Bladmuziek – multi-sensory intervention

Bladmuziek – multi-sensory intervention

A happy note

The speech in this video is Dutch – English subtitles are available.

Bladmuziek (Musical Leaf in English) is a multi-sensory interactive installation, that I designed for the course Emerging Media. Bladmuziek is green, surprising and musical. It makes for a happy note at places where one is in need of positive distraction or want to elevate their day. It is designed to surprise the user right away and helps them feel more positive and happy.

Bladmuziek started out as a project for the course Emerging Media with a case from the Center of Expertise of Social Innovation (EMI). After winning the title best project the research group Creating010 from Rotterdam University for Applied Science wanted to develop the project further with help of a €10.000 grand from Innofest. This grand enabled the project to get developed further and get tested at two festivals in the Netherlands.


01. Research

To narrow the scope of the project and get meaningful insights for the concept creation and design phase I performed multiple research activities: field research, literature research and multiple creative research techniques from the 75 tools for creative thinking card deck by Booreiland.

02. Insights

The research resulted in a lot of information to proces. To make the data easier to interpret and build insights I made infographics. I also summarised multiple research steps into Capture Cards, which helped gather insights.

03. Concept & Design

With the capture cards and insights in mind I organised and lead a OmDenken session (reverse thinking) and took part in a brainstorm session. Ideas from these sessions resulted in concepts with their respective designs.

04. Prototype & Testing

After the client (EMI) chose the concept they wanted to see developed further I started building prototypes which were tested with the multiple target audiences.

05. And do it all again

From the presentation / test of the prototype new insights were gathered and used to improve the product. This led to a reiterative proces.

Assignment and desk research
Bladmuziek started out as a case from the Centre of Expertise of Social Innovation (EMI). They asked to design an intervention that gives a positive pulse to the health of the citizens of De Landbouwbuurt, Rotterdam. For this they wanted to use positive design, nature and emerging media.
I started the project out by doing research in an online databank with information about the neighbourhood. I found out it is a young but poor neighbourhood with mostly native citizens, a lot of the housing comes from social housing schemes and the people that live there want harmony, participation and safety. To display this information, I designed infographic, which you can see below (Dutch).

Infographic neighbourhood in data (dutch text)

Field research
After the desk research I did field research. I went around the neighbourhood with a big sign asking the habitants what they missed in the area and how happy they are. This gave us a good response and input on what the concept could be.
Right after this I made a purse-diary for the habitant asking about their day to day experience and went door to door to ask people about their happy places in the area, on their use of technology and their confidence with it. Results and proces of these are displayed in the photo slider below (Dutch).

With the findings of the research we went into the concepting phase. During this I facilitated a concepting session. For this I used the technique OmDenken (reverse thinking). Goal of this was to think about the problem from a different perspective and come to possible solutions. After this I participated in a brainstorm session where I contributed ideas for the final 3 concepts out of which EMI could choose.

After the final concept was chosen I started on the prototype. For this I used a Makey Makey and wrote a code (HTML5, CSS and JS) that converted the touches to sound. I set up this prototype at a big planter at the local hospital. Where I tested the prototype with the target audience, which did not believe it would work and acted surprised and happy when they heard the sound at the same moment they touched the plants.

Presentation & pitch
After testing the prototype with the target audience in their neighbourhood, I presented the product and results to the client (EMI) who was happy with the results and also got the opportunity to test the prototype during the presentation. Out of ~6 teams our intervention was chosen as winner. This meant I got the opportunity to present it at a booth the Rotterdam Resilient congress, which was visited by influential persons from government agencies and private businesses.
The research group behind EMI, Creating010 was interested in further developing the intervention, for use in hospitals, they asked the team and me to pitch the intervention to Innofest. After the pitch we got awarded with a €10.000 R&D grand and the opportunity to test new prototypes on 2 dutch festivals.

Product development
To develop the intervention further the collected insights and feedback were taken into account. One of the focus points was to do further research into which plants can trigger relaxation via multiple senses (seeing, touching and smelling). For this I visited a botanical garden in Delft where I’ve gotten a tour of the garden by the head gardener and plant expert. they helped with recommendations for plants that stimulate the senses and are also able to be touched without dying.

Also the form of the intervention, specifically the planter, needed thinking because the small Ikea boxed we used for the earlier prototypes wouldn’t work for a full scale intervention. For this I set multiple design guidelines, which these I made sketches of possible forms and configurations. These were also tested (low-fi) with chairs. The best form was a half round planter, which I further designed in SketchUp. Deskresearch into vandalism deterring design was also a part of this iteration.

Supply issues
Unfortunately it was not possible to get the planter produced to the specs the team and I decided on. It would be to costly and take to long. Due to this a plan B was developed. We would be building a planter ourselves of reclaimed wood. Luckily an open wood workshop was open to hosting us. With the wood available at the workshop we build a full planter which was still in line with the design guidelines I set. it also had a surprising benefit, is was a more sustainable design. The festival organisers were especially pleased with this design choice.

FestaValderAA was the first festival that welcomed us to test the intervention during their festival. The prototype was pretty much finished and worked perfectly during the tests at school. During the festival however my team and I had to deal with a lot of problems. Unfortunately there were problems with the energy source with caused the upgraded sensors to not work the way they should. Luckily there was good coffee available. The power delivery was also not stable enough. I worked together with a team member and a teacher of school to debug and problem solve the problems. Unfortunately we had to decide to go back to a previous revision, which did work. I also went out and bought rechargeable powerbanks to use as a power source. This proven to be more stable and when the power at the festival cut out, we were still able to go ahead with the tests and experiments. Luckily the tests were a succes! 

Welcome To The Village (WTTV)
Unfortunately there was not enough time between FestiValderAA and WTTV to find other solutions to get the prototype fully functional in the way the team and I envisioned. But because the implemented solutions worked good enough to still be able to test we had a lot more time to interact with the visitors of WTTV and get feedback from their usage of the intervention. The tests resulted in a lot of usable data and of course happy and amazed visitors. Not an intended use, but fun and social was that some visitors tried to form as big a line as possible and still be able to play the plants.