Category Archives: My Work

DR2008_04_Reading: You Are What You Carry

Hidden In Plain Sight: How To Create Extraordinary Products For Tomorrow’s Customers (2013) by Jan Chipchase, Chapter 4: You Are What You Carry
Hidden in Plain Sight

In carrying our stuff, some decision based on today decision and some based on habit. There are factors that affect our carrying habit such as survival as well as status, self-esteem, addiction and relationships. Fundamentally, carrying behaviour is about knowing where our belongings are, being able to access them at the right time and feeling secure in their safekeeping.  It depends on security, convenience, reliable solutions and peace of mind.

There is phenomenon the range of distribution which is the distance that people are willing to let physical objects stray when they’re out and bout. It was based on the perceived risk of danger, the actual risk of danger and the perceived and actual need to keep items close at hand for convenience. It provides perspective on the perception of risk of both the environment and the individuals in it. There is also idea of centers of gravity which is the place where we aim to set an object down and the first place we look to retrieve it, our spatial mnemonic devices. It also serves a signs that mental convenience van be just as important as physical convenience. Afterwards, there is point of reflection, the moment when a person pauses in order to run through a mental checklist of what they are carrying and what they may be forgetting. But as more and more of our possessions become digitized, we have to reexamine these fundamentals of carrying behaviour as with change comes opportunity.

Server-based storage systems like the cloud offer the promise of revolutionising how we transport our own digital belongings as it comes with challenges of providing security, convenience, reliability and peace of mind. When things become digital, the range of distribution equation changes as the physical distance, time distance and distance from consciousness can be much longer. it also means that we can juggle many more thins at once, crisscross them in myriad way as well as create collaborative networks between multiple users. Possibilities of technological advancement could create a new kind of marketplace for predictive products.Yet, it still keep the essence of carrying behaviour: having things at hand when we need them, where we need them and using memory and proximity to keep track of them.

People carry more than the bare minimum because they feel most comfortable when provisioning for contingencies. With the combination of risk probability and consequence cost creates contingency provisioning, an aspect of life where behaviour changes when a threshold is reached. Tremendously powerful tools for communication and information that fit inside our pockets and bags are our tools for survival but what “survival” means are constantly evolving. The more we come to understand it, the better equipped we’ll be to harness technology and create tools that really matter.

It really opened my eyes  that all this is insightful and not only based on what the user wants at a time, more than that it is shaped by the environment, culture and trust the person has on his environment. It seems like a trivial matter but it says a lot of the unsaid and how small changes can really affect them as well. Especially in the advancing mobility and technology, more products will utilise such information but more importantly is for the designer to be thoughtful in using this insight as well. Personally, I feel secured when I am with the people I’m familiar with and the idea of a device can indicate that thus prevent it from being stolen by strangers is a really interesting idea that will indeed give a peace in mind for owners.

[1]  Chipchase, Jan., and Steinhardt, Simon. Hidden in Plain Sight : How to Create Extraordinary Products for Tomorrow’s Customers First edition. New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 2013.

DR2008_03_Reading: Calibrating Your Cultural Compass

Hidden In Plain Sight: How To Create Extraordinary Products For Tomorrow’s Customers (2013) by Jan Chipchase, Chapter 5: Calibrating Your Cultural Compass
Hidden in Plain Sight

The chapter talks about rapid cultural calibration, which is an observation method that does not only put ourselves in the local mindset but also putting local phenomena into global perspective. The method is used in conjunction with more structured techniques such as in-depth interviews, surveys and home visits to help deepen the understanding of a new cultures and compare it with others.

Some tips are given as well, firstly is to ‘wake up with the city’ at the beginning of the day as it tends to be more consistent and more regimented than the day’s end as the city finds its rhythm to the tune of the morning commute. In residential areas, we’ll find locals engaged in their pre-work activities of choice while in the hours before retail businesses open, we notice how people and businesses in the community protect themselves overnight. These simple rituals offer a sense of the strength of social and commercial relationships thus say a lot about levels of trust in a neighbourhood or city. Next is to ride local transportation to understand the stresses and pains a city inhabitants at the worst of its commute as an important aspect to understand the participants’ lives. Another way is to observe the travel-hub such as airports, train stations and intercity bus stations for the diverse crowds that pass through the halls. The observation tend to reveal norms and expectations about security and the level of government suspicion to ward its population. Another place to observe is the local hairdresser that allow social hub for people to come together and have conversations to figure out any topic we would like to know in the local context.

