Decompressed Design

Decompressed Design: An Exploration in Products for Human Beings



What is this project?

Each day we use digital tools as an extension of our inner self, to share moments, communicate feelings, move through the world. But much like the nuances lost with compressing a song into an MP3, these digital tools compress the humanness of our movements and interactions.

This project explores three examples of product design that look into lifting that compression.

Decompressed Design is the work of designer Skylar Jessen for his graduate thesis at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. 

“Human relationships are rich and they're messy and they're demanding. And we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves.” - Sherry Turkle 

This look at messaging explores how we can design a digital conversation to capture a deeper level of presence, and have more intentional connection, much like the way face to face conversations work. 

Exploration 1: Messaging


This fully functional prototype is still text messaging, just another way of having a text conversation.In face to face conversations we don’t have perfect recall, can’t leave the room, and are throwing other channels of communication beyond words. They are beautifully messy.

Fade & Blur

This mode of text messaging removes the transcript, there is no scrolling up, there is no going back to understand and craft the perfect response without asking to hear that message again.

To further enhance the ever shifting nature of our conversations, and create the need for the user to be much more present, the texts blur and fade as they grow older.


Emotion Recognition

When we speak to each other face to face we have many channels of communication happening at once; body language, tone, and facial expression for example, and these channels provide so much nuance that helps us connect and understand one another.

To play with bringing another communication channel into texting I used facial tracking written with Lindsey Johnson to read the emotional expressions of the users and subtly shift the gradient of their partners background, giving cues as to the other channels at play. 


Exploration 2: Mapping

Every single day we use technologies to help us decide for us. Where we eat, what movie we should play, which direction we should walk. These tools are great at synthesizing the vast information of the digital age, but in this new fear of deciding alone we sacrifice our personality for efficiency.

This piece explores a return to personality and a new awareness of the world around us. 


We each move through the world in our own way and for our own reasons, and those even change on a moment by moment basis. This particularly focused on what it can look like to set a walk for inspiration, a walk for surprise, or a walk for your own idea of efficiency. 

The main feature of this interactive mock up is the ability to set your own options for how you want the map to be made.


The Sky Above You

The backgrounds are also in response to the physical environment, creating the background based off of the average color value of the sky above you, pulled from an online database of webcams.


Our digital tools are constantly inserting themselves into our important moments. They alert, buzz, ring, and demand our attention regardless of what we are experiencing outside of them.

So, what would it feel like if our digital tools knew when to get in our way and when they should step into the background? This piece looked at how we can design tools that utilize implicit interactions that don’t constantly need us to tell the it what we need it to do.

Exploration 3: Sensing


Sensing Connection

The piece is a functional prototype and household object. Part lighting component, part sensor for connection, the object uses arrays of microphones in each can to pick up on the amplitudes and frequencies of people in the room. 

When the object senses that those in the room are inside of a connected moment, it uses bluetooth to signal their mobile devices to fall silent. Allowing for an uninterrupted moment, until it senses that the conversation has ended and brings notifications back up. While this functionality can be achieved within the phone itself, it felt important to remove a level of mysticism from what the tool does and bring it to a more tangible level. 


Get in Touch

If you would like to talk more about these three pieces, this idea of decompressed design, or ways this project can go even further, please reach out.

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