Welcome to my portfolio website. This website was created for the bachelor assessment at Eindhoven University of Technology.
On this website you can read about my vision on design and professional identity as a designer.
Next to that, I look back on a selection of past projects and reflect on my expertise areas.
I design for cognitively engaging experiences. Experiences where design is employed to challenge people to be creative, think, and connect; aiming to broach wicked societal topics.
Historically, design is often applied to make life easier. We can design to get rid of any frictions in daily life, ranging from changing how we interact with products to the way we do our jobs. Present day, a lot of our leisure time is spent in the online world which provides us a with distraction from the real world and can allows us to escape to a fabricated, frictionless digital reality.
What makes us distinct, opinionated and cultured individual is not the popular frictionless design, but the design that has some friction. I do not ignore that designing to get rid of friction is often very useful (who doesn’t want to reduce the friction of being stuck in a traffic jam?), but that is not where my interest lies.
Frictionful experiences are the ones that learn us something about ourselves or the world around us. The ones that can open our eyes to the perspectives of other people or change our view on a subject.
With frictionful I do not mean frustrating or rough. Here, the word frictionful means an experience that is challenging on a physical, emotional or intellectual level. Something that requires some effort and cannot be done on auto-pilot. Take for example the frictionful but rewarding experience of learning to play a musical instrument, or: having a difficult talk with your partner after which you both feel more strongly connected. The point where friction happens is magical: it is where we find motivation, learn something, or get inspired.
Spaces for creativity
With my designs, I want to create spaces that facilitate a willingness to question the status quo or one’s own views, experiences that allow for anyone to expand their comfort zones and try out new things. Spaces for creativity, that allow for a delay of closure, avoiding jumping to conclusions and letting new ideas mature instead of forcing them into the shape of already existing ones. Providing a rewarding experience of discovery and interpersonal connection.
I design platforms that promote the individual in a humanistic perspective. Have individuals see their responsibility to pro-actively support their community. I want to design to help shape the way someone wants to add to the world, experiences that resonate with a person’s wishes, motives, affects or goals.
These platforms or experiences can take any shape, from an interactive museum exhibit to a discussion tool to facilitate complex discussions in a community.
This type of design is a collaborative process, and not something to do on my own. The design process itself is a prime example of a frictionful experience, and therefore also very meaningful for anyone to participate in. I am using the inputs from people, embracing all their different perspectives to create meaningful designs that tackle wicked societal problems.
In a working context, I am a curious and energetic creative. I can bring imagination and enthusiasm to a group, and can contribute with my hard skills in ideating, interviewing, electronics, and prototyping.
For the longest time, I have had an interest in subjects that come together in the discipline of design. When I was young, I was always busy creating the spaces and constructions I had imagined in my mind. Later, I developed an interest in electronics, programming and woodworking. Add some influences from the human psychology and societal developments into the mix, and you’ve got a fair picture of what interests me. If it falls in the triangle of: people, technology and creativity; I will probably enjoy it.
This does not mean that my interests are limited to this triangle. I am a curious and interested being by nature, and when someone is enthusiastic about a topic I can easily be dragged along in their inspiration. I believe that design can be used to empower people to discover or show this enthusiasm, and that most processes can harbor a place for anyone who wants to contribute.
I am hoping that this text does well in describing the positive, can-do attitude I am often described having. I also am a very independent worker, I crave creativity and freedom more than stability and security. I don’t hesitate to step out of my comfort zone and I feel rewarded by challenging experiences.
My skills range from inspiring to ideating, from researching to interviewing, and programming to woodworking. I am a quick and eager learner.
Working in a team, my personality type is defined as “campaigner”: bringing an energy, a spark of imagination and madness to a group. I often take a leading role in a project, and try to keep the energy high. Working in a team is where my empathetic quality flourishes. Being able to read between the lines and feel nuances.
My personality type and professional identity do not only bring virtue, of course. I am well aware that I can quickly lose patience or become dejected when I feel trapped in a boring role. Tasks like keeping up with administration or following through with some ideas are not my strongest side. This difficulty with following through originates from finding it difficult to focus on some tasks. I am also independent to a fault, I do not like being micromanaged and restrained.
