Surprise! Design may have been the most fun project this semester, and certainly felt the most appropriate as labeled “Play Lab.” Like with other projects in the lab, Andro and I first struggled to come up with a solid concept–how would we surprise people? What would be the point of that? Would a less surprising but similar product work as effectively as something we imposed a surprise onto?
Immediately we began thinking of products that many people interact with in public spaces. More specifically, products that people don’t interact with enough–something that could actually use a surprise to be more engaging. After much thought, we concluded that perhaps the least engaging public installations are donation boxes. Who would be exhilarated by a glass box with a single opening and a (allegedly) inspiring message on it?
We then began thinking about how to make donation more fun–how to “gamify” the experience and give an extrinsic motivation for people to donate for a cause rather than a rare intrinsic motivation. We began by exploring games that please us by simply having an object move. What came to mind were Rube Goldberg machines, pinball machines, and plinko games. We came up with two small prototypes to see whether or not setting a coin loose through an obstacle was fun. The answer was definitely yes.
We then created a bigger prototype–something that would look so fun and engaging that the form itself would prompt someone to donate just to see what happens. It ended up looking a bit like the child of Bobba Fett and a cuttlefish.
After much testing to make sure the mechanism works, we decided quite a few changes needed to be made. Most notably, a hidden mid-section in the game would scramble the position of the coin and throw it into an unexpected donation box, of which there were four. We decided that the four categories should be organizations geared towards the benefit of our common community: PIttsburgh. What we ended up with was a product that looks engaging enough to draw people to it not knowing what it is, donate not knowing what it is, and then donate more trying to figure out how it works–all of this for the betterment of our common community.