Designing an interaction that helps teenagers reflect on their evolving identity
Time frame: 20 weeks | 2,5 days a week | 2014
iD! is a reflection tool for high school students. It’s a personal ‘creature’ that encourages teenagers to discuss certain topics and reflect on important themes. This helps them discover, record and reflect on their own identity. High schools provide their students with the product at age 14. From then till graduation the product adapts to each individual, showing their progress and reminding them to reflect. Students use iD! both in class and at home. At school iD! playfully provides them with topics to discuss with a buddy. When they get home they can upload the recorded discussion and reflect on what was said. In the comfort of their own room the teenagers can write down their thoughts, guided by iD!.
With a very open brief I set out to design something that would empower high school students to be more open about their sexuality. From my personal experience I know how judgmental teenagers can be about peers who struggle with their sexuality. I felt that as a designer I could contribute in giving these students a voice. In an interview with a social worker I realized this topic goes far beyond sexuality. Sexuality is just one of many aspects of someone’s identity. Therefor I decided to design a tool that would help high school students reflect on their own identity. I tested different rough experiential prototypes at my former high school.
My designs started from a vision on the intended interactions. I wanted the interaction to be respectful, playful and intimate. Respectful in the sense that the design respectfully approaches the students and in turn invites them to also respect themself. Playful as not to over emphasize the seriousness of the act of personal reflection, because this might scare the students off. And finally intimate as a personal, portable object. I really liked the reference to the Philip Pullman’s daemons in the trilogy His Dark Materials: an external physical manifestation of one’s soul in the form of an animal. This metaphor helped me in designing the reflection tool.
One of my early design explorations was based on the activity of 'building your identity'. With simple foam shapes I asked teenagers to make a 3D representation of who they are.
I used the metaphor “Harvesting your own vegetables from a private vegetable garden” as inspiration for the intended interaction.
Here a different design exploration I did, this time at my former high school. These students are rating each other's personalities based on a set of dimensions they set up together. It was very interesting to see how easily these students went from superficial and polite comments to deep and honest reflections!