Other than the places, another aspect to observe is the breaching behaviours of the people to conform the perceptions and social norms. It is to explore and try out the line between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” to test the malleability of the social norm in question. Then, it is about observing the international fast-food chain MacDonalds that tailored its offerings to particular setting and culture among the global hallmarks. Another aspect to observe is to read the signs, it will tell about social behaviour and value conflicts in public spaces. The existence of a sign reveals that the issue is important enough for someone to even produce it. The sign language also vary for multilingual countries, and it reveals the aspiration of its creator. On another hand, the lack of signage can just be as revealing to indicate the regulatory environment and assumption on the social fabric of society. Lastly, it is to capture the zeitgeist “time spirit” which is the mood, essence of a culture that help us to gain intuition if the design is congruous. It can be done through macro tours to capture the sensory experience within a setting.

Overall, the method encourage us to go and explore, find out the formal and informal rules of the environment to help us understand how the consumers live, daily challenges, as well as a balance between convenience, cost and comfort to augment our understanding of the things shared with us. So the tips is to find balance between formal and informal data collection in order to justify activities that feel like work and more like having fun. It is a method to help understand which of those experience can be applied to the task at hand to spot what’s hidden in plain sight.

Personally, I feel this is a very interesting way to observe the unseen. It makes me feel like there is so much more aspect in the city that actually shape a society. It is to capture  the lives a s a whole, not only on specific aspect of it and how they are interrelated to one another. It is a great method to consider especially when the observer is not local. It will really help to put point of view from local context in considering the different aspect before starting a design. While reading it, I unconsciously imagining the situation at my hometown instead of Singapore context which I have been living for the past 8 years. I realised that I personally haven’t really understand the ‘fabric’ of Singapore as I have never intentionally observing the mentioned aspect of it. I feel that it should be a method that everyone used in the start of their research context.

[1]  Chipchase, Jan., and Steinhardt, Simon. Hidden in Plain Sight : How to Create Extraordinary Products for Tomorrow’s Customers First edition. New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 2013.

DR2008_02_Assignment: Navigating without GPS

Do a simple exercise over the next week:  without using GPS for your device to navigate, find your way to some place new.  How do you do it and what happens along the way?

Create a “counter-map” or alternative map of your experience.

When I first came to Singapore in 2011, I stayed for 2 months in a dorm named Parry Hall before it ceased its operation. For the address, Parry Hall is located at 30 Parry Ave, Singapore 547258 (taken from the internet) and it also said that it is permanently closed. It has been years and I could only remember that it is located at residential houses and the nearest MRT station is Kovan. In the past, we took bus to go to school and return by public transport. I used to get lost if not walking back with the others. The residential area felt like a maze and when the assignment was mentioned, I would like to try to return to Parry Hall from Kovan without GPS for the experience. I want to know if I could still remember the way back after almost 8 years.

So… this is my experience trying to find my way back to Parry Hall from Kovan MRT station!

Overall, it is a very interesting experience! I found out how the sense of familiarity is something that one can still feel even after years. And that my memory is not that bad also! 😀

DR2008_02_Reading: Seen and unseen: Ho Chi Minh City’s sidewalk life

Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (2015) by Annette Kim , Chapter 1: Seen and unseen: Ho Chi Minh City’s sidewalk life
Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City

The reading talks about a very interesting issue of sidewalk of Ho Chi Minh City. Comparing to the past, new paradigm seems to be that people on the sidewalk need to keep moving. This occurs with policy documents rationales about modernity, efficient and safe transportation, improved public health and food safety, and attracting international tourism in order to be a modern, world-class city. It was also mentioned that sidewalks are particularly important for economy due to the presence of sidewalk vending. It is  even said that in many cities the main public space is the street and when people stopped walking in the street, the sidewalk.

Therefore, it’s been questioned on how sidewalks serve its function as public space with all its existing problems. Yet, at the same time the solution proposed often homogenous which often end up demolishing what is valuable and unique to each city. Sidewalks has been the communicator of tale of human condition, it does not impact the city only in physical space but also social space. In response to that, urban planning require understanding of the design problem that also pre-suppose a heterogeneous public that can be done by going out to the site and interviewing and observing people. Therefore, since the meaning and use of space is not necessarily revealed in the built form itself, the  roles and rules about those spaces need to be observed as well. It includes system of claims to sidewalk space: the parties involved, the terms of use, under what conditions, enforcement institutions, etc. which depend upon factors such as history, culture, demographics, etc.

