THE BUTTERFLY

EFFECT

An exhibition featuring various artistic representations of data on microplastics to help raise awareness on minimizing plastic waste and visualize the invisible.

OVERVIEW

Inspired by structural color in morpho butterflies, The Butterfly Effect visualizes the invisible enemies we fight on a daily basis without conscious realization - microplastics. How might we perceive the accumulation of invisible plastic in and around our bodies? From plastic sculptures and rocks as the new geological marker, clean boots covered in dirty plastic, and a mirror that visualizes the plastic around us, The Butterfly Effect is an interactive experience between humans and nature.

Outcome 

Biomorphic Design

Week long exhibition at Pratt Institute, NY

Design for public awareness 

 

Timeline 

January '21 - May '21

My Role 

Exhibition Design 

Creative Lead 

Design Research

Graphic Design

Fabrication

In Collaboration with  

Dept of Math and Science, Pratt Institute

Mary Lempres, Lab Technician

Dhruv Mishra, Installation

Advisor

Rebecca Welz

Results of the third association test conducted with anosmics and the genesis of initial ideation of a tangible product

CONTEXT

Among the primal human senses, olfaction is perhaps the baseline of sensory experiences, as parts of a song that people forget about but is essential in keeping the music on beat. As one of the most undervalued and least understood sensory systems, olfactory dysfunction is a lesser known disparate condition that forms the basis of lesser known invisible realities. My area of research is the inability to smell from birth known as congenital anosmia. 

 Design Process for The Butterfly Effect

RESEARCH

Navigating an odorless reality calls for further investigation into the role of our senses in daily routines, personal relationships, and social behaviors.[1] Significantly reduced quality of life including loss of appetite, altered sense of taste, reduced personal hygiene, emotional distress, and safety concerns where a sense of smell serves as a warning of potential danger.

  • Safety Concerns - Smoke detectors offer some relief but remain one-dimensional solutions to safety that don’t inform anosmics about the source of danger.​​ 

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  • Design Exclusion - The use of Mercaptan, as a safety measure in gas leaks, is a prominent example of not only the role of scent in life-threatening situations but also, the exclusion of anosmics from its design.​​

Infographic displaying key findings about the anosmic needs, wants, and desires

IDEATION

Senses talk to one another and this cross-talk can be used to integrate sensory substitution techniques that can aid in navigating an odorless world. Based on the findings from cross modal association tests, I began ideating product forms and colors through 2D and 3D sketches. An array of rapid 3D abstractions resulted in the formation of a lighting fixture design.

Designed with the user and their invisible sensorial disability in mind, the app features numerical data collected from the sensor in respective rooms/ locations of the house along with VOC information. The verbiage was also carefully selected to translate dangers into taste related analogies - sour for bad odor and sweet for good ones.

 

To dissipate the heat generated, a metal strip will have to be incorporated in the form. This inspired the use of a patina as the strip wraps itself around the ring, in a way appearing as a solidified version of odor on a material.  

PROTOTYPING

The fastest and least expensive option to prototype is ‘Raw Earth’ that used copper and a copper patina, paired with a matte finish acrylic piece in the color black. The next step was to determine the location of the lighting source and its consequent materials in place to emphasize indications in a visual manner. The fabrication process involved metal work for the stem and base, laser cutting and 3D printing the ring fixtures along with fleshing out the electricals. The result was also tested in combination with visual palette for its effectiveness in communicating urgencies. 

OUTCOME

The final prototype featured a ceiling mounted chandelier that is a beautiful lighting fixture for the home and smells for you if you don’t have the ability to smell. Made from metal and acrylic, the product is a visually beautiful element with customizable number of rings per the user’s need and placement in the home. The lamp lights up in cool white light when functioning as a regular lighting fixture and changes its visual properties on detecting danger. 

The change in color indication on detecting dangerous gasses

REFLECTION

As I review the design direction of this project, I learnt how to complete a process of working with the richness of existing cultural examples to create design. Applying a knowledge of color relationships to product design, I experienced how a small accent of color can be a powerful inclusion.

 

I also realized that not everything should be digitally reproduced, sometimes it takes human handiwork to elevate the aesthetic feel. For example, the radiant halo that was made on Adobe Illustrator may have been more impactful if done by hand using painting or dyeing techniques. This could help incorporate more elements of cultural art and craft to modern day products, and aid in the preservation of overlooked art forms.

