Rant. Confess. Let Go.
Rant. Confess. Let Go. is an interactive art installation that facilitates expressive journaling, using typewriters. Here booths, similar looking to phone booths, will be installed in a public space, such as Sydney CBD. Citizens can choose to visit in their work breaks, as it allows a place to rant, free of judgement. Participants will be able to rant out all of their feelings onto a page. Then following the confessions, they can shred up the paper. It’s a cathartic and cleansing interactive experience.
THE TEAM: SELENA UNG/ELIZABETH HENNESSEY/CLAIRE WEB/ RACHEL RYOO
The Design Process
THE GRAND CHALLENGE
Our group was required to redesign an existing object from a museum using a chosen design theory or culture perspective studied during this unit. The aim of this challenge is to explore how theory can inform and influence design practice, and to gain an understanding of how it can shape both ways of thinking and ways of doing.
After visiting the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, we decided to redesign the Valentine Typewriter as we felt that it could be significantly improved with a modern influence. The design theory or culture perspective we chose redesign our object was 'Public Art' as we wanted to transform the Valentine Typewriter into an entity that evokes emotion within its viewers.
What is the Valentine Typewriter?
The 1969 Olivetta Valentine typewriter is a true iconic piece of the Italian history. It is important to note however, despite the design not achieving great commercial success, it’s radical nature was so iconic, that it became a part of MOMA’s permanent collection by 1971 (Domus, 2019). Fusing pop aesthetics with contemporary design, such a piece achieved exactly that. Ultimately here, the product was a “colourful rebellion” against ‘form follows function’ (Snider, 2017). Our group were highly intrigued by this concept, considering that we researched into Bauhaus functionalism in the prior assessment. We were highly curious on how breaking this notion of ‘functionality’ could be achieved with such a functional object.
The Valentine was characterful with distinctive colouring. It positioned itself as a devoted companion - a typewriter with heart and soul (Disegno, 2018). This taps into emotional aspects, challenging what an object can be. Here an emotional connection is created between workers and what they use in daily life (Hill, 2012). We saw room to redesign what emotions are captured, to produce a radical innovation.
Interestingly too, the design was strongly radical in it’s portable ability (Snider, 2017). The valentine could be used to anyone outside of the office, empowering freedom and celebrating independence. Such radical innovation is achieved by the pop colour aesthetics and functional portability. For instance, the carrying case in itself is considered almost as important as the machine alone, redefining the functionality of the object.
Hence the artefact deviates away from workplace stress by employing glossy red aesthetics. On a critical note, we instead challenge ourselves to achieve this in the modern era, through experiential aspects and interactivity.
What is the 'Valentine' Represented
The original intention to the piece was to bring fun and humour back to offices, where supposedly, life is taken too seriously (Disegno, 2018). Critically, we believe we’ve strongly stepped back in time with the creativity of office spaces. Most corporate offices employ the same mundane computers, with technology rapidly replacing the need for funky stationary.
In fact, the ‘Valentine’ was instead positioned as a way to “keep poets company on lonely weekends in the country” (Phaidon, 2016). It could be used anywhere, even in peripatetic conditions, and aesthetically making itself look like a chic. It posed a challenge for us; a way to bring typewriters and fun back to tiresome work hours. This was an interesting notion, particularly given the rapid adoption of laptops, and redundancy of typewriters today.
The Valentine was often referred by the creator as “a mistake” (TheMet, 2019). Interestingly Perry intended to create an object that was inexpensive, portable and accessible by everyone. Much in the same way of how Apple products engage millennials, the pop artefact was intended to transform the bulky typewriter machine for a youth culture (Snider, 2017). Perry even referred to it as a Bic pen – an everyday tool instead of a special object. It should have been a utilitarian machine produced with cheap plastic, that could be used anywhere.
However Olivetti, his boss, strongly rejected. Olivetti believed that mass production equals homogenization (Snider, 2017). When the same thing is produced multiple times, the individuality of the design leaves the object. As a result, the Valentine was never a great commercial success as it never found a mass audience. The price was too high and technology soon moved on.
Taking a critical lens, this strongly inspired us to redesign it in such a way that it could be accessible and experienced by all.
Why did we choose Public Art?
After thoroughly researching public arts via secondary research, our group decided that redesigning the Valentine typewriter with a “public art” focus would help transform the object into an entity that could evoke emotions within users. More specifically, we felt that creating a public art installation would empower freedom and celebrate independence within users, whilst simultaneously symbolising the inherent shift of “public art” into the new modern era with innovative installations.