Being aware of these fallacies, I can work with them and on them effectively, and I can create a team with many different types of personalities to complement each other. Working in a board at Lucid and a team at Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken forced me to be very open about my fallacies, and to improve upon them. There I learned a lot about collaborating in teams of different personalities, and improved on following through with projects.
As a designer I want to be somebody that sparks joy, gets people talking passionately about the things they love and value. I believe that designing for friction enables this type of experience.
In the future I want to broaden my experience in working with people from different disciplines, and gain even more skills in engaging with society on different levels. I would, for example, really like working for a company designing interactive museum exhibitions, or work on some more social projects that expand my cultural horizon and abilities to empathize with even more people.
I designed a tool that allows for crowdsourcing the annotation of geospatial datasets. To accomplish this, I set out to create a tool that innovates classic crowdsourcing platforms. After numerous explorations, I created a chatbot and tested its applicability for the task at hand.
The Final Bachelor Project (FBP) is where everything I have learned as a designer these past 4 years comes together in one project.
Context and client
GIS are Geographical Information Systems that contain geospatial data. Geospatial datasets are used to answer geo-analytical questions like: how densely are trees located in Amsterdam?
The task that needs to be crowdsourced is the annotating of geospatial datasets according to their attributes. Annotating these datasets contributes to a future where geo-analytical questions can more easily be answered since one can more readily select the right components for the question.
The client, a project named QuAnGIS at Utrecht University have developed an ontology for classifying potential uses for Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Annotating the GIS is a task that required abstract thinking, and can only be performed by a human. Due to the large amount of GIS in the world, the only logical choice would be to distribute the workload over a large number of people.
For this project, I set out to develop a tangible interface (TUI) that helps in executing the annotating task. I reasoned that by creating a TUI, I could promote expressive activity that allow users to externalize their representation of the annotating task. This in turn would make incorrect assumptions and conflicting beliefs visible.
While exploring TUI, I quickly figured that in order to be a viable candidate for a crowdsourcing task, the TUI would have to collect data that is several orders of magnitude more valuable than their digital counterparts, since a TUI has to be produced and distributed.
In a search for a TUI that does not have to be produced, I found Augmented Reality (AR) to be a good option. I created a proof-of-concept that allows users to create their own TUI with objects around their desks. In evaluating this interface with the client, we found that using AR places another layer of abstraction on top of the already quite abstract task of annotating. This was undesirable.
Finally I settled on creating a chatbot that would lead users in the process of annotating, by asking them multiple-choice questions based on a decision tree I have created. This chatbot was evaluated with geographers, and tested on the quality and speed of annotations, and the evaluation of its usability and cognitive task load. This all was compared to a control study, where participants had to annotate the maps using only an instruction manual.
I found that the chatbot had a lower cognitive load and a better usability evaluation. It also scored higher on annotating one dimension of the data (the geometry), but lower in annotating the other dimension (the entities). When creating a next iteration of this annotation tool, a conscious choice needs to be made on if the tool needs to play a leading or a guiding role in the process.
A leading role results in a way lower cognitive load and learning curve, but makes the wording of the questions and design of the decision tree essential. A tool that is more guiding relies more on the knowledge of the user about the topic, and has a steeper learning curve but allows for more interpretation from the user.
In the section “Expertise areas” I shortly reflect on how each area was applied in my FBP. The main areas of expertise I applied in this project are: “Math, Data & Computing” and “Design and Research Processes”
Main learning points
Obviously, I learned a lot while dealing with this complex project over the past 5 months. Below, I shortly describe three large learning points.
A big theme in this project was finding the right balance between my personal interests and these of the client. If it was all up to me, I would have created a TUI using AR for crowdsourcing. A large part of being a young professional at ID is to work in the interest of your stakeholders. In this project: me as a student and Utrecht University as a client. In the field, you can not simply go directly against the wishes of a client or you won’t get paid. Of course clients an be nudged in a direction you think is most fit.
I am proud that, in this project, I managed to create value for the client (information and insights) and for myself as a designer (experience in designing for complex assignments).
