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Global Innovation Design (MA/MSc)

Daniel Karaj

I’m Daniel, a designer and engineer from south west London. In this collection of work I seek to showcase the broad range of roles that I’ve taken on during the last two years from speculative designer and collaborator in the case of Eggriculture, user-centric product designer in Amplify and award-winning artist in Night Lights. This flexibility in postion has led me to explore a number of different topics on the intersection of design and technology with a focus on design for good.

Education

MA/MSc Global Innovation Design (RCA & ICL) – Distinction 

BA Computer Science (University of Cambridge) – 2:1

Recent Work

Software Engineer (Google)

Research Intern (DLX Design Lab, University of Tokyo)

During the GID program I have focused on the relationship between digital and physical media. From exhibiting at a physical pixel art show in Japan to exploring the effect of technology on the future of music I have developed an understanding of the role of technology in product design. In some cases, hiding it behind a shell would detract from the object with the charm of the product enhanced through transparency— as is the case in Cymatic Projections, and in others “high tech” framing can prove detrimental to the adoption of an innovation — something I have seeked to combat in Eggriculture. The work showcased here all contains innovative technology with its visible presence shaped by user needs and feedback.

In joining the RCA I looked to find more engaging and meaningful work. Through the degree program I have explored this topic through a number of different lenses slowly building understanding of my role as a designer and engineer in the world. From small experiments in public awareness around health and equality to more extensive projects focused on the application of technology to aid in physical and mental health care I have worked as both on tasks with a positive impact on humanity.

It is the balance between these areas and my own interests in technology that shapes my projects. In some sense searching for work that is both mentally and spiritually fulfilling.

Eggriculture is an exploration into the use of household chickens and eggs as bioreactors to reframe lab grown meat.

Consumer enthusiasm towards lab grown meat is limited, YouGov found that only 19% of British consumers "probably would try" lab grown meat. The prevalence of “high tech” framing through journalism, imagery and speculative design is further limiting this enthusiasm, leading consumers to believe that lab grown meat is "unnatural and unappealing food" limiting its potential for positive environmental impact.

Developed in consultation with cellular agriculture startup Hoxton Farms, Eggriculture is a proposal in which cultured meat is incubated using household chickens in a consumers garden. Unfertilised eggs are given transformation factors to induce pluripotent stem cells and then growth factors to guide the cells into producing a portion of steak, bacon or other meat following a 3 week incubation period underneath a brooding hen.

The proposal has three aims, humanising lab grown meat, reducing some of the economical concerns by leveraging experience design principles and aligning lab grown meat with the home grown movement. In doing so consumers are encouraged to make more sustainable purchasing decisions in their life more broadly.

Eggriculture eggs are produced by adding growth and transformation factors to an unfertilised chicken egg.
They allow portions of meat to be grown by chicken owners building on the natural process of incubation.
They allow portions of meat to be grown by chicken owners building on the natural process of incubation.
The home chicken owner places the eggs into the nest of a brooding hen.
The home chicken owner places the eggs into the nest of a brooding hen.
Incubation takes 3 weeks in which the hen will maintain the conditions for growth.
Incubation takes 3 weeks in which the hen will maintain the conditions for growth.
After the incubation period the eggs can be collected and are ready to be eaten.
After the incubation period the eggs can be collected and are ready to be eaten.
Cracking open the egg reveals the portion of meat that has developed within.
Cracking open the egg reveals the portion of meat that has developed within.
Eggriculture was developed with chicken owners through interviews, conversations and other user-centred design methodologies.
Consultations with cellular agriculture startup, Hoxton Farms, ensured outcomes were remained scientifically plausible.
Ideation was broad and speculative, exploring a variety of futures in which the focus of meat production was more local.
The product was developed through visual design experiments, exploring the methods used to represent the meat and technology.
Prior to ideation extensive primary and secondary research was made into how consumers make decisions around food.
Literature review was used to ground the concept and assess the aims and outcomes of a variety of existing speculative projects.

Cymatic Projections is an exploration in analogue music visualisation.

Audio is becoming increasingly prominent in how we interact with technology. AI driven voice assistants such as Google Assistant or Alexa are cited as the future of human computer interaction. To accompany these audio driven experiences a variety of visuals are used, from Google Home's four LEDS, Amazon Home's LED ring and the HomePod glowing top display. 

These LEDs and displays lack expression and are deeply limited to the device in which they are built. This project proposes the use of cymatic projections to create more expressive audio visualisations that integrate better into the environment they are in.

Cymatics are patterns formed on the surface of a vibrating liquid. By projecting and focusing light through this liquid, the patterns can be displayed as an image on a two dimensional surface. By varying the frequency of the audio input, a wide variety of patterns can be formed as subsequently projected onto the environment.

The current projector uses three lenses, a speaker and a light source positioned using laser cut acrylic.
Different designs were explored using rendering software, highlighting the importance of a visible mechanism.
To produce the patterns, a number of prototypes were developed using amplifiers and slide projectors.
Cymatics are patterns that appear on the surface of a vibrating pool of water, a speaker cone is used here.

Amplify is a recording and playback device for children with selective mutism.

Developed in collaboration with mental health charity NAMI, Amplify takes the form of a customisable avatar which allows children to record up to four phrases at home with their parents to playback in social settings.

Selective Mutism is an anxiety disorder where children are unable to speak in certain social situations. They suffer from a freeze response and are unable to communicate at all. If left untreated disorder can persist into adulthood.

Inspired by the stories of families using apps, flash cards and other communication methods to aid with selective mutism, Amplify not only aids with communication but also with therapy through the process of “desensitisation” and “shaping.” Amplify is worn as a necklace with buttons on the back used to record and playback essential phrases aid children in cases where their disorder is overwhelming.

The design of the avatar is customised to match the appearance of the child. This is important for a form of therapy called “self modelling” where children are able to see a version of themselves successfully performing a task.

Amplify consists of a wooden shell and simple components with optional features and accessories to be swapped out, manipulating the sounds recordings and introducing concepts from play and music therapy.

The design of Amplify can be customised to match the child, important for a form of therapy called “self modelling.”
Buttons on the back of the device are used to record audio in a safe environment and play it back when required.
Amplify consists of a wooden shell and simple circuitry that reduces stigmatisation and can be easily repaired.
Accessories can be swapped out to manipulate the recordings, incorporating concepts from play and music therapy.

Night Lights, exhibited as part of Shibuya Pixel Art 2020, is an interpretation of Tokyo's lights and streets.

Pixel Art is a graphic style in which the pixels that make up an image are visible and form a key component of the design. Originally a result of limited computer graphics hardware the style has seen continued popularity in digital content particularly in relation to the current retro game revival. Shibuya Pixel Art is an annual exhibition and competition which aims to showcase some of the best works in the genre in a more traditional gallery context thereby increasing the reach of the format to a wider audience and adding legitimacy through the use of traditional gallery spaces. 

Night Lights was an effort to bring influences from constructivism and concrete art to the pixel art space, creating a piece for which the use of pixels felt like a natural representation rather than as a limitation. For this it was highlighted by the german design studio eBoy “godfathers” of the pixel art movement.

Night Lights was included in a book produced as an accompaniment to the exhibition and competition.
Here it is exists permanently, in contrast to the ephemeral nature of digital works or exhibitions.
Pixel art is native to digital displays and the clean lines of Night Lights are clearest as displayed on the website here.
Night Lights was presented as part of a physical award ceremony produced to provide further legitimacy to the genre.

Royal Commission for the Exhibition 1851