WhyTime is Live!

So, we launched our new app on 14.08.2013... crazy, huh?

You’ve been hearing about it for months, and here it is: the WhyTime App. Six months from inception to real thing – we think that’s a pretty good effort! Check it out. (Yes, I mean download it!)

You may be thinking that this is a bit of a deviation from our work in the past, but actually, not so much. We had to work closely with the developers, ‘building’ the app, and make sure the design we envisaged was brought to life. Working with builders – now that’s familiar territory! The process, you may be interested to know, was also not too dissimilar from building a building or a product – we had to set out our scope clearly, and make sure we had thought through all the details; we had to be clear about what we wanted and how to achieve it; we had to be ready to come up with new solutions that met the design intent, when the builders came back and said something couldn’t be done a certain way. And we had to accept that perfection wasn’t realistic or helpful – but getting it out into the world and ready for people to use was.

Below is a bit of summary of the process from start to finish. You can download it here, or visit the WhyTime App website for a bit more detail on how it works.

This is the first concept mock-ups. 

This was our second stage mock-ups, after we had done some early market testing. Interestingly, the idea for the quotes came from our testers, with many of them suggesting this idea of inspiring and motivating quotes. 

This is a diagram going through how all the screens connect and what the buttons do.

Another flow diagram. Yes, there was a lot of this! 

These were the first screen shots in development. No, they didn't freak me out at all. (They totally did).

 

The final screenshots. Victory, at last!

Still here...?! 

August 27, 2013

by Meriam Salama
in News
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WhyTime App

As some of our followers may be aware, we have been working of late on the development of an app. This idea began when we started considering the problem we saw in ourselves, our friends and a lot of our wider community:  the inability to make time for our personal needs in a busy lifestyle. The demands of work, family and social commitments speak with a louder voice, and with more urgency, than the needs of our own mind/body/soul, and for this reason we seem to attend to these external demands before our own.  Of course, the irony of this is that it is only by looking after ourselves first, that we will be able to give to all these other demands out of our abundance. We all know this, but putting it into practice can be a challenge!

Our solution to this problem is our WhyTime App.

app home screen

 We wanted to provide an inspiring and indulgent experience, where people could come to take a few minutes out of their busy lives. It is a place for the user to recharge and work on putting order into their private lives. The App helps to do this through inspirational content, as well as motivational reminders and affirmations. The emphasis is on identifying what it means to the user to do a certain task, or what it will mean to them to dismiss it; on ‘Why’ the user chooses to spend their time on a particular task. With the consequences so clearly articulated, one should, hopefully, not struggle to find the motivation to attend to these needs.  

You can have a closer look at screen shots here.

The app is not yet available for download; we are current working on refining it to meet the needs of future users, with a launch date after we have got this right. So we encourage you to have a look and let us know your thoughts here. What do you think – can you relate to this problem of not finding time to look after yourself, and would you use this app to help?

March 20, 2013

by Meriam Salama
in News
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Just Options

No right answers, only options.

It seems to us that the design process is one of coming up with any number of possible solutions to one problem. None of these solutions is ‘right’ – they are all just options that may or may not be worth pursuing. Take for example, a recent problem we were having a look at: never having enough time for ourselves in our busy modern lifestyles.

To start with, we tried to get to the bottom on the problem, and find a question we could design an answer for... to do that, we asked ourselves ‘Why’ the problem existed until we got to a position where we had a question we were comfortable with:

Once we got to this point, we were free to explore solutions that answered this question: not solutions that seemed immediately viable mind you, just fun, exciting ways to solve the problem. Some of the ideas we came up with included:

A ‘Wellness Calculator’, where you could input how you spent your day and it would convert this information into a Wellness rating, which tells you how ‘good’ your day has been for you. So you could input how long you worked for, how much time you spent exercising and doing what, what you ate, how much time you slept, what you did for entertainment, and so on. By seeing a concrete value for the effect our choices have on our wellness, we might be encouraged to give more priority to those things that are good for us.

