IDeATe Installation

communication, research, service design

fall 2016

This project is a collaborative effort to reconnect physical IDeATe studios and students (a minors program at Carnegie Mellon) with their digital resources.

class collaboration with Maayan Albert 



Our main focus was to create a reactive installation with complimented changes to the website that would represent activity on IDeATe's gallery website- drawing attention to a resource students often overlooked. 

In order to do this, my partner and I designed a subtle, but communicative visualization of three core actions of the website:

  1. new tools learned
  2. projects viewed
  3. messages sent

The installation would react to the actions in real time- creating a live connection between the digital and physical space. 

My role in this project was working on the research, style, design, and flow of the prototype. 



This page is structured as follows:

  1. Ideation, Research, Finding the problem

  2. Direction, Iteration, Prototyping

  3. Reflection



We began this project understanding that there was a disconnect between Ideate students and their studios. However, after our first iteration of ideas for this project we realized we were working on a basis of assumptions of the IDeATe space, program, and students without having any first hand experience or support

Following, we interviewed 5 students with various levels of involvements within the IDeATe program, asking what their experiences were within the space and program and how they felt about those experiences.  



Key takeaways via post-it notes and whiteboards. Pictured groups form top left to bottom right: Accessibility, Abstract Ideate, Individuals, Class Structure, and Collaboration.

From here, we began to sort out key take-aways referencing each of the videos. What we found most interesting was that the main difficulties we assumed were actually considered mainly non-issues amongst the students. While yes, the white walls, lack of windows was a bit sad, we still found students who preferred working there more so than their own studio. So what problems existed that we weren’t noticing?

We took it back to the goals of IDEATE as a program and studio space.  Acknowledging that the goal was not to make the space of IDEATE a replica of our own studios but instead be encompassing of their own program. 

We wanted to forge a stronger sense of community within the IDeATe space. 

The lack of this sense of community is understandable, considering the fact that the IDeATe only offers minors and commitment necessary for being a part of it is very low. However, for a program comprised of what one student described as "learn on your own type classes,"  a network of peers to reach out to for help and collaboration would improve students' abilities to learn.


Determining Interventions

Gallery Website

Collaborative Space

After talking to more students, we found that the IDeATE gallery website, where students can upload and view one another's work, had a huge potential to connect students. However, it didn't seam to be widely used. In addition, there is very little within this space to help identify it as belonging to IDeATe. An outside student student said that he didn't even know that the space belonged to IDeATe until a sign was put up a few months ago.


So, my partner and I determined to promote usage of the website and brand the space of IDeATe by creating an installation for the space itself. However, we knew that simply increasing the publicity wouldn't sustainably improve the website's usage- so we also added changes to website in order to best suit student needs as well. 


Changes to the website: 

Filtering By Tools: When interviewing students, one issue we found was that instructions on how to use the tools necessary to do projects were often skipped over in class. Based on this observation, we decided to utilize the website as an additional resource for students to find information about specific tools. Through allowing students to find projects based on the tools that were used to make them, users could get a better sense of which tools are best for doing what. In addition, students could then reach out to peers who had successfully used the tools that they might be trying to learn.

Direct Messaging: Another issue that we found was that the gallery website has few features that encourage students to communicate with one another. Therefore, any actual collaboration that could come out of students visiting the website is limited. Consequently, we decided to implement a direct messaging system that would make it easy for students to talk to one another.


first iteration 

last iteration

From here, we focused on designing and prototyping the installation. Since we wanted to relate it to the gallery website and inspire a source of pride within the students, we decided to visualize activity on the website. The specific activity that we wanted to show was tools learnedmessages sent, and projects viewed. This was because they best represented IDeATe's goals of skill building, collaboration, and making.


We needed to figure out a way to 1) convey activity in real time, 2) differentiate between the three different types of activity, and 3) display the words IDeATe, all in one cohesive visualization. We decided that a grid system would be most useful for implying a network. In addition, we decided to include counters of the cumulative number of actions done on the website to communicate the positive impact of IDeATe.

Finally, we recognized the need for a kiosk beside the installation to showcase the gallery website. This would serve as the intermediary point between the digital & physical space.


On Style:


I worked heavily on the style of the installation- carefully considering color, type, composition, and cohesiveness of the format in conjunction with the animations. 


On Animations:


My partner, Maayan, worked on bringing the animations to life- bringing the designs into a reactive setting and focusing on the motion. (2).gif (3).gif

On Website Modifications: 


The modifications and editions of new features to the gallery website were created in the same style and design of the original gallery site. Rather than focus energy on redesigning the website as a whole, we prioritized cohesiveness between the live design and our new modifications. 

tool filtering

tool filtering

direct messaging

direct messaging

Final Video Documentation


This is one of the lengthiest overarching projects I have done, where I was challenged to consider and balance not only my partner and I's capabilities but also determine appropriate design solutions that weren't a re-vamp of an existing system. Instead, I believe our challenge was to find the line of 'just enough' that tackled pain-points in the IDeATe experience as a whole. By doing so, we were able to facilitate a more subtle method to empower students' connections to each other, and therefore, the program that surrounds them as a whole.