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Soft Fading

Soft Fading explores Internet of Things (IoT) data transparency, offering a reimagined data encounter in the home.

This analog device collects sunlight data by fading a cylinder of revolving turmeric dyed fabric. Once removed, the fabric reveals an archive of UV data local to your home. Soft Fading is a part of the Odd Interpreters, a research study at Studio Tilt.
Design Research
Lead Fabricator
Studio Member

Audrey Desjardins
Jeremy Viny
Jena McWhirter
Eve Peng
Design Thinking
Data collection in the context of home IoT is often considered as digital, precise, and instantaneous. Soft Fading encourages people to rethink these conventions by reframing sunlight as a form of data, and utilizing its natural ability to fade (over the course of a few months) as the method for data collection. We as a studio arrived at this guiding theme of diffuse ways of noticing  after various rounds of ideation methods including 8x8 sketching, brainstorming, idea clustering, and more.
The Odd Interpreters were built to be used in ethnographic studies to understand how living with the artifacts could encourage home dwellers to engage with their data from new perspectives. While our intention with Soft Fading was to create an artifact that could generate subtle, imprecise, and interpretive data, we were faced with an ironic need for a high level of precision to accomplish its basic functionality.
Original Sketch
After brainstorming various design directions we narrowed the idea into a single direction.
Soft Fading refined sketch
Fabric + Dyes
The concept relies on the fading of fabric. After researching, we tested turmeric dye and madder root on three types of fabric.
Dyed fabric swatches
Fading Outcomes
The top swatch is the original fabric (not exposed to UV) and the bottom swatch is after being exposed in a window for 6.5 weeks.
Sun faded fabric swatches
While considering the mechanics, opening experience, and aesthetics, we 3D modeled the casing design using Fusion 360.
Inner construction of Soft Fading
In order to ensure the fabric would make one rotation per day, we programmed the stepper motor to move one step every 7.2 minutes.
Codes for Soft Fading
We then hand painted the artifacts in the studio to ensure a consistent design language between the three separate devices.
Odd Interpreters being painted
Form Prototypes
After confirming the fabric's ability to fade, we began using cardboard prototyping to explore form factors that the artifact could take.
Early cardboard prototype
Color Matching
After rounds of 3D printing, we selected colors for the entire Odd Interpreter Family, and color matched them into paints.
Matching paint colors for the Odd Interpreters
Once the artifacts were ready, we did a round of photo documentation before sending them off into separate participant homes.
The Odd Interpreters in the photo studio
After the first participant study, we redesigned the cylinder to ensure smoother rotation (and a higher level of precision).
Soft Fading exploded view
Participant Studies
Participants living with Soft Fading are presented with a choice: When should I remove the fabric? In a participant's reflection they wrote, “I had been imagining the fading pattern on Soft Fading to be sort of geometric, with gradients of stripes. But seeing this leaf’s shadow makes me wonder about how my little desk environment will imprint its data onto the fabric? Even the little folds and wrinkles on the fabric are creating shadows and patterns.” This quote depicts how the artifact, by withholding instant access to data, forced the participant to confront it as it happened.
Soft Fading pattern sketch
Soft Fading fabric after 2 monthsSoft Fading fabric after 2 months with estimated times
Journal entry about Soft Fading
To conclude the Odd Interpreters research study, we wrote a paper entitled The Odd Interpreters: Destabilizing Home IoT Data Encounters. The paper discusses the three artifacts in detail, and shares specific insights from the participant studies. In addition to the paper, the Odd Interpreters periodically go on display in private galleries, including the Jacob Lawrence.
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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Chandler Simon © 2022
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