winter 2020
Design methods
+ Research

Luminaire Jar

Seattle, WA

Dimensions: 12 inches x 8.5 inches

Duration: 10 weeks

Joanne Chen | Ariel Chiang | Yichen Xie | Elyssa Yim


In our fast paced world, we often don’t have the time and space to realize the care from the people closest to us. Even with the emergence of modern technology, which supposedly improves ease of communication, people lack genuine connection. When it comes to care, we tend to never think of the implications of such a term and how care affects us on a daily basis. Thus, we saw an opportunity for design, especially in regards to parents and their college aged children. We noticed there were many difficulties in regards to being able to express gratitude towards one another. This presented multiple design challenges and pointed our team in the first component of our design process.
By squeezing the sphere once, users can record a message up to 60 seconds
Listen to your message after a period of time, and re-live the memory. After listening, the message will transfer to the connected lamp
Touch the core of the lamp to listen when you receive a message.

Design Process overview

Contextual inquiry

To better understand and gain empathy for our target group, we proceeded in conducting research through three design methods: semi-structured interviews, personal inventory, and a creative entry.
Semi-structured Interviews
Our team conducted multiple interviews and framed questions to allow for conversation that provided insights into the feelings and experiences associated with care. We then analyzed responses to find a general pattern from these interviews.

One interesting thing that we found out is that children and parents tend to communicate more often and even felt closer to each other while they are away from home.
Personal Inventory
Each participant was asked to bring an item that reminds them of their loved one's care and explain the significance. As participants explain the significance of the item to better reveal how care is shown within the relationship.

Our team found that people feel stronger emotion with items that are tangible and items that associate with events that are emotional, which could be happy or sad.
Creative Entry
Our team asked each participant to creatively express what care means to them in the context of the family. Some examples include drawings, poems, and lyrics.
Our team interviewed a total of 13 participants, including both parents and their respective college aged children. In framing open ended questions, our participants were able to answer freely, giving insight into the feelings, experiences, and emotions associated with care within the family. Some questions we asked include:

How do you care for others and how do you like to be cared for?
Can you share memories from your childhood where you’ve felt cared for?

We found that participants tend to neglect care from their loved ones in the present. But will often realize and appreciate such acts of care later in life. To add on, when participants are farther apart in distance, relationships between the parent and child seem to be more intimate and intentional.

How might we help parents and college-aged children who live apart convey gratitude for past events to better care for one another in the present?

Ideation +
Concept Development

After our initial ideation phase, we began to narrow down to three concepts, we chose to continue developing our connected lamp concept because we believed the idea had the most potential for growth. We liked how this idea bridges the concept of care into something abstract and representational.

‍To address and design for our How Might We statement, we proceeded by generating more than 60 ideas to explore various and potential solutions.


Our team conducted a series of workshops to better shape our idea.
Workshop I - Telling
To understand what types of memories participants would want to record into the product, our team held an exercise to let participants simulate various scenarios while using the product -- what kind of emotions or memories do they want to preserve.
Workshop II - Making
To understand what physical forms and materials participants find appealing, our team pre-selected various everyday items with different forms and materials to let participants to rank.

And then we asked each of them to create forms by using clay.
Workshop III - Enacting
To understand where the product would be used at home and the process of recording the memories, we asked participants to actual simulate where they would place the product and how would they use it.
From the workshop, both participants agreed that the lamp would be multifunctional, as a source of light and a piece of decor. We ended our workshop with a basic roleplay to understand how our users would implement the lamp into their lives. From this activity, we learned that the process of recording was deemed to be a little stressful for users and that it would take some time to adjust to using the lamp. From our insights, we proceeded by updating and refining our overall concept. We decided to make our lamp asymmetrical to enhance the aesthetics. Moreover, we wanted to make our memory balls editable to ease the recording process, through the use of indication lights.


Based on what we learned from participatory design workshop, we made a refined storyboard, a user manual, a physical low-fidelity prototype, and a 3D rendering of our lamp for reference. These artifacts gave us an idea of how we can interact with the product, and what the functions should be.
glass cutting and polishing at UW Ceramics and Metal Arts Building
The guidebook of Luminaire Jar serves as a manual as well as a playful pamphlet to show you can interact with our product.
Slide to see full guidebook
a low-fidelity prototype and a guidebook

User Feedback

We conducted a usability test with three participants and  continued to develop and refine our overall idea through user feedback.

In asking questions that focused on our product’s form, function, and overall experience, we were able to further gain various insights regarding how our users would use and integrate the Luminaire Jar into their lives.


Now that we refined our design direction, we continued our design process by prototyping.

We realized that some of our features were inconvenient and unclear. For example, the opening of the lamp can be larger for easier access and allowing replays of recorded messages right before storing it. Moreover, we decided to add breathing light in the balls to help identify the change in time. Appearance wise, we made the surface of the dial flat instead of rounded, so it is easier to position the ball on top of the dial.
After a culmination of 10 weeks, our final design is the Luminaire Jar. Designed for the home, this translucent lamp focuses on the importance of recollection, by holding sentimental memories for both the parent and child to share. It is a design that focuses on bringing people together and encourages real life connections between loved ones.
Interactive Dial to set up the color for memory balls


Many thanks to the participants in this study for their openness and generosity.
We also thank Professor Audrey Desjardins, our TA Jeremy Viny, and Sean O’Neil.
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