Current Landscape: Top rated smoke detectors at home, none with a mode to gauge other harmful gasses

Exclusion of anosmics from its design

REFERENCES

[1] Written by Johnny Wood, Senior Writer. “The Cost of the Climate Crisis? 20 Million Homeless Every Year.” World Economic Forum, 6 Dec. 2019, www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/extreme-weather-climate-change-displaced/.

[2] Acosta, Rolando J., et al. “Quantifying the Dynamics of Migration after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.” Peas.org, 9 Dec. 2020, www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.2001671117.

[3] “Clean Energy in Refugee Camps Could Save Millions of Dollars.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 17 Nov. 2015, www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/nov/17/clean-energy-in-refugee-camps-could-save-millions-of-pounds.

Current Landscape

Even with advancements in inclusive design methodologies, research reveals that there

remain no design solutions that embrace anosmia, whether directly or as part of standard accessibility guidelines. At present, we lack effective tests and therapies, much less a cure for congenital anosmia. The invisibility of congenital anosmia often contributes to it being overlooked, misunderstood, and consequently dismissed as a serious disability. 

User Stories: Illustrations depicting the pain points conveyed by anosmics

Smart Lighting Fixtures

Exploration A was selected to be prototyped after receiving the most positive feedback from all explorations. This form was made with odor in mind, meant to represent the floating of scent molecules in the air. The lightness of this 3D abstraction combined with the visual dominance of the rings could be successfully used in the design of an alert system. The form also proves to have versatility in its application of the placement in the home environment. 

Ideation sketches for specific applications in the home

CONCEPT DEVELOPMENT

Defined by the tests conducted for the audio-visual palettes, and informed by the observations of the participants, the resulting lighting fixtures from 2D ideation constitute the home accessory products in the cross modal toolkit. In collaboration with audio-engineer, Pradvay Sivashankar, whose expertise on audio production helped iterate, test, and determine the sound palette for the final design in a seamless process. The goal of the auditory signal is to progress from one level to another starting with a consonant tune that dramatically changes to dissonant sounds that catch the user’s attention. 

Materials Board: 3D renders for each theme visible on hover

Mobile App UI

Illustration of the interlinked system in a generic floor plan 

The osmias: A sense of smell spectrum by Frauke Galia, 2022

Sensory Translation

When asked to prioritize the smell input with another sense, participating anosmics listed vision as their top choice of sensory substitution. This led me to investigate the visual factors that influence our scent perception in the form of shape, opacity, and flow of color. The commonalities between odor-taste associations in 8-10 basic colors conducted with normosmics was cross-referenced and tested in anosmics using 4 primary taste groups (sweet, sour, salty, bitter) assigned to one hue from a color wheel.

Results of odor-color association survey, 2021

Form finding and 3D Abstractions

Form Selection: 5 selected explorations through various critique sessions and aesthetic preferences

Testing and validation results 

OVERVIEW

Our bodies design our realities and tailor our experience of the world into a multisensory adventure. Anora highlights the invisible reality of anosmia/ the inability to smell through extensive research on the challenges of one-dimensional safety measures and binary experiences in contrast to how we as humans experience the world by engaging several senses at a time. Anora proposes methods on designing products that enhance sensory awareness instead of eliminating them, and to visualize the invisible in a thought provoking and conversation sparking form. 

Outcome 

Lighting Design 

Design for Social Impact

Design for Social Inclusion

Masters in Industrial Design Thesis 

Exhibited at Pratt Shows '22

 

Timeline 

September '20 - May '22

My Role 

Industrial Design 

UX Research and Design

Stakeholder Management

Sensory Interaction Design

In Collaboration with  

Pradvay Sivashankar, Audio Engineer

Rijul Singh, Technical Support

Advisors 

Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman

Constantin Boym

Deb Johnson

Specifications of a wall mounted version 

Specifications of a table top version 

Specifications of a stem mounted version

ANORA

AMBIENT NOSES

A cross-modal toolkit comprising a family of smart lighting fixtures for the home that sense dangerous gasses for those who don’t have the ability to smell.

Anora toolkit with an interlinked system

Sound design with an audio engineer

Sensory Translation: Communication and translation with levels of urgency

Anora specifications

Trial and error with copper patina and 3D printing

Product in context

Close up shot of the vibrant patina