The Valentine’s success can be attributed to focusing strongly on an emotional connection with users, as much as it did on it’s functional abilities. Emotion was forceful; allowing independent freedom and playful interaction to ‘mundane’ lives’ (Hill, 2012) This redefined how office equipment could be perceived, since for the first time, it was seen as bright and sensual. On reflection, it strongly made us consider that emotions themselves can act as the functional aspects of a design, as they tell stories and create companionship.
Perry achieved emotion predominantly through visual elements, given the striking electric red to connote passion. Colour is central to emotional activation, in that our redesign will employ this as a later design consideration. Furthermore, functionally, the tiny nipple represented mouse buttons brought about a strong sense of playfulness (Phaidon, 2016).
Public art was chosen as a design lens to redesign such an object, as we wanted to extend how emotions could be experienced even further. This will be done predominantly via interaction as opposed to visual aesthetics.
Uniquely, interactive installations have the strong power to captivate audiences and create a communicative experience for a momentary period of time (Nam & Nitsche, 2014) And if successful, leave a long-lasting impression on the participants or bystanders. It invites interactivity, extending experiential features further from the functional.
The Design Making Process
The Valentine was all about not taking life too seriously. So why not revisit such principles in the redesign. Instead however, we wanted to innovatively design for a different era.
There is no doubt work can be stressful at time. Indeed, excessive stress can interfere with your work-life productivity and performance, and if it spirals, can start interfering with your mental health and home life. 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition at least once in their lifetime, generally as a result of workplace stress (BeyondBlue, 2019). And this trend is only increasing due to individuals inability to escape from chaotic lives (social-media). This is because most of us try to suppress our anxious feelings – never really addressing them.
1 in 5 Australians
have taken time off work in the past year as they felt stressed or anxious. (Heads Up, 2014)
Journaling is a powerful tool to let go of mental stress. Diaries were traditionally a place to confess your struggles, fears, stresses without any judgement or negative consequences. Negative energy is escaped from our system. Psychologically here, once the thoughts are out of your head and on paper, your head feels much more clear and harmonious (Utley & Garza, 2011). It’s a way to gain control back over your emotions and provides an opportunity for positive self-talk.
Yet with the reduction of paper products, increase in computers and our busier lives – it’s often difficult to find time to self-reflect, or even just engage in a healthy venting session. Interestingly here, worrying takes up cognitive resources (Hayes et al., 2008). So by writing out your feelings and freeing your cognitive load, you are able to complete upcoming workplace tasks more efficiently.
This sparked our initial concept for a typewriter, ranting installation.
Original Concept Idea
Rant. Confess. Let Go.
This is the sentiment we aim to communicate
We have designed an interactive art installation that facilitates expressive journaling, using typewriters. Here booths, similar looking to phone booths, will be installed in a public space, such as Sydney CBD. Citizens can choose to visit in their work breaks, as it allows a place to rant, free of judgement. Inside the booths, will be the ‘Valentine’ typewriter.
Participants will be able to rant out all of their feelings onto a page. Then following the confessions, they can shred up the paper. It’s a cathartic and cleansing interactive experience.
Public Art Principle: Inviting the Public
One of the most vital factors to public art, is it’s ability to engage and attract an audience. It is only then, that audiences will reap the true benefits of the work. Thus we asked potential users whether they would like to interact with the piece. Broad questions were asked and laddering was employed, for us to gain deep insight and develop empathy for who we were designing for (Tomitsch et al., 2018).
This identified that whilst shredding up the paper would be a ‘satisfying’ experience, it is an environmental concern and as a result, might detract participants from engaging with the design. In fact, 87% of citizens would buy a product with an environmental benefit (Butler 2018). This perception can directly be translated to reflect current citizens values and political standpoints. Critically as a result, we had to reiterate how the meditative experience will take place.
The ‘shredding of the paper’ was central to the meditative experience of ‘letting go’ of their worries. And hence, we still wanted to communicate this. Thus we thought to reduce resource consumption, the transcribed words could be digitally projected onto the wall the participant is facing inside the booth. This means that the typewriter keys will be digitally linked to a projection, instead of producing ink on paper. Digital projection creates a strong linkage to media arts, a powerful tool to immerse audiences (Hu et al., 2013).
