About Me

I am a designer of digital systems, print publications, and real-life experiences. I tackle a large variety of challenges, combining an Industrial Design background with a deep interest in user experience design, programming, and typography.

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Identity

I am a user experience designer of both online and offline experiences, combining a creative mind with extensive graphic design knowledge and a passion for technology.

While I am a programmer, code to me is always a means to an end: delivering the best experience a user of my designs can have. I won’t stop sweating the details of everything I do or create until every micro-experience is absolutely perfect. The best parts of a design are those where both disciplines overlap, creating a technologically advanced system that manages to be beautiful in its explanation of that system to the user.

I’m an upbeat, social creature, who enjoys working in diverse, professional teams. Within these teams, a clear structure or task division is very important to me: only when everyone can carry their weight will I feel confident letting the group steer itself. If this isn’t the case, I’m usually the first to bring structure to our process. I also enjoy working on my own and taking full control of a project. I am a quick learner, and always up for new challenges as I am never satisfied with my own status quo.

I want to create as much positive impact on people’s lives as possible through solving everyday problems. As such, my work focuses on tools: I prefer to create solutions to concrete and clearly framed problems that have direct and measurable effects. My designs usually employ a “top-down” approach: their modus operandi is to understand a user’s context and possible problem(s), and (consciously or subconsciously) presenting them with the (objective) information they didn’t know they needed yet. Over the years, I have put a lot of focus on this “first step” of delivering the information to them across time and space in a non-intrusive, visually pleasing way. Only recently have I come to appreciate the “second step”: people’s own subjective interpretation of my presented truths.

Vision

Most people do not care about technology and design in and of themselves.

They are simply looking to answer a question. They’re not looking for cars to replace horses, they just want to travel from home to work in the fastest, most efficient way possible. Users simply want to spend time doing the things they care about in positive and effortless ways, so that they can live the easiest, most worry-less life as possible. Technology is usually just a tool to make this happen, and never a means in itself.

As I believe that most people aren’t interested in design, but only in the values it unlocks, I try to make my design as invisible as possible, for example by operating in the periphery of someone’s attention. Design that fades into the background, only to appear when a user asks (or doesn’t ask) for it. 

Similarly, I believe that users are always looking to simplify the amount of technology they are using, only sticking to the bare essentials. This is why I believe in making experiences as transient and effortless as possible, only reaching for permanence when it actually will benefit the user every day of their lives.

These ideas are most directly applicable to the tool-focused designs mentioned in my Identity. Yet this applies even to designs that aren’t related to efficiency at all but instead are used for their emotional value, appearance, or status. A couch may be bought not because it is the best in its function (to sit on) but rather for its appearance or even as a status symbol. Here again, people are looking for the best answer to a question, the “right” answer is just more subjective. The goal of my designs is to find these questions, as well as the questions behind the questions, and answer them as best they can, and as respectful of the user’s lack of care as possible.

My Growth

Technology & Realisation

I have always been comfortable around programming and electronics.

Starting out with HTML programming on an early age and starting my own freelance business for web and app development later on. At university, Creative Programming provided me with the jump from web programming to the creation of visual, interactive experiences. The same methods employed in this course scaled up tremendously thanks to Intermedia. This project provided me with the core knowledge of object-oriented programming and sane code practices, which both my jobs for Dutch Coding Company and my internship at Mijksenaar helped me build upon and professionalise.

Physical prototyping has been a slight struggle throughout my entire Bachelor. In my very first course, I was greatly enthused by how the form and electronics of the Climate concept came together. In the first and second projects, I had set myself the goal of learning to prototype but didn't do much beyond sawing and glueing MDF: instead, I used my already-present skills to improve the project. Basic Formgiving Skills formed the real kickstart of my realisation skills: I learned to not be scared of the workshop and prototyping techniques, and the value of planning and detail work. Finally, DebaTable forms the crown jewel in the realisation story, as both form and electronics came together in the same enthusing manner that once set me on this path.

Creativity & Aesthetics

Creativity & Aesthetics is the competency closest to my heart.

Nearly all of the projects featured here contain a strong focus on visual styling or aesthetics of interaction. The focus on visual aesthetics already started in high school, where I was graphic designer for the school newspaper, and which continued with my work for the UNiD.

Both Basic Formgiving Skills and Exploratory Sketching were new directions for me: they were far from easy to complete but they taught me very concrete new creation skills. At Wervingsdagen and Mijksenaar I learned to apply my aesthetic skills to large audiences, and learned to present information differently based on audience or intended purpose. Finally, in creating DebaTable, I got to put as much emphasis on the look, feel and finish of the table as I put on the beautifully interactive code.

