In this part I will reflect on the activities done during my final bachelor project for each expertise area and state my plans for the future
Creativity and Aesthetics:
For this project I used divergent brainstorming techniques to generate as many ideas as possible to explore and find different ways to approach the problem.
A mind map was created with design opportunities based on my own experience as a producer. As well as a brainstorm to come up with as many solutions for the design challenge. A convergent brainstorm technique to narrow down to a concept. This was done by setting requirements and ranking the ideas according to these requirements. Consciously diverging and later converging something I had not done before. In my previous projects I would argue which solution seemed best for the challenge. By diverging and converging I was able to communicate why a concept is chosen in a very clear way.
Later, I carried out an elaborate exploration to create the physical interface for the design. As I first gravitated towards the look-and-feel of a regular microphone I decided to make a collection of other handheld products to gain new inspiration. I used clay to explore the different forms and placements of buttons. Using clay to explore different forms was a new experience for me and was found very useful to quickly realize ideas and immediately validate if the form and interface are practical and find out how they are experienced by the user.
Lastly, I was able to apply the insights gained during the course Aesthetics of Interaction by trying to map the vocal features to features of the sound in an intuitive way. I tried to find similarities between our vocal features and musical features an map these featurese to create consistency in the mapping.
Technology and Realisation
For this project I spend a lot of time realizing the digital prototype. I made use of existing software like Ableton and Ovox by waves for the voice to melody function. I made use of p5.js to write the code for the volume and vowel features. Some audio analysis was done and translated to midi output and sent to ableton through hairless MIDI and LoopMIDI. Because of my experience in Ableton and working with music software plugins I was able to realize a prototype that simulated the experience for my target user group. The communication between different software and sending MIDI messages is something I had never done before and will be very valuable for future projects with interactivity and sounds. Also writing in p5.js is a newly learned skill that enables me to make digital prototypes which can easily be shared online. Furthermore, I used my prototyping skills obtained during my bachelor's to create a final prototype to communicate form and function and showcase the final interface.
User and Society
To define the design challenge for this project an elaborate user study was done. I conducted qualitative interviews to gain insights into the routines, habits and context music producers work in. Based on these interviews, an as-is journey map was created to locate design opportunities. By doing literature review I gained insights about the generation of new ideas and stimulation of creativity. After combining the insights from the journey map and literature review the design I was able to define a well argued design challenge. Later, the design was tested and validated by various music producers. Designing for this specific target group is something that I always have wanted to do and it was an interesting experience as I am part of this target group myself. It was easy to make a lot of assumptions based on my own experience. However, I realized that I needed to watch out that I won’t create something that I like just for myself.
The digital prototype tested to confirm assumptions made during the conceptualisation and also to compare different mappings of vocal features to music. The interface was tested by using clay models as a prototype and simulating the experience using the 'wizard of oz' method.
Results were collected by by conducting qualitative interviews and doing a thematic analysis on the results. Based on the results I was able to validate design decisions and make adjustments where neccesary.
Business & Entrepreneurship
To gain insight into the products that are already on the market, I looked into similar but already existing concepts. By benchmarking, I was able to see what I liked in other products and identify possible design opportunities based on the missing features of the existing products. Furthermore, I came up with the idea to release a new sound package every month so that the user has time to learn the voice commands for the different sounds. From a business perspective this is also very interesting because it keeps the customer connected to the company once he/she has bought the device. This can be linked to the get-keep-grow method learned the course Design Innovation Methods.
Math, Data & Computing
For this project I first used machine learning classifiers to make a distinction between the different vowels that were sung. However, I figured that the classifiers are not very suitable for creating dynamic changes in parameters as they differentiate between different classes instead of creating a continuous scale. Later, I found a way to distinguish vowels on a continuous scale using formant frequency analysis. Although I was not able to execute this analysis completely, I was able to do a simpler analysis that worked well enough for the digital prototype. I found the machine learningclassifiers still usefull to differentiate between the human voice and background noise so that the noise was not translated into the synthesized sound.
During this project I wanted to put extra focus on reporting my progress. I found that when I worked on projects on my own I tended to make a lot of decisions without explicitly writing them down which caused trouble later in the process when the report needed to be written. To solve this, I found that Miro, an online brainstorming platform, worked really well for me. I learned that I think in a very abstract way. Miro allows me to easily place pictures and document short bursts of thought in a non-linear way. This way of documenting helps me to concretize my thoughts and to communicate them better.
Additionally, this project really tested my planning skills. Since this was the first big design project that I had to do on my own I did not have any previous experience to base my planning on. I realized that I set my ambitions too high as I subconsciously wanted to create the same result as normally would be done with four people. This caused a bit of time trouble in the end when writing the report. Next to that, doing the project during the Covid situation asked for more skills in organisation. Quick and dirty usertesting needed to be planned in careful and safety measures and for prototyping everything needed to be planned out before ordering and making as there was limited time to make use of prototyping machines. Although I believe that there is value in not planning everything out to leave room for spontaneous ideas, I learned to plan these activities in a very efficient way which can be very useful in my future projects.
I am planning to explore the possibilities to develop ambulant into a real product. I want to talk to experts in the field to learn more about how the process of completely realizing a product works. Next to that, I want to practice my skills in sound design for movies, games and interactive installations to find out if that is something that I would like to do for a living.
Additionally, I am going to support a company that focuses on mental health through expressing feelings with your voice to develop an online course. All in all, I am going to try out a variety of things to find out what I aspire to do most.
Nave, R. (n.d.). Forming the Vowel Sounds. Vowel Sounds. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Music/vowel.html.