The right tool for the job
Starting out, I had a clear vision that I wanted my FBP to result in a tangible product. When I found out that this was not the right tool for the job of crowdsourcing, it was hard to let go. Not immediately letting go brought me to the application of AR to create a TUI, something that I am interested in exploring further in the future. Realizing that this could be applied in crowdsourcing, but was not really the right fit for annotating geospatial datasets I turned to digital tools. Also relating back to the balancing of interests, I think that I found the right balance of exploring options close to my heart and being able to let go of them when it turns out they do not provide the right tool for the task.
Application to vision
At times, I found it hard to relate the work I was doing to my vision. Taking some distance from the project, I believe the application of my vision on design is applied in a more nuanced way. The TUI I intended to create is a good example of an experience that is challenging on both a physical and intellectual level, and could lead to a frictionful experience.
The chatbot prototype leans a little more towards frictionless, with a shallow learning curve. This prototype gave me a lot of validation and nuance on my vision, that a tool that is guiding in a process might not be the perfect choice for a cognitively difficult task. What I did get right, is externalizing a mental model to enable the user to see any inconsistencies in their interpretations, possibly providing a friction between the answer they would like to give and the answer options given. This could force them to think deeper about their answer.
During my internship at Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken, I played a large role in a project about the image around sexworkers. For RIEC Limburg, we conducted live research into the taboos surrounding prostitution at the Dutch Design Week.
Expertise: Design and Research Processes, User & Society
We designed conversation tools to be used at the DDW to start the discussion about sex workers. These tools were created so we could change the information, contents and research question on the fly.
During 7 days, I was present full-time at the DDW to collect insights from visitors, analyze them, and come up with new ideas on how we could tackle the problematic image of the sex industry.
These countless conversations with visitors really strengthened my interviewing skills, and learned me how to have a casual conversation while also gathering information and not letting my personal views cloud the questions.
I was in the “knowledge lead” in this project, having conducted all preliminary research into the topic and being most present at the DDW. A large part of my role was thus to structure the information and identify gaps or patterns in insights. In discussions with the employees of A/BZ I learned a lot on how to structure the research process and which steps we could take next.
Video by VNG Realisatie
For Eindhoven Museum, I created an interactive installation concept for their “museum through the city”. Users could interact with the table we designed and explore the past/present/future of mobility in Eindhoven through placing and moving objects.
Expertise: Creativity & Aesthetics
The system challenged visitors to think about possible future changes in traffic situation in Eindhoven, and while they were playing around with this, gave them information about mobility-related museum artifacts that were displayed on the table.
Eindhoven Museum used this proposal to give their possible funders an idea of what “Museum through the city” could be, and have successfully acquired those funds. Currently, Eindhoven Museum is travelling though the city with a number of interactive installations.
Creating a platform that allowed for curious exploration was a challenge, and gave me the insight that I really enjoy doing this.
The Bosch Parade is a floating art parade in the spirit of Jheronimus Bosch. Together with a fellow student, I was asked to create one of the floating tableaus. We created “the laboratory”, which bridges the gap between the past and present by using 250 year old data as input to create a dance of tentacles. This all is supported by a data-driven soundtrack.
Expertise: creativity & aesthetics, technology & realization
(video: excerpt from Omroep Brabant broadcast)
With a record-breaking 27.000 visitors coming to see the parade containing our artwork, we faced the challenge to create an artistic, visually pleasing installation that actually works. When out on the water, one cannot simply fix technical difficulties.
This project was a challenge in going through a creative process for a client. We had a lot of freedom, but there was a large pressure to deliver quality content. The other participating artists in the parade were a lot more established, and we had to make sure we would not underperform.
Collaborating in such an intensive creative process gave a lot of insight in my personal strengths in creating. In the initial brainstorms, I took the role of spewing ideas. Later on in the process, I had the lead in the technical realization of the project and keeping an overview.
For the course Design for Debate, I together with my group made up “DataTrade”, a fictional company that had as ambition to make the selling of user data a fair process. Users could connect their phones to the DataTrade extraction tool, and be able to choose which data they would want to sell. The user would receive a percentage of the money DataTrade would make from selling it.
Expertise: User & Society
We went out into the center of Eindhoven with our quickly thrown together flyers and lanyards, to test if we could get people interested in this fictitious service. We had as a goal to make people a little more aware of how much the services they use for free are earning from their data, and to see how much people value that data if confronted with the option to sell it for a monetary value.