Sidewalks as public space where public space is often initially thought of as a commons, where there is open access to a space. However, because of land’s physical boundedness, there is a limit to how many people can enjoy the space at any given time where at a certain point, the value of the space declines with overuse. This returns us to the discussion about the advantages and disadvantages between local discretion and standardization. It is about physical environment created by these regimes in terms of functionality and livability for the broader public, both the social and physical dimensions of their sidewalk practices, how they are socially negotiated, and the city they construct.

This reading has actually remind me of my hometown where it is very common for vending to be on the sidewalks. I grew up spending money and time on those stalls and I honestly feel safe there, not only because of the relatively cheap stuff but also the friendliness of the vendors. It has been a part of my childhood memory and imagining the culture might be gone in the future has actually saddened me. I personally believe that such activities plays important role in shaping the culture of a city, thus its existence  need to be supported rather than opposed, even for the sake of economic development. I wouldn’t want to imagine the future time when I could only tell stories about what used to exist without being able to visit them in person anymore. I feel that, to lose a culture is part of losing a part of everyone who has memory about it as well.

[1] Kim, Annette Miae. Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015.

DR2008_02_Presentation: ADM Map

Presentation: ADM Map
Group: Ling Ern, Natasya, Nebin
Date: 22 August 2019 (Week 2)
Slides: PDF or Google Slides

Insights & Reflections: I realised that there are many inefficiency in ADM building design and it’s non-intuitive especially for visitors. Grouping the users, we also learnt to analyse from different point of views and scenario contexts. Moreover, with the sometimes-not-ordered room number, the presence of a functional map will be a great help.


DR2008_01_Assignment: Everyday Objects Analysis

Choose two objects that you use every day (you cannot pick mobile phones or laptop/computer) and analyze their design using the principles described in Chapter 1 of The Design of Everyday Things. Imagine describing what the object is and what it’s designed to do to someone who has never seen it before. Is it intuitive or frustrating?

The two objects I’ve chosen are body wash and shampoo. In general, both are bottle yet both have different basic operation on how it works to dispense its content.

Body Wash: Dove Shea Butter & Vanilla Shower Foam

Dove Shea Butter & Warm Vanilla Shower Foam (500 ml)

The body wash bottle has a tear drop shape that is quite big in volume and dimension. It has difference affordances like it can afford to be opened, refilled and lifted. With the cap covering the top, it can afford to be opened. With the slim thickness of the bottle, it can afford to be lifted easily by one hand and turned around for the content to be poured out to the user’s other hand. Also, as the cap can be opened, the bottle afford to be refilled.

As for the signifiers, the yellow-gold colour at the cap (while the rest are white) as well as the small extrusion at the cap help to indicate that it can be opened by pulling it up. At the same time, the line between the bottle cap and body helps to indicate that they can be separated and that the bottle can be refilled.

Naturally, the position of the vertical hole at the top helps to direct that it needs to be flipped over to get the liquid out. Once it happens, the feedback will immediately happen as the body wash pours, there is no need to press the bottle sides as the hole size is already quite big.

For someone who has never seen it before, the design is quite intuitive and the concept is straight-forward for a bottle. I really feel that despite the big volume size, it can easily be lifted by one hand even by a relatively small hand of mine.

Shampoo: Dove Daily Shine Shampoo

Dove Daily Shine Shampoo (700 ml)

The shampoo has a round shape with a pump to dispense when pressed, it is bigger in volume compared to the body wash and big dimension (similar height). With its mechanism the shampoo bottle can afford to be pressed to dispense its content. It can also afford to be refilled. However, because of the diameter size of the bottle and heavy content, it cannot really afford to be lifted by one hand while showering (even if it is lifted, the other hand will be pressing the pump, hence the palm cannot really be free to hold the shampoo effectively).

For the signifier, the yellow-gold colour of the pump (while the rest are whit) is a different part that attracts attention, indicating it can be pressed. Also, the vertical lines along the bottle neck also indicate that it can be opened by twisting it in anti-clockwise direction if the user wants to refill the bottle.

Naturally, the shape of the end of the pump which is a horizontal hole also indicate that the shampoo will pour out at that side and thus there is no need to lift and turn the bottle around. Once pressed, the feedback will immediately happen as shampoo pours out, unless it is running out.

