very complete overview and understanding of the probe’s relaxation / state anxiety effects, UX around it, use of its novel relaxation principle and the role of the probe’s novel aspects in delivering value to the target group and the field of mental health support. I especially loved to annotate the ‘top’ and ‘flop’ effect drum play videos of the participants, from which I learned how to annotate non-verbal behavior through designing a coder guide and how to extract data summaries out of MAXQDA. Which visualized the insights needed to answer the research questions and create discussion.
Data visualization techniques
Being in the middle of the first person perspective diary study, and data collection in iteration 2, I had to figure out a way to clearly communicate the main diary study insights; the interrelationships between the effect data, contextual factors, UX and drum play behavior. To visually show the contribution of the results. In that way, I learned how to generate data visuals out of MAXQDA that summarized the ‘top’ and ‘flop’ drum play behaviors of the participants. Furthermore, I learned to select data for the various effect graphs, learned to select appropriate types of graphs (such as bar graphs and scatter plots) to communicate effect data and relationships between various contextual factors in Excel.
All in all, I am proud that I got to learn so much within this final project. It makes me feel ready to function as a multi-disciplinary design researcher focused on supporting (mental) healthcare contexts especially through use of tangible interactive design probes, empathy, various (participatory) UX research methods and mixed data collection & analysis. To be able to empower and socially integrate people who are affected by mental health issues and as a result restricted to participate in everyday life—I want to enable people to be their "best self" in society.
Creswell, J. (2014). Research Design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches.Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
IDEO.org. (z.d.). Design Kit. Design Kit. Geraadpleegd op 23 juli 2021, van