The results range from people who were not interested at all when being stopped in the streets to listen to our sales pitch, to people who were genuinely disappointed DataTrade was not real.
Doing this, I learned the great value of going outside to talk to other people outside your design bubble. They often have perspectives you cannot imagine from sitting at your desk.
For one year during my bachelor, I was a full-time board member of study association Lucid. Together with 6 other students, we organized over 150 activities for the members in the areas of career, education and leisure.
Expertise: Business & Entrepreneurship
Image: companies Lucid collaborated with during my time in the board.
My function within the board was “Commissioner of professional relations and bar”. As commissioner of professional relations, I kept the lines between the students and the field of design short. I met with many companies who showed interest in getting to know the profile of our students, to see if they could be of value to them. From these conversations, I was better able to advise our members who were looking for an internship or job after they graduated.
We also organized many collaborations, where companies and students came together to meet each other and exchange knowledge. Doing this gave me a lot of insight in many different companies, from start-ups to multinationals, and how graduates from ID could contribute in such a company.
Another big part of my responsibilities at Lucid was to organize the practical level of the move to a newly renovated building. I managed the planning and kept track of all stakeholders, like our interior designer and beer supplier. Besides that, I hired contractors like electricians and plumbers to make sure all facilities were in the right place and functioned for the grand opening.
We created 2 events for SURF to promote employee initiatives inside the company. I was a part of this project during my internship at Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken.
Expertise: Technology & Realization
For promoting the employee initiatives, we created an event during an afternoon drink where employees were asked to share stories about their work or projects in a storytelling context. For this, we created a setup that looks like it could be a reading corner in a library, but more adapted to the audience and corporate culture of the company.
In the second event, we took employees out to the streets to get in a conversation with potential end users of their product – something they rarely did. We created 4 “room dividers” that could be used to create a semi-private booth for the interview, to give the employees a prop for carrying out the conversations, which were about privacy norms in their products.
These screens and reading corner had to be built in a short timespan on a tight budget. I was responsible for creating the materials list and overseeing the creation of the props. These had to be of high quality, since they were an end product delivered to the client. My key learning points were on iterating aesthetic qualities (the first version looked more like a mall Santa setup), and that sometimes it is better to outsource parts of the creation process (I had to sew black stretchy fabric, which was very hard to do. A tailor around the corner had it fixed within 30 minutes for a small price)
Design research project titled “The power games” was about telling smart homes which value system to adhere using connected devices and collaborative filtering. We hypothesized that we could make human values explicit in a social context through connected devices.
Expertise: Design and Research Processes; Math, Data & Computing
Using an interactive base for the game of Monopoly, we measured power values (authority, wealth, preserving public image, and social recognition) in home environments. First we made the values explicit by asking close-ended questions about the distribution of values across the inhabitants. These questions were answered anonymously using the artifact. Monopoly was used to make power values more explicit.
This project was a challenge in collecting and analyzing quantitative data, with over 650 collected data points from the artifacts during user tests. I created the tool and setup the procedure for data processing. Doing a research project that had to result in new insights for the design community was a valuable learning experience, since the insights had to be presented in a way that was not only clear to the group and members of the department, but to any designer wanting to build on our knowledge.
A.je.to is an application developed with a group for the course “Design for/with multiple stakeholders”. A.je.to provides value to the elderly by giving them knowledge about the possibilities of technology, company from their family, and a connection through the world by providing them with the skills to use digital social- and news platforms.
Expertise: Business & Entrepreneurship
Image: the value flow framework for A.je.to
The application can be seen as an environment with a built-in application. With this environment they get the basic applications that they would like to see. In some way, you could compare A.je.to to parental control on a tablet. There is a restricted area with access to certain applications. The goal of the application is to teach the elderly how to use gestures on a tablet. With every level, the elderly get a new application and a training inside that application.
Whenever the elderly does not know what to do anymore, there is always the heart button at the bottom of the screen. With this button, the elderly instantly goes to their contact list that is composed of their relatives. The list is composed with contacts that the elderly can reach to get help. This way, the application does not take the human factor of helping each other with technology.