In the first year I was introduced to different brainstorm techniques, but still mostly sat around sheets of A0 paper or walls of sticky notes. During the creation of Thermow, I learned about different ways of ideating, for example through first-person experiences, observing, and sketch battles. Thanks to Zzznore I learned to take decisions based on validated research. During my internship at Mijksenaar I started combining my designerly intuition with validation through facts or (user) testing, which continued in my FBP.

User & Society

For a long time, users didn't have a real voice in my design. 

Thanks to my USE courses, I gained an understanding of the effects of light (and on a larger scale: technology) on human functioning. The final project Intermedia abstracted this understanding as we envisioned an exploration and a commentary on the ways technology influences our behaviour and our interactions with each other.

Both Climate and Thermow operationalised this technology-changing behaviour, by using design to let people tackle global issues like climate change through small interactions. They're also great illustrations of how I try to "bait" people into making "better" decisions by making life easier for them. At Mijksenaar I learned the same thing: subconsciously guide people in the right direction.

Parts of these interpretations of U&S are still present in DebaTable. However, I've also come to appreciate people's own motivation (to better themselves during meetings) and subjective interpretation of my design. Now, they're so much more than sheep being "guided" in the right direction.

Business & Entrepreneurship

I had the privilege of never really having to market myself.

Until Eurostory came along, most of my professionally done projects had clients come to me, ask for a website, and leave happy again. With Eurostory, I had to learn how to market a website looking for a sizeable audience. I learned to continuously re-evaluate the value we provided to our fans, eye the competition, and find unanswered questions. Wervingsdagen continued this learning process as I had to market our events to different parts of the student population, all with wildly different interests.

At Mijksenaar and Dutch Coding Company, I learned to work for a boss, balance design vision and client wishes, and play into industry trends to stay on top.

DebaTable let me go beyond the "business model as an afterthought", with a considerable part of the end product having been inspired by marketability, end user experience, or value propositions. It also taught me the value of knowing your market before you enter it.

Math, Data & Computing

Data has slowly but surely become my best friend.

Within the first year of projects I hardly did any validation. Looking back, I can hardly imagine how I ran a design process without checking my assumptions with research or with users.

Eurostory was the first project where I started seeing the value of making decisions based on data. This was further emphasised in the courses on Design Research. Zzznore brought this into practice, and also introduced me to analysis of qualitative data (in addition to quantitative data) through cultural probes. DebaTable combined quantitative with qualitative analysis techniques.

As for Math and Computing: of all my projects, the amount of data generated in the Intermedia project was the most stupifying. The sheer number of Kinects and the processing we had to do on the data they supplied, made us think cleverly around technical limitations and add a whole lot of complexity to our system. The DebaTable had a more manageable amount of data to work with, but still required a number of processing steps to go from raw data to an interactive visualisation.

Design & Research Processes

I grew from "just-do-whatever" to "this is how we do it".

At the start of my studies, I felt like a competent designer but I didn't really know where my ideas came from or how to execute based on them. Within the very first design course, I got introduced to the theory and experience of running a design process. Then, Thermow introduced a bunch of extra ones, such as first-person experiences, observing, and sketch battles. And within my FBP I learned to trust on my own experiences, and validate them through research.

USE taught me early on how to do quantitative research, and how easily measurements could go wrong or testing protocols could be misinterpreted. Zzznore would introduce qualitative measurements and creating tests for sensitive target groups (such as young children). For DebaTable, I re-used all this knowledge and was again confronted with the importance of a solid testing protocol, a good pilot test, and sound analysis of data.

Professional Skills

The enthusiasm with which I deal with myself, my work, and the people around me has been ever-increasing.

Presentations always have been a lot of fun for me, provided I could prepare myself adequately. Still, Visual Experience Design taught me to keep my target audience in mind, and also taught me to take care of every single little detail people could pay attention to. My FBP had me pitching in various settings countless times (which was a lot of fun!). On the other hand, USE and my Design Research project had me give more serious presentations and also taught me to take proper care of my references.

The UNiD made me in charge of a team of 25 people, for whom I had to plan out meetings and design sprints while keeping the creativity going. This was only the start, however, as a year later Wervingsdagen would become the most intense collaboration with others I would (probably) ever do. Throughout the year, we had to overcome both personal and professional differences and I had to greatly professionalise my way of working while overseeing months-long processes of budgeting, promoting, and running the events.

PI&V Development

Throughout my career as an Industrial Design bachelor, my personal identity and vision have steadily progressed and matured.

I started the study with a few years of graphic- and web design experience but wasn’t sure if I was able to be a product designer as well. In Year 1, I kept my enthusiasm for (web) programming, investing time into learning Arduino and Processing.