For someone who has never seen it before, the design is considered intuitive and direct for a bottle. It just, at the very first the pump will be locked and it might get confusing if the new user is not familiar with such concept to turn it anti-clockwise to unlock.


Analysing both bottles, I realise that despite their same function to store liquid and make it dispensable, their different design details lead to different concept of utilising it. While one is meant to be lifted and turned around to dispense, the other one is not meant to be lifted and only pressed the pump to dispense. If someone never know any such bottles before, the body wash bottle may be more intuitive for him as there is no additional ‘technology’ (the pump) required in the process and with the basic sense of gravity, he can instinctively turn it around to get the content out.

DR2008_01_Reading: The Psychopathology of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things Revised and Expanded Edition (2013) by Don Norman, Chapter 1: The Psychopathology of Everyday Things
The Design of Everyday Things Revised and Expanded Edition

After reading the first chapter about The Psychopathology of Everyday Things, my understanding as designer widened. I used to think that a good design is a design that is able to cater to the needs of its targeted market. However, after reading it I learnt that even when a product or service is specifically targeted at one type of user, throughout the process it will have interaction with different stakeholders and their point of view need to be considered as well. Take an example a chair for a toddler. I used to think that a designer should design with consideration of the child as the direct user in mind. Some examples are on how the material will be comfortable for the child, how the height will fit as the child grows up and how the finishing will be safe for the child. But after reflecting more, I am know thinking the parent’s point of view as well, such as how easy it is to assemble the chair and how convenient to store and take care for the chair’s durability.

I realise that designing an experience should not focus only on the end point but also the holistic experience of the product. And interestingly, there are many factors and elements that can be used to help in improving those experience. It’s such a complex thing that require the designer to prioritise the different needs of different users.

[1] Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things Revised and expanded edition. New York: Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2013.

DR3005_07_Nice Reading: Atmosphere


The reading is nice Reading: Atmosphere by P. Zumthor.

Reading it, one word perfectly described my reactions: WEW!
previously, I’ve never thought of about atmosphere of a place in such depth and big consideration. I feel that the article is really eye-opening and unusual. It took into account the things that we think we know but we never really talk/think about it (until we read it)… It is the atmosphere taken for granted that was actually can be designed and engineered.

Honestly, creating and planning such atmosphere seem really attractive to me… Like, I used to justify myself (and my family and friends) to go to places with good atmosphere because it has the ‘mood’. Further thinking about it, it leads up to the ‘ambience’ such places provide in addition the the available facilities (aka WIFI and power plug, and maybe some background music).

But my point is, after reading the e-book, I realised that there are much more than that. The atmosphere does not only consist of what is presence at the moment… it was influenced and created way long before that when one decided to build the place.

WEW. Such an insightful view. Now I kind of see ‘atmosphere’ of places differently.. LOL

DR3005_06_Short Reading: Another Scale of Architecture

Another Scale of Architecture

The reading is Ishigami, J. (2010). Another scale of architecture. Kyoto: Seigensha.

Scale is a really interesting concept, it affects us more than we think it is. We have this perception of how certain scales are meant for certain things. Especially in architecture and design for outdoor environment where the space can be easily compared to the nature, in which the idea of scale is integrated and naturally felt.

Imagine seeing a huge building form the outside and then we look up to see the sky and back seeing the building. The building that at first seems grand and huge become somehow smaller in scale and we receive different feeling and perception of the building than before. It is the power of scale. Something that has been integrated so well in our life that we take it as a natural phenomenon and does not really  take it as something that we, as human, really has control about.

But, what if design challenge it? What if design defy the common perception of scale and created something unusual? Seems interesting 🙂

DR3005_05_Encouragement Reading: Prototyping Takram

Prototyping Takram

The reading is: Tagawa, K., Watanabe, K., & Ogata, H. (2014). Pendulum of Design Innovation. Tokyo: LIXIL Shuppan.

In my opinion, I really agree on the points and importance on prototyping and how it will be able to help in future development. It mentioned that unproductive meeting occurs as discussion are based on abstract ideas and concepts. Indeed when we have prototyped, many more issue come to light hence meeting can be more productive and progress can be seen clearer.

It is something that I feel personally important as the step of prototyping itself will direct the direction of a project. And having to delay such important steps will hinder good progress no matter how good the abstract plan was.

I hope that our project will be able to reach this step soon hence we will be able to see what works and what’s not to be able to improve more on our design. 🙂