Ultimate "Mobile-First" Design


Graduate School Thesis Show


2019 Spring


Art Direction
Physical Computing
Product Design

Imagine if we treated our dying phones as if they were patients in need of rescue. Picture a scenario where we commemorate our outdated phones when they are no longer in use. The "Mobile-First" Design, a collection of whisical products, takes a lighthearted approach to highlight how smartphones have greatly influenced our behavior and way of thinking.

Project hero image

Product 1 - Smartphone First Aid Kit

Nomophobia, short for no-mobile-phone phobia, has become an increasingly prevalent fear in our modern society. Over fifty percent of mobile phone users experience anxiety when they encounter situations such as misplacing their phone, running out of battery, or having no network coverage. In response to this phenomenon, I developed the Smartphone First Aid Kit, a concept that amplifies the fear associated with a dying phone battery. Users can revive their out-of-battery phones by engaging in a simulated CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) process, symbolizing the urgency and importance placed on saving their devices.

Product 2 - Smartphone Heat Stroke Treatment Kit

With each product cycle, cutting-edge smartphones are becoming increasingly intricate, matching the complexity of our own human bodies. These modern devices are sensitive to temperature changes, and as a result, their performance can be significantly affected. When a phone reaches a potentially harmful temperature, its processing speed slows down, and it may even experience malfunctions. Overloading the phone with excessive usage of resource-intensive applications like mobile games or exposing it to direct sunlight in a car can result in the phone experiencing a "heat stroke." To address this issue, I have devised the Smartphone Heat Stroke Treatment Kit, which is designed to rapidly cool down an overheating phone and restore its functionality.

Product 3 - iCoffin

Our phones bear witness to our unforgettable party times, and serendipitous encounters on the NYC subway, and even discern whether we are dog or cat people. Despite backing up our photos onto the cloud or computers, we often neglect to commemorate the device responsible for preserving these cherished memories—the little metal brick we call our phone. Rather than allowing it to become electronic waste or be recycled, can we explore alternative possibilities for the phone's "after-life"? Introducing the iCoffin, which serves as more than just a funerary box for your phone's remains. It is a thoughtfully designed, formal memorial container for your outdated phone, paying homage to its significance in preserving our memories.

Context and Research

Following the transformative shift of "Mobile-First" design a decade ago, smartphones have progressively become deeply ingrained in every aspect of our daily lives. They have evolved into extensions of our bodies, enabling us to accomplish tasks beyond our physical capabilities. However, their impact extends beyond the physical realm, affecting our perceptions and mental well-being. We have become reliant on robust GPS navigation, diminishing our natural path-finding abilities. Our dependence on phones has also impacted our social interactions, leading to awkwardness in small talk. Furthermore, the prioritization of posting Instagram stories often precedes savoring delicious meals.

In my project, the Ultimate "Mobile-First" Design, I have created a collection of whimsical products that playfully remind people of our ingrained habits and mental models when interacting with these tiny glowing screens. The product suite includes the Smartphone First Aid Kit, Smartphone Heat Stroke Treatment Kit, and i-Coffin. Each product focuses on a specific behavior associated with our smartphone usage.

My interest in speculating about our relationship with machines has been influenced by the book "Speculative Everything" by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby. They propose a form of design that speculates on alternative possibilities, imagining potential futures. The examples in their book showcase how artists and designers pose "what if" questions through their work, allowing the audience to envision exaggerated scenarios related to a particular topic. This approach inspired me to anchor my thesis as a satirical speculation on our entrenched smartphone behaviors.

Another source of inspiration for me was James Chambers' work, "Artificial Defence Mechanisms." It is a series of electronic products that mimic the defensive mechanisms of animals in nature, offering protection against threats in their environment. Rather than employing practical engineering methods to avoid damage, James infused these products with humorous yet well-designed animal-like behaviors, allowing people to develop stronger emotional connections with formerly static objects. This approach opened my mind to new ways of addressing profound issues by reversing conventional perspectives. Drawing from this anthropomorphic and humorous approach, I embraced it as my design principle, resulting in the creation of three distinctive products.

Product Images

Smartphone First Aid Kit close up shot
Smartphone First Aid Kit close up shot with a iPhone laying on top of a tiny stretcher
Smartphone First Aid Kit close up shot
Smartphone Heat Stroke Treatment Kit close up shot
Smartphone Heat Stroke Treatment Kit close up shot with an iPhone on top of it
Smartphone Heat Stroke Treatment Kit close up shot
i Coffin close up shot with a bunch of white flowers
i Coffin close up shot with highlight of the top
i Coffin close up shot with an iPhone inside
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