In Year 2, I put this knowledge into practice, focusing on lighting design and integrating technology into people’s lives. I also started to get an understanding of users in general and noticed that not many “average users” are truly interested in the technology that influences their lives. As such, I defined myself as an “ego-designer”: I designed because my head simply wanted to make pretty things. Those things could then be enjoyed by the masses, without them caring too much about them at all.

In Year 3, I took a break from studying and instead ran a board year at Wervingsdagen. This taught me a lot about career opportunities, branding and marketing to fellow students, and most importantly teamwork and decision making. I also got introduced to a software design agency called Dutch Coding Company. They let me experiment with code the same way I experimented with form at the ID faculty. The year away from my studies helped me realise who I was and what my true passions were. I started branding myself as a “designer of web, print, and reality”, combining a creative mind with a passion for technology. For the first time in my career, I felt that I could be the designer I wanted to be, even though I didn’t fit the exact mould of physical, embodied interaction-designer that the faculty seems to emphasise.

My internship at Mijksenaar this year taught me what it’s like to work at a large design agency. It taught me how to balance my creative vision with my (monetary) use for the company at large. I discovered that while I love programming, just programming alone didn’t fuel my creative engine continually, I also needed more “designy” projects to work on. I learned that I thrive in small teams with few rules, which Mijksenaar, unfortunately, was not. However, the focus on “invisible” systems such as wayfinding intrigued me greatly.

Within my Final Bachelor Project, I initially set out to construct an objective view of a social context (meetings), and mediate user interactions in a top-down way. In my struggles to attempt this, I have come to understand and appreciate the "second step" my designs go through in delivering value: through people's own subjective interpretations of them.

My Projects

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3 + 4

Project Types

Competencies

Knowledge

Final Bachelor Project

B3.2 Project DPB390 Final Bachelor Project

DebaTable

Knowledge
  • Conceptual Thinking
  • Data Analysis
  • Design Research
  • Graphic Design
  • Ideation Techniques
  • Physical Prototyping
  • Programming & Electronics
  • UX Design
References

DebaTable is a technologically enhanced meeting table that mediates discussions and stimulates time-efficient debates. It can be used whereever people come together to discuss ideas and make decisions, such as brainstorms or project meetings.

It works in two different ways: the first is by measuring each participant’s percentage of speaking time within the past few minutes. This percentage is visualised in the middle of the table, with lines pointing to each of the seats. The more you talk, the higher your line will be. Additionally, a slowly expanding circle in the middle of the table shows the discussion time left. The time it takes for this circle to reach its outer limit is based on the average of individual “votes” each participant gives with the discreet sliders located at the edge of the table.

A core principle of DebaTable is its neutrality. The value of the presented data is decided on by the participants themselves. Only they can decide if a high peak in the speech graph is a problem, or just a chairman doing their job. DebaTable only mediates discussion by sparking self-reflection. It does not actively change the discussion in any way: it’s up to the people in the meeting to see the visualisation, reflect on it, and change their own individual discussion style.

Meetings are a core activity of our academic and working lives. DebaTable helps us get better at having them, by letting us better ourselves.

Technology & Realisation

Within this project, I (re-)discovered the value and beauty of physical prototyping and deepened my skills with electronics. Cardboard modeling and paper prototyping made me realise how many new insights “thinking with my hands” could unlock, and it allowed me to verify hunches very quickly. Throughout the project, I used existing products and combinations thereof to create “hacked” low-fi prototypes, which was both really fun and got me to try out experiences fast.

With the creation of the final prototype, a ø160cm meeting table, I started my biggest (literally!) prototyping challenge ever. In the following days, I despised heaving to think about so many factors I was inexperienced and uncomfortable with. But in the end, I learned a ton of new skills and actually gained some confidence in physical making. The Vertigo workshop finally became a not-so-scary place.

Creativity & Aesthetics

I experimented with different ideation techniques to spur my creativity. Within the first week of my project, I adopted a first-person perspective to experience the problems with meetings myself. I used physical prototyping to try out new ideas quickly and get to new insights.

I had a great amount of fun while coming up with ways to get my ideas across to others, such as the Midterm Demo Day experience I set up (complete with printer noises). A lot of the visual design I did was conceived “form-first”: I had a clear idea of how it needed to look (such as the visualisation of the speaking time being a circle of dots/lines), and the functionality would form itself around it (such as the Timekeeper, which found a place in the center).

Throughout the process I had a big focus on (visual) polish, from the working of the visualisation, to the feel of the lacquer finish and the look of the lasercut microphone caps.

User & Society

At the start of the semester, I mentioned to my coach: “I’m more of a product- than a people person. My designs guide people in the right direction subconsciously”.

As usual, I tried to apply my technology- and data-based way of thinking to the social context of meetings, and learned that technology wasn’t the solution to this people-centric problem. After reading a paper[1] on designing ethical values into products, my mind raced to figure out what my stance on the perfect meeting would be.