A ‘Reminder App’, that empowers you to keep your commitments by articulating the choices you make when you choose how you spend your time.  Every time you prioritise another task over taking care of yourself, you make a choice – this app articulates the consequence of these choices in terms of what they mean to you, and expresses them through the use of messages that are read to you when the alarm sounds and you make your choice. Here is our preliminary visualisation:

We have developed this idea a little further: have a look here, and if you have time, fill in the short survey letting us know what you think.

We all probably spend a lot more time on Facebook than we really need to, at the expense of other things in our life. So what about a ‘Facebook App’, that posts reminders and encouragements on your wall, giving you the motivation to make time for the important things, as well as allowing your friends to participate in the conversation and keep you accountable. You can enter your schedule of commitments, and it would post automated friendly reminders and responses to see if you met these commitments. For example:

Lastly, it’s much easier to notice the phone ringing, our family or friends asking for attention, or the email that just landed in our inbox that needs an urgent response, than to notice what our own mind/body/soul needs. So what about a ‘Mini Me’ device, which takes all our internalised needs and expresses them for us – a physical manifestation of our inner selves, that could be just as visible and able to compete with the other demands in our life? This could take any number of shapes... one could be a mobile device that we carry with us to schedule in our commitments, perhaps even recording our own voice memos. This device will then send us emails, sms’, phone calls or alarms when it’s time to attend to these needs. We can make time to answer the phone when other people call– what if we could answer the phone to find ourselves on the line, telling us to make time for the task we have scheduled? Another version of this could perhaps be a bracelet that can measures our biorhythms, and give us reminders when we need to relax, rest, eat or sleep.

As you can see, none of these ideas is perfect, and none is ‘right’... given the right people working on it and the right processes, maybe they could all come to fruition.

What do you think though – which one appeals to you, and how come? 

 

The ideas expressed in this post, and the manifestations, representations, images and text related to these ideas is copyright by Twenty Six Letters; all rights reserved, including no unauthorised usage of images or concept. February 2013.

February 13, 2013

by Meriam Salama
in Ideation
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Disconnected

When the basics aren't so basic anymore. 

We have been noticing lately, like an increasing number of people, how disconnected we are from the process of providing for our basic needs. Consider our Food, Clothing and Shelter. Where do these come from, how are they made, what exactly does it take to make it ready for us to consume? Take for example, these items:

disconnected

We all obviously know that the lettuce, tomato and cucumber that go into a salad don’t come from the supermarket, and that our favourite t-shirt has a story before it gets to the store.  But do many people care? It might be convenient to pay someone else to produce and provide these basics for us, but would life be simpler if we knew how to provide them for ourselves? If we could work less, for example, once we knew these skills, would many people want to take the provision of these basic needs into their own hands?

What about you.... what do you think? Would you be interested in products that could make it simple for you to grow your own vegetables, make your own clothes or build your own home? 

February 3, 2013

by Meriam Salama
in News
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What if...

We have been doing some imagining around an idea we came across a little while ago.

What if 01

What if 02 

What if 03

Whist the idea might not be feasible right now, this kind of imagining helps lead us to other ideas that we will pursue. It's nice to know that this wild daydreaming is all part of the process, too! 

What about you.... what sort of 'What if...' scenarios do you daydream about? 

January 16, 2013

by Meriam Salama
in News
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Shirt, how do I feel?