Once the participant is finished ranting, they will click on a ‘let go’ button. The projected piece of paper then crumples up and dissipates before their eyes, to signify a deletion of worries.
Particularly given that our redesign focuses on emotional interaction, it was pivotal for us to explore user experience. Experience can be a very dynamic and complex phenomenon, as it depends on multiple sensory qualities and contextual factors (Buchenau & Suri, 2000).
Hence to explore such intangible aspects of the design, we set up a booth with a chair, and paper prototyped typewriter. Here we had hand-drawn keys. One team member completed body-storming, by acting out typing and ranting out their experience. They were asked to role play, stepping into the shoes of a character who is taking a lunch break from work.
As such, physical exploration ensured a degree of empathy on how users might experience the installation (Tomitsch et al., 2018). Notably experience doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but instead in a dynamic relationship with other people (Bucheanau & Siri, 2000). This was noticed when other people were walking around, to mimic the general public. This revealed an unexpected insight that might have been otherwise overlooked - our team member didn’t want to be exposed while typing confidential information.
One of the most pivotal factors to expressive journaling, is being alone (Zyromski, 2010). It is only then you can be truly one with your thoughts and brave enough to let them go. It’s not surprising then that experience prototyping revealed – feeling “watched, uncomfortable” and “judged to write their true opinions”. Given this is a public space, true isolation is hard to achieve. However, we reworked the prototype to better facilitate this.
The originally see-through booths will be closed off, so that no-one can look inside.
It gives users the reassurance of confidentiality and privacy. This means that they can get most of the installation, feeling fully free to express exactly what they want without feeling exposed or offending anyone. It further facilitates a truly immersive experience. Lidwell et al (2010) refers to immersion as a mental state of complete focus, so intense in fact, that awareness of the real world is lost.
Taking note of this, we aimed to eliminate all distractions in our design. This is in order to facilitate an intense meditative and cleansing experience as their ‘rant’ vanishes.
Public Art Principle: Interaction
Our primary aim is to leave the individual participants transformed with emotions; cleansed and renewed from worries. This is in referral to an intimate and reflective experience, without the worrying distractions of everyday life (Loke & Khut, 2014). It can be justified here, that the participants themselves, are central to their own narrative. However we also wanted to create audience interaction with bystanders and spectators, not just making it an experience for a few individuals at a time. Hence, intentions were revisited.
We decided to create an emotional, meditative space in order to encapsulate all audiences. Originally the booths exterior were black in order to create privacy inside the booth. However visually, this would be eye-sawing, alongside limiting the opportunity to interact with other individuals. Hence, the booths outside consist of digital meditative visualisations. This will be further prototyped on the following slide.
As prior analysis demonstrated, the Valentine was considered “a mistake” by the designer (TheMet, 2019). We were strongly inspired to redesign the object is such a way that it could be accessible and experienced by all. Perry originally couldn’t achieve this due to the expensive materials; making it more of a collectible item. His boss also didn’t want mass production, as he believed it diminishes the individuality of the object.
Critically here, the art installation isn’t mass produced, but allows all passing public to utilise the typewriter. To some extent, we hope to have aligned to some of Perry’s original intentions that he couldn’t achieve, but redesigned to a modern audience and different ‘meditative’ experience.
To immerse the outside audience, it was proposed to create digital interactivity to the outside screens. In public art, this is known as media facades (Fischer et al., 2012). Here transcendent circular shapes will bloom in colours
Originally we aimed to provide a meditative experience for the outside audience – allowing the ongoing public to stop, appreciate and live in the moment. It’s an interactive zone where people can congregate for reflection (Loke & Khut, 2014). We also thought for the blooms of colour to react the participant’s typewriting speed inside. For instance, the more furiously the user is typing, the faster the tempo of the blooms will be.
It can be justified that colour played a central role in the functionality of the original ‘Valentine’ piece (Snider, 2017). Here colour will also be pivotal to the work, but will change based on the individuals writing speed Here the audience literally creates the artistic design. It extends the original typewriter’s companionship to the owner to a whole new level.
Public Art Principle: Interaction
Jacucci et al., (2010) identify the different roles of interaction technologies in public art. Critically, enabling authorship was a core component, referring to the participant themselves experiencing a causal relationship with the imagery that other spectators see.
