Upside Dawn was the result of a project in the first half of year 2. The assignment was to think of a specific context for the morning ritual on week- and weekend days of a fictional family, and to design “something” for that context that would interact with other items in their house. 

After making a list of all possible differences in morning routines between week- and weekend days and trying to come up with as many as possible hiccups one can experience in the morning, we came up with a context in which the family misses out on one another in the mornings: When the father awakens, the mother is on her way to work, and in the weekends they miss out on family time because each of them is unaware of the whereabouts of the others. One particular difference that we found interesting was the need for efficiency on week mornings, versus the quest for relaxation in the weekends. Therefore, Upside Dawn is a device that helps this family to feel more in touch with one another in the following ways. 

During the week family members can record personal messages for each other, which are played the following morning when the proposed receiver of the message opens their curtains. Hence, a sense of contact is provoked despite the lack of physical proximity. 

For the weekends we wanted the product to serve the same purpose, but in another way. That is, it should improve inter-family relationships, but not by means of recorded messages. Namely, voice messages on weekend days would not serve their purpose as well as during the week, since the weekend situation is different due to a lack of (different) work-schedules. Since the device would be built to produce sounds on weekdays, it felt fit to work with sounds in the weekends as well. 

After an extensive round of ideation by means of brainstorming and listing our own weekend morning experiences, the idea was born to inform users about awoken family members by means of sounds through the device. This would help them consider getting out of bed, since the sounds would mean a chance on family time. 

Therefore, in the weekends Upside Dawn transmits sounds from the kitchen to the bedroom, informing everyone who is still in bed about the activity in the house. This way, unawareness of each other’s awakeness will not cause them to miss out on family time anymore.

For this project I sketched storyboards, and made the logo and the posters in Adobe Illustrator. I also designed the laser-printed exterior of the device. Designing the product itself was a group effort.

The main challenge in this project was to design the interactions for all of the functions of the product. After extensive exploratory prototyping, the following interactions were chosen:

  • The product could be muted by turning it upside down. The top of the device has LEDs that respond to the sounds of the message. By turning the device around, the user puts away the side that visually represents the message to make it stop. This function required the product to be symmetrical through its horizontal center. That is, the device must function again each morning, also when muted the day before. This function also required that the product could be easily turned around. It should therefore be wide enough for stability and for the electronics to fit in, but small enough to be handled with one hand. The final prototype therefore has a diameter of 10 centimeters, as was determined after trying several lo-fi prototypes of different sizes.
  • The volume could be adjusted by touching the metal rings. Touching the upper ring makes the volume go up. Touching the lower ring makes the volume go down. For this function the rings had to be apart from each other far enough not to accidentally touch both rings simultaneously
  • To save a message one must hold the device in such a way that both metal rings are touched (it will be played again on a morning for which no new message is available). In other words, when a message is so dear to the user that they want to hear it again some time, the user will have to physically embrace the device to save the message. Therefore, the distance between the rings had to be small enough for the user to be able to touch them at the same time, and the device had to be big enough to embrace with two hands.