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my experience

“a project i will never forget...”

Youle Chong
MA Interaction Design (Year 2)
Umea Institute of Design

The project was collaboration between the school and

Nokia oriented in desire to connect people, to make people
at a distance feel closer together. [1] This project spread
over 10 weeks and resulted into a documentary about
the “unconnected” community from the massive digital
communication network.
“Propose a
new method to
connect people
across distances,
without the use
of voice or text,
informed by
behaviors and
trends identified
from your culture.”

~ only planet
research and
“working with vitorio & rahul...
they showed me a lot...”
Research Phase

This project was carried out in a team of three people

coming from different horizons and cultures: India, Brazil
and Malaysia. This melting pot made the research richer
and more diversify, giving different lighting on situations
and gathered information.

figure 1: research phase presentation

understanding the brief
Research Scopes

connect people Who is the target audience ? This phase of the project was carried out in a team of three
people coming from different horizons and cultures: India,
across distances Which kind of distance ? Brazil and Malaysia. This melting pot made the research
richer and more diversify, giving different lightings on
situations and gathered information. The information
without the use What is non-verbal gathered quickly lead us to three different directions:
of voice or text communication ? 1. identifying the “unconnected”
2. identifying non-verbal communication
3. identifying the way to communicate in our own
cultural background.
communication How do we communicate ?

your culture Where should I look ?


Non-verbal communications varies

from cultures, nations, geographical
and more. Communications can
be made through colours, object
compositions, symbols, pictograms,
dress code and even food.

They come in two different forms : the

explicit and the implicit message.
Explicit is a message by itself. Implicit is
something that you understand without
being explained.
The Malaysian Ways

In Malaysia red is the color of luck,

success and celebrations; a red lantern
is hang in front of the house during
festive seasons and wedding days. Body
language, gesture, facial expression,
body contact and communications
distances also convey messages beyond
verbal and text; in India a gesture of
kissing the feet of someone is a sign of
The “unconnected”

As the project went into identifying who are the

“unconnected”, I focused on immigrants in South East

Immigrants in this context refer to people who have left

their country to find a job abroad, mostly for economic
reasons. They usually do not have the resources to
afford a phone or any digital widgets. Their only way to
communicate with the family they left are letters or phone
booth calls.
The inspirations

We met Anthony Chu, a professional photographer

who takes photos for the immigrants from Nepal and
Bangladesh in Malaysia. He happened to meet these people
in his shop, taking administrative pictures for them. They
became closer, and some immigrants shared their dreams,
they wish to be with their family, travel around the world
... Anthony got the idea to make this dream come true by
mixing their different pictures into one, creating memories
with editing software.

Besides, he also acts as postman, traveling from Malaysia to

Nepal and Bangladesh every half a year, bringing pictures
and presents back and forth to the different sides of
scattered families. It appears that these people have a need
to fulfill, this lack of information updates.
the photographer
“VISUAL” are widely used in
e.g. gesture, colours, object compositions, pictograms...

The “VISUAL” impact is huge

e.g. pictures speak thousand words...
e.g. gesture, colours, object compositions, pictograms...

The beauty of “VISUAL MEMORIES”

e.g. pictures of loved one in the wallet & wedding ring as the sign of commitment

The “unspoken words” & implicit

meaning in IMAGES
e.g. the “HALAL” word in McDonald - Islamic Country

The people who are far from HOME

e.g. the immigrants that left home to work in another place

The “VISUAL” that was used by Anthony

to convey the message between the
Immigrants and their families
e.g. the photos that were edited with photoshop

How should this project goes on?

What do I want to learn from it?
Who should I do it for?
Which direction should I go?
Design Definition

As the project began to get a precise direction and a

define target group, the immigrants and the story of the
photographer became the main source of inspiration.

The selected design direction: an affordable service related

to the visual memories for the “unconnected people” using
an existing communication system.

The ‘unconnected’ community: The Immigrants in

Malaysia from Nepal and Bangladesh who are more than
4000km away from home. (Low income and limited

A few design keywords were identified: affordable (low

cost), conventional communiactions and visual memories.
“Conventional” and
“Old” ways to Communicate
What is “Visual Memories”?
One of the results of these sessions has been the
restatement of the importance of visual memories in
everyone’s life, depending of their technology and social
level in their environment. High tech communities with
high income have pictures and screen around them all the
time, their relation with image has become banal, they
may use mobile phones to carry and take pictures, digital
cameras to follow events of their life, watch television on a
regular basis and update their internet blog every day.

On the opposite, our Malaysian immigrants carry old

pictures of their loved ones in their wallets permanently,
and it is nearly the only picture they encounter in their
day to day life. Pictures are rare, so they still have a whole
meaning and are shared easily to anyone interested enough.
But they are static, they cannot be updated as often as they
would like to, do not share information and need special
occasions or meetings to be changed to a newer one.

How can images or visual growth over time and space and
be more dynamic?

This led to the concept of “the postcard camera”. A

postcard that allows sender to shoot a unique photo and
send it.