Taking note of this implementation, this strongly inspired our work to integrate the dynamic moving meditative visuals, digitally displayed on the outside booths. Uniquely this creates community in a very innovative way, almost like a shared diary of emotions (Jacucci et al., 2010). The users experience their intense, immersive experience. Notably here, the very abstract shapes still ensure that users don’t feel exposed, but are instead private inside.
Yet here, ongoing traffic have something to relate to – feelings of wanting to destress. As a result, they create an emotional bond to the work, which is more likely to be remembered and hence leave a lasting impression. This strongly correlates to another principle of public art; affording connectivity (Jacucci et al., 2010).
Exterior media facades
There are two layers to storytelling employed. Firstly, the digital screen captivates ongoing audiences through digital storytelling. They can relate to the ‘healthy’ rant in an almost humorous manner. Participants are also captivated within their own storytelling. In fact, they write the stories themselves, in which the projection and digital ‘shredding’ of paper is uniquely personalised to them. Personalised stories are more likely to be remembered, forming positive associations in the audience’s mind and herein boosting oxytocin levels (Hyken, 2017). As a result, it will fulfil our public art sentiment, to transform mind-sets and ‘let go’ of stress.
Public Art Principle: Space
Mapping prototyping identified a few important iterations:
● There will be three booths, all laid out in equidistant distance from each-other. Notably here, the ‘group of 3’ and equal distances are pleasing and harmonious to the eye, drawing people in to view the work and supplementing the de-stress principle.
● Enough passing space for a small crowd will be implemented, to allow for an easy flow of participants going past. Uniquely also, it allows enough emotional space to view each work, given that each booth is personally and artistically different depending on the participant inside (Hespanhol et al., 2011)
● We also ensured there would be enough distance before the footpath to allow for visitors to pass through, and spectate the work. This is particularly important, because if the work were to interfere with ongoing traffic, it will cascade stress and disharmony.
● Visual projections need to be bright enough to see from the foothpath, whereby the moving colours will capture audiences as a strong entry point, drawing them in (Lidwell et al., 2010).
One of the prominent role public art plays, is aiding in social inclusion by offering a tangible element with space (Craven, 2019). Hence the how participants interact with the space is a pivotal design consideration.
Public Art Principle: Cultural Identity
Cultural identity is pivotal to public art. It should represent the identity to a place. The Sydney CBD was chosen as it is the main commercial centre of Sydney and the centre of the most populous city in Australia (Destination NSW, 2019). This means it is the leading hub of economic activity. In fact, this area alone employs about 22% of Sydney’s regional workforce, who are mostly white-collar office workers in the professional service industries (City of Sydney, 2015).
Interestingly, the ‘Valentine’s’ original intention was to give an ‘exciting nature’ to the ‘mundane hours of work’ (Disegno, 2018). Hence by employing it in the CBD, where work stress rates can be high, it allows the option for citizens to ‘rant’ and de-stress in their lunch break.
Notably, the Valentine represented Italian culture as chic and stylish. We like to think, that the employment of splashes of colour, represents the busyness of Sydney city life, but also celebrates it’s colour and vibrancy.
More specifically, Martin Place was decided upon as the central location for the public installation art. This is because it’s the central mall, a valued place for leisure breaks during work hours. Uniquely, it also have vast amounts of open space compared to Westfield Sydney Shopping Centre, to allow for enough room to view and participate in the work.
Concept Illustration in Environment
Redesign of our Typewriter
We were truly inspired by Perry’s focus on ‘emotion’ acting as a functional component; a “colour rebellion” against “form follows function”. We aimed to extend emotions to experiencing a cathartic experience, cleansing participants of their worries in a strongly fun and celebratory way. It’s a clever play on the break from “tiresome hours”. Originally this was achieved aesthetically in the pop-art period. Yet for a 21st century audience, we aimed for this to be achieved interactively. In this, we capitalised on the loved characteristics of typewriters, including their ability to immerse users into the writing experience. On an interesting note, it achieved Perry’s original intention to make the product accessible to all, but done in such a way that individuality isn’t lost (the typewriter isn’t mass produced).
Who would’ve known that such an ordinary object of a typewriter could empower such freedom and celebrate such independence? By using the platform of digital projection, we believe it extends such an experience, to empower the creative expression of ‘ranting’ in a non-judgement and encouraging manner. As such, we adjusted the original pastel meditative digital screen to instead, bursts of abstract colours. This draws upon key features of abstract expressionism. Testament to participatory design in the 21st century culture, participants create this screen and hence play a central role in the work.