Defining the Problem

One piece of feedback April and I received was that the idea behind our project was not clear enough. We needed to clarify exactly what the problem was we were solving using found facts and stats to explain why what we have designed is needed and appropriate.

We knew what the problem was but in order to present this in a clear way be needed to better understand the problem. Therefore we began researching specific stories that cover:

  • The history of bike use in China
  • The rise of the use of cars
  • The way the status of the bike has changed
  • The introduction of bike share programs
  • The success/failures of bike share programs, particularly in Beijing
  • Facts, figures and statistics surrounding these areas
The Bicycle as Symbol of China's Transformation
The Bicycle as Symbol of China’s Transformation


The (D)Evolution of Bicycling and Bike Share in China and Beijing
The (D)Evolution of Bicycling and Bike Share in China and Beijing


Coming Full Cycle in China
Coming Full Cycle in China


China's Bike Sharing Battle
China’s Bike Sharing Battle


Reinventing the Bicycle in Beijing
Reinventing the Bicycle in Beijing


Reinventing the Wheel
Reinventing the Wheel


From here, we now have a clearer idea of what the problem is and therefore we can take the most appropriate pieces of information to display clearly to the audience.

Audio Collection

For our pitching video, April and I agreed that we wanted a simple backing track that would accompany the visuals. We wanted something simple that would work well with a voice over, if we chose to have one, and would not distract from the information and message we are trying to portray with the video. In fact it needs to compliment the information, reinforcing our idea. We also thought that the audio should be upbeat and fun. We are trying to start an initiative and create an exciting and enjoyable city experience, therefore any music that we use needs to get this idea across. I have found a selection of tracks that we could use. I need to share these with April now and also go back through them when it comes to creating the video to see which one we think will work best with the type of footage and visuals we have in mind.

Listening to these with April we selected Track ?? as our favourite. We thought this one was most appropriate as it created an upbeat feeling, which would capture the concept of a network of people coming together and working towards a good cause. The acoustic tone of the song will reflect the natural, ecological values of the project. The progression of the song will also work well with the progression of our film, the music starts of more simplistic and gentle as we introduce the problem, then begin to builds, which could create excitement as we introduce our idea, then the temp of the song picks up even more to create an engaging and exciting film displaying all of the wonders of our idea. The continuous beat to the song provides a nice timing in which footage can be set, introduced and cropped to fit. Lastly, this particular track isn’t too complex, it offers enough to compliment and emphasize the appropriate areas of the storyboard, while also allowing a voice over to be used to clearly explain the design idea. Using this music track give us at least 3 minutes to play with, however there is obviously room to cut this down as we want to make our film as clear and straight to the point as possible so that we keep our audience engaged throughout.

Design Studios Working in our Discipline

I have previously looked into the design that already exists in industry and what can be done with various technologies. However, after having gained a better understanding of the technology we would be using I researched some specific Design Studios and creative projects. This helped to highlight the technologies that are being used in our chosen area of interest. These examples could be used in our pitching presentation.


Liquid Shard by Patrick Shearn

Although this example doesn’t use similar technologies to those we have considered, it is the overall effect of the piece that intrigued me. This is the type of experience that we want to be able to create. Shearn’s focus is more on the materials used, thousands of metallic strips attached to a grid of high-tech fiber rope and bungee cords, which were programmed to move in a certain way. Although the technologies vary, these materials could be applied to our design. We had originally intended to create a a grid format that the bottles could be attached to. We had imagined the grid would be determined by the structure of the LED’s. However, the LEDs and the Arduinos could be embedded into the high-tech grid of fiber rope and bungee cords. This way I think we would be able to create a much more fluid motion, and as a result a beautiful shimmering effect.


Decode, V&A

Dean Roosegaarde

Decode was an exhibition displaying the most recent developments in digital and interactive design. One example that shared our design concept was by Dean Roosegaarde. The whole exhibition encouraged users to interact with the design and Roosegaarde’s certainly did this. As you walked into the exhibition you were greeted by his light stick installation. As you make your way through the installation you could reach out, move around and touch the light sticks. They would respond to your movement using proximity sensors. Watching this interaction created a mesmerizing and magical user experience. This is the experience we want to create and therefore could use similar technologies to individually program the bottles on the canopy to track movement and react in response.


Cinimod Studio

Cinimod Studios have become a particular studio of interest for me. With a multi-disciplinary approach, their team includes experts in Interactive Design, Lighting, Architecture, Software Development, Project Management, Sound Design and Artwork Design and Fabrication. Their portfolio is not only technologically advance and up to date; it is also visually beautiful. From their amazing portfolio I have selected two examples below that capture certain elements of our design and have inspired me to think creatively about how our design could be realized.