It seems that every day I am coming across exciting new and emerging technologies: maybe it’s just the blogs I like to read, but its breath taking to think we are living at a time when it seems like anything is possible. One area that seems bursting with potential is the field of ‘smart textiles’. These textiles, which have functionalised fibres and sensors woven into or part of the fabric, can sense and respond to their surroundings. There are numerous products out there where they have been used in clothing and other textile products. 

qtc1

qtc2

Take for example force sensing materials, such as QTC Material by Peratech, which allows the textile to act as a switch. Applying force to the fabric switches it from the ‘off’ to the ‘on’ state. Some of the suggested applications are to integrate switches into jacket sleeves, or foldable keyboards. In fact, if anyone ever needed to have a keyboard on the sleeve of their jacket, the technology is ready to go!

lumi textile

Though not a wearable fabric, Phillips has developed a luminous textile with integrated LED lights that can play a range of standard or custom content. It’s marketed as being able to ‘express emotion and mood’ through dynamic lighting, so maybe it’s not too far in the future before we see clothing that  can sense and express our mood. Maybe it would be helpful to see that your colleague is having a bad day by the way their shirt is flashing red? It might even be useful for those of us who have trouble working out exactly how we feel sometimes... our mood sensing clothing could just confirm it for us!

pp

Konarka have developed ‘Power plastic’, which are photovoltaic solar panels that are lightweight, flexible and thin. One application is to provide portable power, if they are imbedded in say the outside of a computer bag or the face of a tent. Maybe one day our clothing will help us charge our devices; rather than plugging them into a fixed power point, we can plug them into the sleeve of our garments whilst we are on the go.

hv

There is also the SmartLife ‘HealthVest’, which is a shirt embedded with multiple sensors, that allow it to continuously register and record biological signals like heart rate, respiration rate and temperature, all whilst allowing the wearer full mobility. The advantage of this in the medical, sporting, military and emergency services fields is obvious, where accurate and continuous information about the wearer can be relayed to doctors, trainers or superiors. It is fun to think about where future developments of these technologies will go. Imagine their application in child care for example; parent’s could use it to see how their kids are doing throughout the day whilst they are at childcare: kids could be given a wrist band that measures their biological markers and is fitted with a gps; a user friendly interface could let parents know exactly where their child is and correlate it to their biological rhythms: did the child sleep soundly... play actively... get agitated? Whether parents would actually want to know all this information about their child when away from them is another thing!

What do you think... what would you like to see done with this technology? 

January 8, 2013

by Meriam Salama
in News
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Happy New Year

2013

We have big plans for 2013 here at Twenty Six Letters, and I can honestly say I was immensely relieved that the world didn’t end in 2012: that would have thrown a spanner in the works and put an end to all the fun we plan to have this year! We have written our plan for the year, set our milestone dates and key outcomes, and now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to it! We will be working on three new innovations throughout the course of this year and are excited about the whole process.  We hope to explore concepts that are exciting in their innovation, that are truly useful and add value to the lives of our customers. Reading between the lines, this means we don’t plan to be seeing a chair or lamp on the drawing board! (Unless there is something incredibly unusual about them:  there has to be this disclaimer!)

Because we would love our wider community to be part of the process, we are putting together an advisory board of sorts. Except we think that’s a pretty bland name for the kind of fun we plan to have, so we are calling it The Huddle . I was also keen to call it ‘The Ping Pong Committee’ (you know, ideas being discussed to and fro...) but I thought people might not get what they think they are signing up for. Having said that, I am always up for a game of table tennis, so if anyone is keen you know how to reach me! We hope this will be a group with whom we can share our ideation to commercialisation process; we look forward to their opinions and input throughout the process and how it will inform our outcomes. So we intend to share the ideas and innovations we come across that inspire us (think bio-printing: so fascinating!) ; to give them an insight into our ideation process and how our ideas evolve (we assure you there is method to the madness!); to get their opinion about the direction our ideas are taking, and last but not least, to listen to their input regarding specific product features.   

We wholeheartedly invite anyone who is interested in being part of this group to subscribe to receive the updates: it’s that simple to be involved.  We promise not to go too crazy with the amount of emails we send you!  Please sign up here, and you will be hearing from us very soon. We are excited about getting to know some of you a lot better, and to involving you in the work we do: we hope you will enjoy the journey as much as we plan to! 