The idea is to combine a pinhole camera, a concept known

since Antiquity (back to 500 BC), developed into the
camera obscura by Ibn Al-Haytham. These concepts of
low tech technology, associated to the postal system and
the Polaroid technology are the ingredients of the postcard

When the postcard arrived at the receiver doorsteps,

the photo had time to develop, based on the Polaroid
technology. Link to concept scenario:

“i thought i’ve found a great

Visualise the Postcard Camera
Concept with the immigrants

Two sessions of visualisation concept exercises were carried

out with the Immigrants. The first exercise was carried out
using a pinhole camera with the users but due to some
technical problem while making the pinhole camera, the
experience turned out to be a failure.

The second exercise was carried out on the following day

with a setting of using a digital camera. The users were
asked to shoot their own pictures using the set-up camera
on tripod. After the shooting session, the images from
the camera were printed onto a pre made postcard. Then,
the immigrants were ask to write and post the postcards
with their pictures on it. This session was a success. The
immigrants appreciate it a lot and I’ve learnt a tremendous
experience with them.
The second experiments start up by a ice-breaking where
all the participants introduce themselves. Most of them
doesn’t understand neither English or Malay, so I needed
the photographer, Anthony Chu as the translator.

Most of the participants have no experience in using a

digital camera and some of them are illiterate. They are all
Nepalese who left home to work in Malaysia.

The images beside shown the shooting session.

The waiting of the developing of the photos onto
the premade postcard was not seem to be too
long for them. They waited patiently beside the
the developing of the photo...
one is helping the other to write
the postcard...
letter writing...
sticking the stamps and preparing
to post...
sticking the stamps and preparing
to post...
The Tipping

“... so much to say...”

The Tipping Point

After spending a few days with the immigrants, I found

that my project lacked some grounded research and I
realised so much more. New information, new sight,
new exposure, and new aspiration strike. Anthony
Chu’s interaction and anticipation with the immigrants
encouraged me to go on my study.

Instead of continue to realize the concept, I chose to follow

my heart and curiosity to find out more about the life of
the ‘unconnected’ community and the bridge that Anthony
has built for them.

At this stage of the project, a decision to continue the

design was forfeited. A stronger insight has extended the
limits in design from a design solution into a documentary.
More interviews and observations were carried out with the
immigrants. The intention was to comprehend their social
contacts as immigrants in Malaysia. On the other hand,
shadowing Anthony Chu had become part of the plan to
grasp further his daily contribution to them.

Four documentaries were delivered:

1. User Experience, documented the ‘postcard camera’
exercise that were carried out with the Nepalese in

2. A day with Anthony Chu (the photographer),

documented his daily routine as a messenger and his
interaction with the immigrants.

3. Visiting the Immigrants Accommodations. documented

the life of immigrants in Malaysia.

4. A Message from Home. a short clip quoted from the

video that Anthony shot during his previous trip to
Nepal and Bangladesh as a messenger.
He showed the picture that Anthony had
done for him by putting his family photos
into a new environment.
Factory accommodation I for the immigrants
Factory accommodation I for the immigrants
(sharing bedroom)
Factory accommodation I for the immigrants
Interviewing the Immigrants from
Factory accommodation II for the
(sharing bedroom)

the photographer who connects

1st Connection
(Photo editing)

1 2

1. Two seperate photos

2. A new scenery
3. Photoshop editing, placed 2 separate photo into
one and placed into a new environment
4. The finished picture
3 4
Samples of his work
2nd Connection

He travels to Nepal and Bangladesh once a year during

winter. He always brings along video and image messages
with him and shows them to the immigrants family. In the
same time, he also collects messages from Nepal and brings
them back to Malaysia.
Samples of his work as a messenger
Samples of his work as a messenger
Samples of his work as a messenger

The project starts up by identifying the ‘unconnected’

people, and the meaning of ‘non-verbal’ communication’,
and discovering the unique communication methods
offered by Anthony Chu, the photographer.

This project went through various phases of design.

From ideation to development till refinement, but after
the user testing exercise, instead of proposing a design
solution which at that stage was not mature, a decision of
continuing the search was made.

Although the project requirements were not met with the

deliverables of documentaries but it has definitely gave me
a clearer insight of immigrants life and expanded my view.
More questions are raised, more doubts are highlighted
with the continuity of research. Immigrants from Nepal
and Bangladesh are connected with their friends around
them, but they lack a close contact with their families
back home. Their family members are the one who are
the real “unconnected”, with very limited communication

The real ‘unconnected’ in Nepal or Bangladesh were

identified, but the only bond which connects them is the
photographer, Anthony Chu.

The last 4 weeks of my project had changed my design

vision and questioned my personal positioning in design. I
had know myself more and had discovered new interests in
it and the contributions that I could make with design.

thank you..

the real “unconnected”

and the one that “connects”

Acknowledgements Special thanks to Anthony Chu who has showed me so much,

who has opened up my mind.

Thanks to Chandra, Sulman, Gupal, Dol and everyone from

Kimberly Furniture Company and Tanjong Minyak who
allowed me to observe them...

Great thanks to the people who have participated to the

user testing and spent long hours with me on a Saturday

Thanks to my sister and my boyfriend who have helped me so