Walk The Light (at the V&A)

  • Light determined by the visitor
  • Element of incidental participation and play
  • White light was used when tracking the movement of the visitors, however washes of strong colour were pushed and pulled along the tunnel creating an ambient lighting
  • This could be a way of introducing colour as well as a responsive light
  • Transformed a space
  • Created an experience
  • Uses thermal camera tracking and Philips LED lighting mounted on a moving monorail
  • Would these be suitable in our design?


DJ Light

  • Immersive public sound and light installations
  • Visitor is the creator/artist
  • They have the power to beautifully customize a large public space
  • The project is about the exhilarating experience this gives the user
  • Is this an element of our design? I think so.
  • The movement of the user are translated in real time
  • “The main controlling hardware and software utilised for DJ Light was made especially for the project, and combines years of on-going research and development.” Truly innovative.
  • Globes contain custom LED lighting, specific for maximum controllability
  • Thermal tracking installed above podium
  • Camera communicates controls signals to the main software program responsible fro the live sound and light generation
  • Although extremely advanced technology has been used, it is the beautiful and ephemeral effect of the artwork that is the main feature, this is what the focus is on and what the public are fascinated by
  • This is what we would like to be able to achieve with our design

Bottle Collecting Machine

Bike Sharing Rack in Beijing
Bike Sharing Rack in Beijing

I needed to better understand how the public bike share program worked in order to understand how our design would be more effective. Researching I now understand:

  • Some cities you have the first hour free
  • Usually pay to use the bikes
  • Use your citizen card to use the bikes
  • Scan in it when you get the bike and again when you put the bike away
  • Put money (attached to the bike) in the machine to pay for using the bike
  • Bike stations are scattered around the city
  • Bikes all lined up at bike stations
  • Public bikes have a wheel hub (could be used for identity design)


April also showed me these recycling machines in Germany. They encourage people to recycle plastic bottles by providing a system where you put recycling bottles in to receive a little money.


Learning all this April and I discussed how the process would work with the introduction of the bottle. We wanted to make a system that was clear and easy so that people could understand how to use them and would find it simple and easy enough to get involved. We will incorporate this system into our campaign, which could be the basis of our pitch video. This is our proposal:

  • You register online to participate in the campaign
  • You receive your free card in the post (this card acts like an Oyster Card)
  • Purpose plastic bottle machines are placed at every public bike station around the city
  • You top up your card by putting it in the machine and then putting the plastic bottles instead of money. One bottle equals one hour of free travel
  • You then scan the card in to get the bike out and again when you put the bike back
  • You can also use this card by putting money on it if you don’t have enough plastic bottles but need to do a particular journey

We hope this system will be simple enough to understand. We will have to make sure we summaries it in a concise way and also represent it well visually in the pitching video/presentation to sell the idea as believable.

Cut up vs. Whole Bottle

Another question we have asked ourselves is: Do we cut the bottle up and use the plastic or keep the bottle as a solid object? There may be more potential for design and effect if we are dealing the core material plastic rather than the shape of the bottle. However, the bottle acts as a symbol of recycling and the Junkmen, it is recognizable. Will it be as effective in this way if the plastic we use is no longer in the form of a bottle? Two examples below show the benefits of each option.


DIY Recycled Plastic Bottle Chandelier

  • A simple DIY project
  • Shows one of the many ways a bottle can be manipulated
  • Simply by cutting the bottle up
  • What other techniques could be created?
  • Will this play with and filter light better?
  • Will this provide more unusual, exciting and pleasing textures for the canopy?
  • Is this too complex or time consuming on a large scale?


Emergency Light from a Water Bottle

  • Bottle + Water + Light = emergency light
  • Simple materials going towards a good cause
  • Simple techniques creating a wonderful and beneficial effect
  • By adding the water to the bottle and an individual light the effect of the light is amazing, extremely effective and would have a great impact in the form of a moving light installation
  • Could water be a beneficial addition to our design

The added element of water

  • Adds to the sound
  • Sound of bottles bumping together
  • Sound of the movement of the water
  • Coloured Dye instead of water?
  • How would this effect the light coming through? Would it dim it too much?

These questions and ideas definitely need testing now. This is the next step.

How to Introduce Colour

Is colour needed in our design or not? Colour had been a big part of our previous ideas and although it is not the main focal point of our current concept, there may still be some value in the use of colour.

