Interview with Florian Lohse: Designing Time
How we perceive and shape time is not only the main topic of our forthcoming issue, but it was also the starting point for the master’s thesis of industrial designer, Florian Lohse. Against the background of the increasing flow of information and the number of activity incentives that we expose ourselves to (un)willingly, Lohse developed two products: one to better plan everyday projects and another allowing us to at least escape from digital overstimulation for a specific period of time consciously. Both the Wipeboard and the Quiet Time shelf broach issues that we also look at in form 265 such as the contraction of our present time, the effect of our sense of time on planning processes and our (nowadays questionable) interaction with leisure time. We asked the designer about his approach to design and his working methods. form 265 is published on 14 April 2016.
What was the trigger for tackling the theme of time in your final project?
Time as a meta-topic has interested me for quite a while. Human beings have various sensory systems for measuring special temporal processes, yet do not have a central “time organ” that would do justice to the popular image of a single, homogenous measurable and assessable time. Rather, the construct of a perceived passage of time is controlled by our attention and is therefore highly susceptible to being influenced. At the same time, the constructed experience of time characterises every experience in everyday life. The quality of this time experience has a considerable influence on the way we evaluate everyday processes and events. The perception of time is therefore an interesting starting point for design, because all objects actually have a designable influence on it.
What insights have you acquired during your research into the phenomenon of time?
My research began with a broad scope, but quickly focused on the cognitive and perceptive psychological dimension of the perception of time. Here it became clear that the actual measurement of time for me as a designer is not the most important aspect of the topic area. Because, on the one hand, everyday processes take place increasingly without any waiting time or are fully automated and, on the other hand, every waiting period can be made useful by location-independent media, so that the “waiting” as a space between activities is increasingly being caused to disappear from everyday life in the digitalised world. The consequence is a considerable enrichment of the wake time with phases of cognitive input and mental activity that is focused on a direct response to that input. My creative analysis then concentrated on the foreseeable collective overload of human cognition through this increase in input and activity.
How was your design process carried out?
I decided early on to develop several drafts from my analysis of time. I wanted to give myself the opportunity of processing this complex theme from different sides without having to provide all the answers in one single design. This decision resulted in pursuing in parallel one pragmatic and symptomatic, and one more conceptional causal approach. The complement to the Wipeboard is the Quiet Time shelf which can automatically put smartphones in quiet mode upon putting them down thereby fostering undisturbed, focused interactions.
So, one output is the Wipeboard. How does it work?
The Wipeboard is a notice board that provides an “expiry date” for analogue notices using a very slowly rotating wiper that automatically deletes them. The user is encouraged to view to-do lists and notes not as being set in stone but as dynamic, self-determined aids, that make him reflect organisational strategies. The wiper divides the notice surface visually into future and past, yet lets these fuse at the same time into a dynamic continuum and takes account of cyclical alternatives to western society’s linear model of time. The fact that the wiper does not completely cover the whole notice surface allows it to play with the level of the notes’ impermanence and provides space for surprises.
Do you use the Wipeboard yourself and what contexts can you see it being used in?
I used the Wipeboard for a while but then I changed to using a cloud-based note system for everything which better meets my mobility requirements. The reflections about my own planning behaviour that began with the Wipeboard, how I dealt with notes and to-do lists all flowed directly into the digital system.
I think that the concept of the Wipeboard would be very suitable to support communication in a team’s planning processes in an office. It would be wonderful to develop a larger format, possibly with several wipers.