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product longevity + user experience

thesis statement

An explor ation of the balance between applying responsible design thinking and meeting user needs. Responsible design thinking: the consideration of sustainability, longevity, and reuse in product design to reduce and remove the impact of industrial manufacturing and consumerism on the ear th.

Case study: BABY MONITOR

The realm of baby products has become a multi-billion dollar industry. With all of these new products it can be hard to tell what is actually useful or not, safe or not, and designed with the best in mind for a parent and child or designed to make money for a company. These products have conditioned a population of parents to be obsessed with safety and undeterred by price. After surveying what exists, it seems many are concerned with a child’s current safety, which is good. Many also seem to disregard sustainability completely and the safety of future generations as these products are made of unrecyclable components or are designed to become obsolete as newer models are produced.

research: What exists?

Many of these products, such as movement monitors and video monitors, are not actually recommended for use by medical professionals, have connection issues, and can be easily hacked. And stringing up video cameras has taken “helicopter parents” to a whole new level.

Lower cost

Lower Techaudio only

Higher cost

Higher quality audio monitor

Parent unit with monitor for video feed

While thinking about sustainable design and user needs, I’d also like to suggest that simplicity in functionality could be safer and better for parent-child relationships. It could foster a parent’s use of their own intuition rather than relying on a video feed, and also free them from continually having to look at a screen.

Integration into smart home systems, use of smart phones

Higher Tech- video and movement monitors

baby monitor teardown


Plastic casing scuffs, scratches, and dents when it is taken apart to get inside.


All buttons, light pipes, belt clips require extra, separate parts.


At least 6 screws were used to hold components together. I lost two of them. All components connected to the board require sodering. There are no connectors.

design for longevity

How can you design for longevity? Different products require different considerations. A one-use cup made out of recycled plastic is good, but a cup is incredibly more sustainable when it is made out of ceramics because it is a durable material that allows the cup the be reused. I discovered a lot of my questions about designing sustainable products aligned with those of the cradletocradle organization. These helped me to consider the question, how should I approach a baby monitor? Design for durability Design for reuse Design for repair Design for repurposing Design for upgrade Design for remanufacturing Design for recycling

design research

How do you design for essential parent needs? Talk to parents about what they currently use . What wor ks well? What doesn’t wor k? What is essential? I designed a “bullseye” activity to dissect a user’s current experience with their current product and to gain under standing about a user’s ideal experience with their ideal product. A par ticipant would organize cards with words and pictures on them to define the current and ideal emotions, benefits/pain points, features, and physical attributes.

I did these inter view activities with 6 parentsall from different backgor unds and professions.

design research: Findings + Observations

Parents want to feel not only assured, but also encouraged and confident Market saturated with video monitors. Parents have experienced grainy picture, lag, connection issues, privacy concerns Short window of video use. Many parents turn video monitor off when they go to sleep at night. Most parents expressed that LED sound bars were important features. There’s an opportunity to make the visualization aspect a more pleasant and prominent feature Not just hearing when their child is in need, knowing when baby falls asleep for naps

opportunity + design objectives


Design for reuse (passing on), for repurposing, and for recycling.


Design for essential parent needs, support parent intuition, provide encouragement.


Design for a pleasant user experience.


Design an accessible experience.

form follows function

I began sketching forms ear ly on, but was reminded to pin down the exact functionalities within my concept to be able to best determine the formal qualities of it after. Joe Columbo’s smoke glass was a good reminder of this. The form of the glass is directly related to how it was desired to be used- to hold a cigarette in the same hand as a glass of fine whiskey.

the system

2.4 gHZ transmitter + receiver night light filters white noise

wifi setup with BLE audio processing sound visualization sleep tracking visualization

after initial product use, outer casing made of fine materials becomes candle holder

provides encouragmenet + information to parents stores audio information + visualizes in pleasing way

form inspiration

initial sketching

Form inspired by cylindrical and axial products like vases and table lights. Cylindrial form factor creates opportunity for accessibility: able to see sound visualization from any position in a room because of 360 degree form.

form iteration in foam

final form


few components

recyclable, frosted, tempered glass

ingeo biopolymer componentry

oak wood

simple interface

power (press + hold)

volume down

volume up

mode (press once) audio + light audio only light only (press + hold) sleep tracking

Pleasant user experience






sleep tracking

REM / active sleep

Deep sleep


Katie Cox Thesis Book  
Katie Cox Thesis Book