January 1, 2013

by Meriam Salama
in News
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A Simple Life

Recently I have been reading Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s account of how he spent two years living in the woods adjacent to Lake Walden, in a house he built with his own hands, and living off the produce he grew himself and the livestock he managed to capture and kill himself. He wanted to reduce life to its essentials, and to free himself from all the encumbrances that ‘modern civilisation’ can entangle one.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear;” Thoreau

He managed to build his house for less than the rent he might have paid elsewhere for a year and the seeds and equipment he bought to cultivate soon paid off at harvest time. He spent a small portion of his time providing for his basic needs, and the rest of his time he was free to study, read, contemplate and enjoy the pristine environment that surrounded him. He undertook this experiment in 1845, so his experience resonates very deeply in present day, in the whirlwind of modern life, when we work hard to pay off loans for homes and lifestyles well beyond our basic needs, and when we would be hard pressed to say where the food we eat comes from.

The book is an inspiring read, and paints a compelling image of simple living... I wonder, what kind of place might one live in if what they purposefully sought was a simple life? Below are a few things that I think might come close:

The Cube Project is 3x3x3m compact home, an initiative of Dr Mike Page at the University of Hertfordshire.  It not only provides all the basics for life (and even a few non essentials, like a plasma screen) but also produces its own electricity through solar panels, incorporates some energy saving lighting and heating measures, and is built from environmentally friendly materials.

  You can view an animation of the Cube here.  

Internal + External Views of the Cube

The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company allows you to buy tiny houses, which you can either buy ready made, in kit form to put together yourself, or you can buy the plans and build the entire thing yourself. You get the shell of the building, and its up to you how you fit it out internally.  

The 'Domestic Transformer' is the home of Hong Kong based architect Gary Chang. He solved the problem of limited space by stacking different functions within sliding walls, that can then be manoeuvred in and out as required: if you want to use the kitchen, you slide the wall panels that reveal the kitchen; if you want to take a bath, slid the panels to reveal the bath. Watch this video of Chang in his apartment, explaining how it works.  

Lastly, its hard to go past a mobile home for simplicity: all your possessions reduced to what you can fit in your caravan or motorhome and the freedom to stop where you like at your leisure. The following images are from the home/office of  architect Matthew Hoffman, who renovated an 1978 Airstream.

October 29, 2011

by Meriam Salama
in Things We Love
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Let there be light

Esherick House

Whether consciously or unconsciously, most people would acknowledge the importance of lighting to the experience, or ’feel’ of a space. We can recognize that it is more pleasing to walk into, and use, a well lit space, flooded with natural light, than a dark and poorly lit one.  What is more interesting is that light, and quality of light in a space, can have a noticeable impact on us, and the activities we choose to undertake in them. 

This influential power of light is well known in the health care industry, where the effect of natural light on the healing process is an increasingly well documented and understood phenomenon.  In hospitals, studies show that differences in the quality of light can influence stress and pain levels in patients, significantly affecting recovery. Allowing and controlling natural light flow into hospital rooms can reduce pain, the need for analgesic drugs and the duration of patient stays. [i]

Similarly, in the educational sector, it is clearly documented that improving natural light flow into classrooms improves student performance. In a study by Heschong Mahone Group, it was found classrooms with the most amount of day lighting are seen to be associated with a 20% to 26% faster learning rate, and a 15% to 23% faster improvement rate.[ii]

Similar studies also reveal the positive effect of day lighting on retail sales and on office worker productivity.  We can delve further to discover if the exact reason for these results is due to improved visibility and light quality, or improved health, alertness and mood, or improved variation and changeability in the space, but the positive effects of daylight are clear.

Exeter Library

Studies and statistic aside, it isn’t hard to understand how important light, and quality of light are to our daily experiences, if we look at those moments we particularly enjoy. Paint a picture in your mind of a happy or joyful experiences: it’s likely to be set under clear blue summer skies. Consider how mesmerizing we find sunrises and sunsets. Why do we choose to holiday in the sun, grieve when we have to spend sunny weekdays inside working or covet the corner office with a view? Most people will generally admit to sunlight having an effect on their disposition and mood, whether it is generally ‘feeling better’, or more content or happy. 