Reasons Colour is not needed

  • Overcomplicates the idea
  • Is it really needed?
  • Is it more about lights and the nature reflections the bottles create
  • Traditional idea of a bottle is clear
  • Its about following a light, colour doesn’t come to mind

Reasons Colour is beneficial

  • It emphasizes the effects of the light
  • Particularly in the day when it may be hard to the natural light filtered through the bottles, colour may help this
  • Adds a sense of happiness and joy to the piece
  • People react strongly to colour
  • Certain colours have strong colours in China (particularly red and yellow)
  • Makes it more of a spectacle at night

Below I have included a couple of examples of how colour has been successfully used in installations around the world. Colour is not really the main theme of these two pieces but it adds a sense of excitement and as a result has become one of the most popular elements that draw people into the piece.


Colorful Umbrella Canopy in Águeda, Portugal

  • Intended as a canopy of shade, protection from the sun
  • Also creates an amazing spectacle
  • Simple, Functional, Colorful Installation
  • Colour Filter?


Rising Moon by Hong Kong Tourism Board

  • Inspired by Lantern
  • Capturing an element of the history of China
  • Encouraging festival celebrations
  • Promote recycling
  • Plastic bottles and flashing LEDs
  • Many big themes and meanings of the piece
  • Colour is what sells it
  • Colour is what draws people in, in order to understand and appreciate the themes and messages
  • Coloured Lights?


Octolively is an open-source interactive LED surface kit. This is the type of technology that I can imagine being used in our design. Each LED in this example has it’s own independent motion sensor which is what I was hoping to achieve for our design. Therefore the installation will be more specific to the individual’s movements below, tracking with singular lights rather than bulk. Working with this technology could also create a more exciting interactive light show and result in a wider variation of patterns through the plastic bottles. This system can also be easily scaled up for larger grids, which is definitely what we would require. However, I like how each individual light is fairly small which means we will be able to attach a bottle to each light, creating a maximum effect. We will have to take into consideration the spaces between lights to ensure the bottles can all slot in together.

Light Shifting Design

This article has been an amazing tool in my understanding of what technologies exist and how they can be used. It is about sculpting fluid and reactive LED surfaces. It includes two brilliant examples of work by Jason Krugman, an electro-kinetic artist who specializes in interactive light sculptures.

Formally an analyst on Wall Street, Jason Krugman now employs himself as an electro-kinetic artist who specializes in interactive light sculptures. He works from basic flexible LED meshes, but that doesn’t mean these are predictable or typical LED fabrications. Krugman’s installations are reactive and animalistic, differentiating themselves from the LED sculptures we’re used to seeing—that while mesmerizing or dizzying, seem to lack a human element.”

These technologies have enabled me to see how our idea could be realized. We now need to figure out how plastic bottles can be worked into the structure and how motion sensors could be used along side this material.


Firefly by Jason Krugman

  • Sculpted from LEDs, custom switches and aluminum
  • People can interact by blowing on or fanning the piece
  • Draws people in to explore and experiment with it
  • The outcome if magical which matches the technology
  • Simply idea
  • Realized beautifully


Harmonium by Jason Krugman

  • Breathing piece of work
  • Bring life to the LEDs
  • The type of material I had imagined in our design
  • Amazing scope for ideas


Another reactive design using LED lights. This piece was commissioned by Intel for their stand at MWC 2016 in Barcelona, and created by Jason Bruges Studio. Jason Bruges is known for his innovative installations, which create interactive spaces. His work brings together many disciplines and areas within the creative industries such as architecture, site-specific installation art and interaction design. I was inspired by the values of Bruges’ work and feel that the outcome that April and I are working toward lie within a similar area to the work he has been creating. Therefore, I have taken inspiration from his portfolio that I hope to carry forward within this project.

Considered a pioneer of this hybrid in-between space, Jason has subsequently paved the way for a new genre of design studios, artists and designer-makers.”


Curious Canopy by Jason Bruges Studio

  • Reactive ceiling installation
  • Track movement and highlight areas of particular interest
  • Live sensing
  • Observes the surroundings
  • Respond to the crowd
  • The crowd become the creators of the artwork, potentially without even knowing it
  • Beautiful patterns are created naturally as the space evolves
  • The idea of a ring or a circle
  • Simple movement but effect in mass
  • “Each ring was controlled by Intel’s own open-source Edison module with a bespoke board that read the activity below and used it as a parameter to control ceiling wide effects.” à To gain an understanding of the materials and technology involved

Shape Shifting Design

Key search words when looking into technology and motion activated design:

  • Reactive Surface Systems
  • Kinetic Architecture
  • Shape-Shifting Architecture

From these key ideas I have found a couple of examples of projects that show the possibilities of technology and how movement can be manipulated. I have learnt a lot looking at these pieces, which has really helped with idea generation. I have briefly summed up below each piece what I found fascinating about it and what I wish to take forward in my thinking.


