How Design Found Its Problem by Obinna Muoh, MBA ’12
Our project brief at the Kolding School of Design (DK:) Design Camp was to transform electricity from something intangible to something tangible, to help people relate to it emotionally, and ultimately, to encourage responsible consumption. My teammates and I began by exploring the kinds of relationships in life where we are expected to act in the most responsible and nurturing way—for example, our relationship with a houseplant. Forget to water it, and the consequences are made manifest in ways both physical and emotional as the once-vibrant plant fades and withers away. On the other hand, when you are not using energy efficiently, there are no visible or audible cues to tell you this. Nor do bills add an emotional dimension to the relationship that we have with electricity.
Our first solution, Luna™, is targeted at kids. It is an amorphous sea anemone that includes ambient technology so it glows in response to a homeowner’s actions. Say you turn off the light. Luna™ responds with a subtle glow to acknowledge your gesture. For kids, it can even turn into a nightlight—but only if non-essential lights and appliances are turned off. Imagine kids running around the house, turning off lights and switching off appliances, so that they can have the comfort of Luna™’s glow while they sleep. Luna™ enables kids to nurture a relationship with energy that will hopefully carry on through adulthood.
While Luna™ makes its appeal on a subconscious level, ElectriCITY™ appeals to individuals and families on a conscious level. This free, advertising-sponsored service uses gamification to turn energy conservation into community interaction. It is based on the premise that people are incentivized by competition. Most importantly, people like to be recognized for winning. A family who are interested in changing their habits signs up for ElectriCITY™. The service monitors their energy use and compares it with that of similar households (in square footage, location, or size) in their neighborhood. The difference between their usage and the average gains the family points that they can cash in for discounts on local activities like yoga classes or museum visits. Or they can choose to compete head-to-head with other families. We like to say that with ElectriCITY™, “saving electricity becomes more than just saving money; it becomes an integral part of your daily life.”
Luna™ and ElectriCITY™ were designed by 2011 DK: Design Camp teammates Ida Buchardi, Sjanine Hendrikx, Xin Wo Fan, Obinna Muoh, Gregory Smith, Sidsel W. Sørensen, and Luciana Wraae. Find out more about DK: and Design Camp 2011 and check out a video of the student projects.
Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University cultivates creativity, innovation, and purpose-driven leadership to design a better world.