The same can be said about artificial lighting, in that the quality of that light can have an effect on the experience.  Imagine a particularly special dining experience: are the lights dimmed, the candles burning or the lanterns hung and lit from the trees? Would that experience feel the same if it happened to be under the glare of a fluorescent tube?

LanternsImage from laboomeria

Stating in simply, we can affect the quality of our daily experiences, by controlling the quality of light in our spaces. No matter the type of fittings, fixtures or furniture we choose to put in a space, their effect on us will be lost or diminished if they are not presented in the right light.  This has obvious implications in the design and orientation of spaces, but also of considerable importance are those devices and screens which we use to control, diffuse and manipulate the play of light in our spaces.



[i] Evidence Based Health Care Design. Rosaly Coma, John Wily and Sons, New Jersey, 2009

[ii] Heschong Mahone Group. 1999. “Daylighting in Schools: An Investigation into the Relationship Between Daylighting and Human Performance.” Pacific Gas and Electric Company Report, on Behalf of the California Board for Energy Efficiency Third Party Program.

May 3, 2011

by Meriam Salama
in Light
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Welcome to Twenty Six Letters

Itshere!
Could it be true- has the day we launch our website arrived?

It is true! There have been times when the arrival of this day seemed a mirage: tantalizingly close, yet somehow just out of reach: one more prototype or pricing matrix away! Sometimes the simplest of things held us for unforgivably long periods of time. (Think of a number in your mind, of the number of weeks it might reasonably take to come up with a meaningful business name; multiply that number by ten, and we are quietly confident it still won’t match how long that process took us!) Other times, we took great strides in moments of pure genius (Think of equations that would make Einstein proud!)

Here we are, full of excitement and a healthy dose of pride to introduce you to Twenty Six Letters, our design consultancy and its first innovation- The DecoGlide TM.

The DecoGlide TM – what a journey it has been! We had an idea... and it took our breath away. We believed in it, we worked day and night on it, invested all our physical, mental and financial resources into it, talked incessantly about it, dreamed about it and brought it into fruition. Above all, we loved the journey: all the exciting ideas we got to explore, all that we had the chance to create from scratch, and all that we learned along the way. We toiled and persevered and managed to come through with (the majority of) our faculties intact and an innovation as well considered, refined and beautiful as artwork. No mean feat, and in that we are proud and grateful.

Did we say proud? Yes and also very grateful to a whole host of people for their invaluable expertise and assistance in these formative months! We want to thank Stefani, Louise and the team at Nest PR, for their encouragement, admiration of our product and always having a positive comment to make! We want to thank James Geer, who photographed our screens, for his beautiful work, and his pleasant and easy going manner. We want to thank Warwick, Matt and the team at Cobalt Niche, for providing us with the design advice we needed and for their informed and pertinent ideas. We also want to thank the team at Actuate IP for their efficiency and accuracy in handling all our IP legal matters, and helping us decipher all the legal jargon.  

In particular we want to mention Rowan McNaught of Studio Skiing. Our branding and our website are the creative works of his brilliant mind. Intelligent, well informed and with a great eye for detail, we could not have found anyone more suitable for our website. Thank you Rowan for listening to and understanding our needs, and time and time again, being able to deliver a well thought out, apt and elegant solution. Thank you for all your hard work, and no doubt if you never see another formula again, it will not be too soon?!

Finally we want to thank our family and friends, for all their support and encouragement. We have been talking about this for a long time: thank you for your support and believing we could do it!

And you, dear reader- thank you for dropping by! We hope that you will stay awhile and get acquainted with the website and The DecoGlide TM... we know that you will love it too!

April 5, 2011

by Marianne & Meriam
in News
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