Translated Geometries by students at Barcelona’s Institute for Advanced Architecture

  • Physical space morphing based on external inputs
  • Beautiful structure of the piece
  • Magic like quality
  • Origami-inspired shape that fold inwards and outwards


Breathing Architecture by Harry Wei

  • Simplicity of the movement
  • Complexity of shapes
  • Idea of bringing life to the structure


Chain of Ether by Ned Kahn with Davis Davis Architects

  • Powered by a natural element
  • Wind activated installation
  • Simplest idea of movement emphasized
  • Effective and impressive on a large scale
  • Use of repetition
  • Mesmerizing & Therapeutic
  • Satisfying & Enjoyable


Latvia Pavilion for Expo 2010, Shanghai by Architects Mailitis A.I.I.M.

  • Similar concept and ideas as above
  • The shape of the structure
  • Introduction of colour
  • Quality of materials


Hyposurface by Decoi Architects and the MIT Architecture

  • Interactive artworks
  • Recreates individual’s movements
  • Allows user participation and contribution
  • Very tactile

Cycling in China

Thinking about creating a project around cycling based in China, I looked into the background of cycling in China, to see if it is popular and what facilities the cities provide.

These two articles have been crucial in my understanding of bicycle culture in China as well as some of the issues that exist.


Turns out, China is the cycling capital of the world, once referred to as the ‘Kingdom of Bicycles’. There are seven million registered bicycle riders in Beijing alone and around half a billion bicycles in China, which is roughly one bicycle per household. In most places bicycles outnumber cars by 10 to 1. However, the number of people who use bicycles for transport needs has gone down, from 60% in 1995 to 20% in 2010 and car ownership has skyrocketed. This has led to sever air pollution in certain cities, Beijing being one. Therefore, many cities have introduced bike share programs to bring the bicycles back. Many of these have been a success however, for some reason Beijing’s program was struggling. One of the articles listed above explains the problem very well:

“A little over a year after the program’s launch, many of its bicycles sit idly and unused at the stations. In one year since its inception, Beijing’s bike share recorded approximately 1.7 million rentals which averages out to less than one rental a day per bike. That’s about one-fourth the amount of trips that each bike in Hangzhou sees per day (3.8). And in Wuhan, currently the largest bike share system in the world, its 90,000 bikes are rented at least twice a day with 180,000 trips made per day. “

In a country that has the bicycle deeply embedded into its recent history and one that is currently seeing a resurgence of the bicycle, why aren’t Beijingers using bike share? Some suggest that because of a almost non-existent bike culture in Beijing, the local government had little incentive or push to plan a quality bike share system.”

“The bicycle mode share in Beijing declined from 62% in 1986 to 16% in 2010, while automobile growth is increasing about 15%-20% each year. Along with this modal shift, the perception of bicycles has also shifted, exacerbating the issue. The bicycle was once the social status symbol of China. Now, it has been replaced by the car as the new status symbol because owning a car represents success and an upgrade to the middle-class. People in Beijing generally perceive the bicycle as outdated, and refer it as the main mode of transport for the poor. In an article published in Time, a Chinese woman even stated that she would “…rather cry in a BMW car than laugh on the backseat of a bicycle.””

According to some, Beijing’s current bike sharing system was poorly designed and implemented.”

“Other factors such as the development of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure have also led to the resurgence of the bicycle in Hangzhou. Meanwhile, Beijing is playing catch-up as it works on its implementation of designated bike lanes in historic centers, arteries, and central business districts by 2015. And, with Beijing’s strong negative sentiment surrounding bicycling, it is unclear whether or not new infrastructure coupled with the growth of the bike share system will be enough to increase the system’s use.”

I think that this could be a very interesting problem to keep in mind when we are designing our idea. Could there be a way that we combine the problems with the bike share program with the background of Junkmen in China in order to create an exciting experience to not only celebrate what Junkmen did but to bring back an element of the bicycle culture in Beijing, encouraging more people to use the public bicycles? I think this could be such an exciting and beneficial project.