In the end, people themselves were the solution. By accepting that I couldn’t define a “perfect meeting”, let alone measure and create one, I learned to embrace people’s own interpretations as part of the designed product. I had found a way to incorporate User & Society, but still do it my way.

[1]: Verbeek, P.-P. (2006). Materializing Morality. Science, Technology, & Human Values31(3), 361–380. DOI: 10.1177/0162243905285847

Business & Entrepreneurship

I went beyond simply imagining a business model around my product. Instead, a considerable part of the end product has been inspired by marketability, end user experience, or value propositions.

The initial value proposition my design made to the end user was that of self-reflection. However, in talks with the squad business coach, it occurred to me that only a small amount of people looking for a meeting room would be convinced of this added value. I decided to couple self-reflection with the promise of meeting efficiency by adding a time-based visualisation.

In order to appeal better to relevant decision makers, I looked into the buying process of the TU/e and learned about the importance of appealing to regulations as well as to the tastes of interior design firms. These directly influenced the envisioned models and table finishes I would be selling.

Math, Data & Computing

Both quantitative and qualitative data gathering- and analysis techniques were used throughout this project. One example:

To find out what emotions people experienced, I created four internet-connected sliders, that I would strap to chairs and ask participants to meet on. When the meeting wrapped up, I would quickly download the data, fill it into a pre-prepared Excel sheet, and print out the resulting graph. This required a lot of data systems to work in sync with each other. I then recorded and analysed the qualitative answers given about the quantitative data, and bundled all of this together.

For the visualisation, I employed multiple different techniques to translate microphone- and slider-data into dynamic visualisations: from the noise filtering code and the sliding window that would only “count” the last X minutes, to the various trigonometric functions used to display the dots of the circle and their expansion.

Design & Research Processes

I tried to find a fine balance between two different goals I had set for myself: I wanted to both make “Data-driven design decisions”, yet also learn to “trust in my designer intuition”. To this end, I tried out multiple different techniques to fuel my design process, both subjective and objective.

Objectively speaking, I learned how benchmarking products and papers could get me inspired by learning from others. This project has also greatly stressed the importance of clear testing protocols and reasoning behind questions to me, as well as the peace of mind standardised tests provide: every time I tried to cut corners because of time pressure or my own designerly opinion, I got those decisions thrown back in my face when the data came in.

Yet subjectively, a large part of my ideation was based on a first-person perspective. After having gathered (objective) research data in my user tests, I did my own synthesis thereof and iterated on my findings.

Professional Skills

Looking back at the past months, I am very happy with the extent to which my process has naturally followed from my set goals. I found a logical place for all of my goals and competencies and re-adjusted my process to challenge myself as much as possible, for example in physical prototyping.

On top of that I have further sharpened my professional skills and had a great amount of fun doing so. After three years, pitching and presenting are things that come quite naturally me now. Planning, however, has not always been my strongest suit. By setting out quite ambitious iteration cycles for myself, especially in the second half of the semester, I still managed to get in three full iterations.

Credits (top to bottom, left to right)

Cover Photo | by Zeno Kapitein
Figure 1 | by Zeno Kapitein
Figure 2 | by Zeno Kapitein
Figure 3 | by Emma van Dormalen
Figure 4 | by Roy van de Heuvel
Figure 5 | by Zeno Kapitein
Figure 6 | by Marleen van Bergeijk
Figure 7 | by Carine Lallemand

My Future

Hyper Island | Digital Experience Design

In January 2020 I will be starting the fulltime MA Digital Experience Design at Hyper Island, a creative business school situated in Manchester.

Why I applied

What motivates me most about Hyper Island is something that struck me as soon as I started reading their website, browsing their curriculum, and viewing their videos: they think in exactly the same way I do. Not only their philosophy on the ever-changing technology landscape or their emphasis on meaningful experiences, but also the sheer ambition and drive found within the people at their campus. This burning desire to create the very best things you can and the willingness to work insanely hard to get there. Learning from connections with industry to create products or services that will actually end up getting used, as well as satisfy a business need. The desire to potentially change the world, one interaction at a time. I wanted so badly to be part of that group, and so I sent an email.. and was accepted!

What I hope to learn

I’m ready to start coming up with real solutions to real problems, posed by industry experts. I hope I’ll still be able to apply both my first-person perspective on problems as well as use validation techniques. I’m hoping to accelerate my understanding and execution of design cycles and value creation.

I’m also hoping to learn a lot from the different people within my class. It’ll be a small group of around 25 people, from all walks of life, ages, and career paths. The one common denominator we have, is the amount of effort we put into starting the MA. I’m so excited about the prospect of working with them, but also of the close group we will end up becoming.