This concept was developed for the client (Game Solutions Lab) and was largely an exercise in exploring the value flow of such a concept. We got familiarized with the value flow framework, and in discussion with the client and possible users finetuned the concept.
A.je.to is not sold to users directly, but distributed to care homes on a pay-per-use basis, where the care home can add it to their toolbox of options they can offer their inhabitants. Preferably, the application is distributed pre-installed on tablets.
I helped with the interaction design and realization of a project art collective “Tilburg Cowboys” worked on. I created the back-end for an interactive coffee table.
Expertise: Technology & Realization
With “Koppen van de Kuidenbuurt”, Tilburg Cowboys improved the connection between inhabitants of the Kruidenbuurt. Residents donated a coffee cup to the project and were filmed drinking from it one last time.
These videos and cups were transported to the local community hub, where visitors could drink coffee from a cup that used to belong to one of their neighbors. Placing the cup on the interactive table would show the video that belonged to the cup on a screen built into the table.
My role in this project was to help out with the interaction design, and to build the interactive system that would show the videos. I had an RFID tag stuck to every cup, with a reader hidden in the table. The system would then show the corresponding video on the screen.
The main challenge in this project was to make a very stable, foolproof system that would run for a long time with little maintenance, and allow for maintenance by amateurs. Currently the table has been in use for 1.5 years without any issues.
The project was revealed by councilor Esmah Lahlah, city council member José Appels, and the residents of the Kruidenbuurt.
News article from BN De Stem
The expertise areas, laid out below, form the structure in which I reflect on what I learned during the years of my bachelor at ID. I shortly explain what the expertise area means to me, how I developed it during my bachelor, and how it was a relevant expertise for my FBP.
Creativity is inherently a part of the discipline of design. Achieving change in the world necessitates creativity, since creative persons are the ones who are dissatisfied with the state of knowledge and motivated to search for alternatives. Views on creativity are deeply personal, as they result from a person’s interests, perseverance, dissatisfaction and social context.
During all the projects I embarked on at Industrial Design, generating/selecting/refining ideas played an important role.
The project I ran for the Boschparade is exemplary for my creative process. Starting off with a scope as wide as you can get, and using different methods to ideate and specify the concept until you get a workable idea. Sometimes, we had to choose based on what felt right, and other times we could try and find projects that faced similar challenges and see how they solved the issue.
Between the start of my university education and the present, I mainly learned to structure the creative process (as far as this is possible), and gathered tools like ideation techniques to generate and test ideas.
During my FBP, I generated plenty of ideas to create a tangible interface for crowdsourcing, and selected an interesting one that employed Augmented Reality. While refining the idea and discussing with the client, we found that this concept added too many abstractions to the task at hand. I addressed this issue in the next iteration, where the crowdsourcing task was applied to a conversational user interface.
Without the ability to bring an idea into the real world, a designer cannot do his work.
Actualizing technical concepts has been a part of my interests for a very long time, starting all the way back where many others started: with Lego.
Currently, my skills to create products are quite expansive, using a variety of techniques during my education. My ability to not only create functioning prototypes, but actual products that last and are future-proof is exemplified in the “Koppen van de Kruidenbuurt” project, where I created an electronic system for an interactive table that had to function with minimal maintenance for years.
At ID got a lot of practice in modelling, programming, soldering, 3D printing, and a plethora of other manufacturing and creation techniques.
In my FBP I created software for a chatbot, which might be used in the future for other purposes or adapted to fit new needs. To create software that looks structured, I chose to use a visual programming language since creating a visual structure would create a much more clear hierarchy in the program, allowing it to be quickly understood by myself and others.
Design can never exist in a vacuum. Design is interwoven with people and societies, where culture impacts design which in turn impacts cultures. The user is an integral part of my vision as a designer, since he is the one I want to inspire about themselves and their culture.
With 15 ECTS of “Behavioral & social theories of HTI”, I expanded my knowledge on the human psychology and how to be empathetic as a designer.
A lot of this knowledge was applied and deepened while at the Dutch Design Week with the “Snelle Wip” project. There I researched the sensitive topic of prostitution, which has to be broached very carefully to avoid offending people and being culturally inappropriate.
In the Design for Debate project “Data Trade”, I also explored the ethics around the collection and sharing of personal data, by going out into the real world and talking to people about it within the designed context of a fictional company.
