The guidelines found on signifiers.io will allow makers of connected devices to create devices that allow users to intuitively and accurately understand how they function.
We studied how users understand connected devices and developed a physical design language to intuitively communicate device functionalities. Our findings are compiled into signifiers.io, a set of dynamic design guidelines for connected device makers. Our vision is to ultimately give users confident control over their devices within the privacy of their home.
Thus, in order to properly simulate the environment of a connected home in the future and study how people would behave, we chose to modify and conduct a diary study, run participatory design sessions, and speed-date assumption prototypes.
For each of these 8 devices, we made several versions of each one that featured the different feedback and control mechanisms that we explored. Over the course of two weeks, we built 44 operational prototypes. Here are a few examples:
These were 1) difficulty in understanding feedback, 2) noticeability of feedback, 3) confidence in understanding the feedback, and 4) how clear it was when the sensors were and weren't recording data.
My team and I invested a great deal of time into discussing our approach and the kind of impact we wanted to make. We became deeply entrenched in this topic, so much so that one of the biggest challenges I faced was how to clearly and simply communicate such a complex/nebulous subject to the average person (it also tended to put people to sleep). The frustration of seeing so many ill-informed reactions and discrepancies between behaviors and attitudes towards the topic of privacy actually served as inspiration for the idea of intuitive device design.
Not having a specific user group and creating a design solution for people at large for a client that has so much influence on technology was an incredible learning experience. The moonshot mentality we were told to adopt fostered an insatiable hunger for experimenting and knowledge, and I fully intend on applying this attitude to my future projects.