Interlude: A Fidget Lab

Here at Bare Conductive, we always feel astonished and proud of our community’s projects, especially when they use technology and design in the context of human behaviour. This is illustrated in the work developed by designers Belen Tenorio and Jennifeer Flores.

For her Experience Design intervention, Belen collaborated with Jennifeer, together developing Interlude: a fidget lab. Interlude’s aim was to study and analyse the behaviour of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADDers) and non ADDers in a set environment with set stimuli and protocols.

We caught up with Belen and Jennifeer to find out more about the process and the outcome of this insightful project.


Can you tell us a few things about your background and previous projects?

Jennifeer: Belen and I met in San Francisco while attending Academy of Art University where we both earned a BFA in Advertising with a focus in Art Direction. Since we both shared similar backgrounds, Belen being from Ecuador and I from Peru, we bonded instantly.

Belen: We worked on a few projects together during college, but mainly Ad Campaigns. Once we graduated, we left SF and moved to the Big Apple. Jennifeer moved here first and a few months later I followed. At the time she was working at NSG/SWAT, a small branding agency created by one of the main advertising pioneers in the 80s.

We both kept contact after graduation, so once I moved to NY, It was nice to have a familiar face that could guide me a bit through the city. Once in NY, I landed a role as a Jr. Designer at Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency part of the WPP Group, one of the largest marketing and communications companies in the world.

To each other’s surprise we both decided, exactly a year after moving, to pause our professional pursuit and further our education. Jennifeer enrolled at The New School of Design: Parsons – Fashion Design Associate program and I enrolled at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) – Products of Design Master program. We both have recently graduated and are working towards starting our own design consultancy.

Can you tell us a bit about the Interlude idea?

J: Interlude was born as part of Belen’s thesis project called Re-mind. Re-mind explored productivity and re-evaluated Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Hyperactivity Disorder in the context of a quick-fix society that too eagerly medicates individuals.

According to Roland Rotz and Sarah D. Wright, authors of Fidget to Focus, Double tasking is necessary for some individuals to focus. The additional sensory input or movement activity allows the brain to become fully engaged on the main primary activity. Suddenly, this insight made us realise that most of us mindlessly fidget with something while we go through our daily lives.

We saw this as a big opportunity to create a design experience in which we could truly test the correlation between fidgeting and focusing in both ADDers and non – ADDers. As a result, Interlude: A Fidget Lab was created.

B & J: Users were put under a primary activity (solving a maze) while a second activity took place (fidgeting). We created and provided Fidget Pads coated in Bare Conductive’s Electric paint. These pads were attached to an electronic invention tool called ‘makey makey’ that allows users to connect everyday objects to computer programs. The program chosen was a sequencer called Sampulator, which enabled us to translate each touching point on the fidget pad into sound.

After, participants were able to listen to the sounds that their fidgeting had produced. Some of them were able to recall their past experiences, inflection points and even remember the moments of struggle while listening to their melody of sounds.

The findings reinforced the correlation between working with our hands and increased memory and creativity.  This fidget lab gave us key insights that were significant in the next steps of the project Re-mind and led to the creation of quality fidget tools named Didgets.

How did you discover Electric Paint and why did you decide to use it in your project?

B: During my Masters program in the Products of Design department at SVA, I had an Arduino class the first semester with Becky Stern. She incentivised us to create products with magnetic fabrics and paint.

Why did you choose to analyse the behaviour of ADD and non ADDers?

B: In order to prove my hypothesis, I needed to see both sides of the spectrum when it came to fidgeting and focusing. This is the reason why I invited ADD and non – ADDers to the experience, in order to test and analyse the affected behaviours put under the same circumstances.

Did you meet any obstacles or difficulties during the project and how did you overcome them?

J & B: We ran with quite a few obstacles that were mostly influenced by our time availability and budget. We only had one week to put the entire event together, considering classes and work in between. We were a bit constricted by the budget, so we had to put our creativity to its full potential when it came to the set design.

Could you describe the process behind the project and what kind of technologies you used?

J & B: When we first discussed the project, we started by identifying our main skills and dividing the work accordingly. Belen was in charge of everything related to the functionality of prototypes as well as laser cutting the maze that would be used at Interlude. Jenn was in charge of everything that would help keep a consistent and strong design aesthetic. She designed different graphic arts that were later laser cut in adhesive vinyl; created the layout for the form participants would be using to answer questions; designed the invites used online and found inexpensive colour lights that were used as part of the set design. Since our main vision was this fun and modern laboratory, we wanted to make sure every single detail showcased that.

Belen went as far as taking a two hour bus/subway trip uptown in order to find the perfect lab – coats and gadgets for our ‘technicians’ that would be conducting the experiment with the guests. We got plastic cups that were hand painted to look like chemistry room beakers and even dry ice that we mixed with water in order to create a smoke illusion during the event.

Furthermore, we used a projector in the event and showcased motion graphic videos from Belen’s personal curated collection. This contributed in adding a certain mood along with the lights and smoke.

Did you discover anything unexpected from peoples’ interaction with the project?

J & B: It was interesting to learn so many insights during the interview stage of the experience. It reinforced that our main senses have the ability to trigger a specific past experience in our memories. Most participants when listening to their melody of sounds were able to recall specific parts of the task, inflection points, and even the times when they were struggling at solving the maze.

What was the best part of making Interlude?

B & J: To find a partner in crime! Jenn and I work hard together when things are going well and even harder when we find obstacles on our way. We both approach problem solving in a very creative manner. The final result was very gratifying after all the countless nights that we spent preparing every single detail.

How did you find using Electric Paint, did you encounter any obstacles when working with the material?

B & J: There were a couple of prototypes we couldn’t use due to different materials that did not react very well with the paint and therefore were not able to connect properly to the Touch Board. Additionally, we really paid attention to the design aesthetics of the entire project. Everything had to live within a same design umbrella; from invitations and fidget tools to the props, clothing and elements placed as decor. We both envisioned a sort of fun, modern with a touch-of-minimal laboratory. In the end, we were able to find a sheet of sturdy, textured plastic that worked perfectly with the paint and with our design aesthetic.

Any plans of using Electric Paint or the Touch Board in any of your future projects?

B & J: Jenn and I have been talking about collaborating in more experiential design events, like Interlude, but in a bigger scale. It’s amazing how easy you can transform a small project into a professional looking one with the help of technology.

Interlude’s insights contributed to the creation of fidget tools called Didgets. We are currently in the process of starting its manufacturing, and who knows, maybe we could implement a touch of Electric Paint or built-in Touch Board in the future.

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