While finalizing my bachelor, the main takeaway for the design process is: when in doubt, go out and talk to people. You will never return empty-handed.
In my FBP I conducted user testing with both quantitative and qualitative aspects to it, to gather as much information as possible from the users. Doing this gave me a lot of insight into the motivations of the target group, that I would not have been able to come up with while sitting behind my desk.
As mentioned before, design can only happen in the real world. This world is not only fun and games, but can be hard. When designing, one should take creating value for people and the economy into account. Creating a product that has no market will not help you survive as a designer.
Working from my role of Professional Relations in the Lucid board, I met with many companies in many different fields, and got to know their business proposition. There I tried to link the value of the Industrial Design student to their company, to see if we could come to an interesting collaboration. Building this business network gave me an understanding of what it takes to build a company, what different ways of working there are, and which ones suit me.
For me personally, building a startup or brand is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. While some fellow students strive to build up their own company, I much prefer matching my way and place of working with the goals I am currently trying to achieve.
In my FPB, I strived to develop a tool for annotating GIS that is better than what currently exists, and which suits the demands of the client. Though not a product with a business case, I still think that the management of the client-stakeholder relationship brought me a lot of knowledge on different designer-client affairs.
While designing on any level, products have to be validated. In validating any product, a mix of qualitative and qualitative methods can be employed to gain insights into the products’ performance and inspire new functionality or directions.
Gathering data without a plan is not a good idea: it can lead to too much, little, or wrong data being collected. Gathering too much information for the intended purpose can also jeopardize privacy of the users.
Learning the basics of processing quantitative data in the course “Making sense of sensors” was helpful to see how I can find a right balance in qualitative and quantitative information in any project.
The goal for this project was not only to develop a tool that enables users to execute the annotating task, but also to generate knowledge and insights about this tool to allow for future iterations. To do this, I created the chatbot using a visual programming language, that is clear and easy to understand. Next to that, I evaluated the tool using existing and well-researched questionnaires (NASA Task Load Index and the Usability Evaluation Questionnaire) to generate results that can be compared against other tools for the task. The data that the chatbot outputs is also structured in a CSV file that can be interpreted by anyone.
Having described all these areas of expertise, there is a last one that brings them all together. Every design project is a many-step process involving stakeholders, different perspectives, and a lot of reframing and redirection based on new insights.
At Industrial Design, these research processes are taught by doing. Any course involves a project in some way, and right now while completing my bachelor I think I have been through over 25 of these trajectories. A welcome complement to the experience I got at ID, were the insights at my internship where I got to work with some new ways of researching and feeding knowledge into design.
In my vision I talk about how the design process is a frictionful experience, and I truly believe that any design project – no matter how short or small – is valuable not only in generating new knowledge for yourself or the design community, but also to develop professionally in both hard and soft skills.
My FBP was very process driven. As of now, it is not finished, but the insights and data I gathered during the process will be used in the future to create new tools for annotating GIS. At multiple moments in the process I had to adapt to regain a balance between my subjective knowledge/intuition and analysis results or input from the client. This interplay created an interesting path through the design process, where I broadly explored tools but also took the interest of the client at heart to create something of value to them.
Over the course of the past few years, I discovered a lot about my vision on design and what I would like to do after I graduate from university. After passing my bachelor, I will start at the ID Eindhoven master in September.
I have a feeling that I am not yet done learning here, even though I briefly considered taking a few years to gain some field experience before doing a masters. I decided against this, partially because of the insecure job market at the moment, but in part also because I see opportunities to collaborate with more than one of the companies I would have liked to work at while doing my master.
I would have loved to work at a company that designs interactive, educative museum installations. I plan on getting in touch with them over the summer to see if we can help each other out.
I would also like to get some more experience with more social-design related external activities. I feel that my network in Eindhoven and intimate knowledge of the city and university give me a head-start in adapting the curriculum to fit my needs, whereas when doing a masters at another university I would need a lot of time to get to know the structure.
During my education in the master, I would like to develop more of my research skills, as well as dive into some communities to lead some co-creation processes at a small scale.
I’d love to meet up for a cup of coffee!
Copyright: Tjeu van Bussel, 2020