Growing Systems


This project deals with systems design, recognizing the growing systems as the next frontier of design. The aim of this project is to design for meaningful interaction in this systems context. In many ways this boils down to getting grip on the openness of the systems, and thus their unpredictability, that is implied by their growth. It offers two scenarios: (1) sharing product behavior, a group scenario meant for B1/B2, (2) meaningful growth, an individual scenario meant for B3.2, M1.1, M1.2.

Main competency development targeted in:


Targeted blocks

B1; B2; B3.2; M1.1; M1.2.


Joep Frens, Jun Hu, Bart Hengeveld, Mathias Funk, Maurits de Koning


This OoC project deals with systems design, which we perceive as the new frontier of design [1]. Where design has always favored a ‘one person – one product’ pattern, systems design breaks this pattern by introducing many, distributed (interactive) products, or ‘nodes’, that are connected to each other through informational ties. In our view theses systems are woven into the social fabric of our lives; they comprise of artefactual nodes (both of physical and digital nature) and human nodes. Following this, a system is both a technological and a social construct following the rules and mores of both. Comparing systems with the interactive products of before we identify that an interesting aspect of systems is that they can grow and are therefore open: the functionality of a system is an emergent resultant of the configuration of a system in terms of artefactual and human nodes. In a system new people and new nodes can join, thereby altering the structure of the system. This means that the ‘functionality’ of a system changes as well, as it is, at least partly, dependent on the configuration of the system. Adding to this a system will not be static in time, new nodes will be added, and as always, these new nodes will offer new and unforeseen functionality.

Naturally this has consequences for the design process. The process of designing for systems is experiential and takes both a first person perspective and a third person perspective [2][6]. Also hybrid approaches can be considered [4].

Design challenges or research questions

Sharing Product Behavior (B1, B2)

A next generation of ambient intelligent lamp fixtures is proposed that not only give light in different colors, but can also obtain a custom light behavior [5]. That means that the lamp can for example react to external stimuli or project specific light patterns on predetermined times of the day. Think of the Philips Living Colors lamp or Hue system, but much more advanced. A web-enabled service/community is built around this lamp, and in this community 'behaviors' for this lamp are exchanged. These behaviors are created on the lamp and are also accessed through the lamp (in other words, the lamp acts as a two-way exchange platform, it knows no external remote or app). The design challenge in this track is to design this lamp and its behavior that offers meaningful interaction [3]. You will be working in a group where it concerns the system, but each student also has to design and make his own lamp. These lamps need to be functional and act as a system together to a level that: (1) They are capable of expressing a certain behavior, (2) They can learn certain behavior, and (3) They can accept behaviors from other lamps.

Meaningful growth (B.32, M1.1, M1.2)

Imagine the case of a media center offering for example distributed audio and video functionality [1]. This media center is computer based and hidden from sight. As such it has the potential to grow in functionality by adding components. What is more adding components potentially enhances the functionality of the components that were already there (emergent functionality). To give an example, if a media center with a TV tuner is equipped with a hard disk it is not only possible to record and store a television program but it is also possible to do time-shifting: the functionality of storing information has modified the functionality of watching TV.

Therefore the challenge is to design a ‘locus of interaction’ (a remote control) for this growing media center that offers meaningful interaction but that has the ability to grow and to be as dynamic and open as the system it controls. Use the principles from the framework of rich interaction [3] as the basis for this, menu structures and such need to be avoided. Nb. If this project is taken as M1.2 project the challenge will be customized in cooperation with Joep Frens.


[1] Frens, J.W., Overbeeke, C.J. (2009). Setting the stage for the design of highly interactive systems. In: Proceedings of International Association of Societies of Design Research, Seoul, Korea, pp. 1–10.

[2] Frens, J.W., Tomico Plasencia, O. & Zimmerman, J. (2012). Designing for social systems: experiential approaches. In T. Jachna, Y.Y. Lam & S Tzvetanova Yung (Eds.), Proceedings of DesignEd Asia Conference, 4-5 Dec 2012. (pp. 344-358). Hong Kong: DesignEd Asia Conference Secretariat.

[3] Frens, J.W. (2006) Designing for Rich Interaction: Integrating Form, Interaction, and Function. Eindhoven: Technische Universiteit Eindhoven.

[4] Hengeveld, B.J. (2011). Designing LinguaBytes : a tangible language learning system for non- or hardly speaking toddlers. Eindhoven: Technische Universiteit Eindhoven.

[5] Nacsa, J., Barakova, E.I. & Frens, J.W. (2012). Sharing meaning and physical activity through a tangible interactive lighting object. In C.J. Hopper, J.B. Martens & P. Markopoulos (Eds.), Proceedings of DSSIRE'11, October 18-19, 2011, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. (pp. 227-230).

[6] Tomico, O., Winthagen, V. & Heist, M. v. (2012) Designing for, with or within: 1st, 2nd and 3rd person points of view on designing for systems, Proceedings of NordiCHI 2012, Copenhagen, DK.

OoC: projects/GrowingSystems (last edited 2013-05-15 09:13:27 by anewhope)