Unexpected Delight

thesis • interactive installation • prototyping

Unexpected Delight

thesis • interactive installation • prototyping

Unexpected delight is about the dynamic transformation of static spaces with interactive arts.

For my thesis work at CCA, I worked on different projects that investigate the interaction in public spaces, and explored the process of engagement. I was focusing on cite-specificity of the installations, causality of the interaction, and expressiveness of the installation with forms and behaviors. I wanted to understand how I can bring delight to people in their everyday lives. The outcome of my thesis was series of experimental installation projects, including the studies and guidelines that can help interaction designers design interactive contents in public space.

Advisor: Scott Minneman, Maria Mortati

Process: Design Research, Digital & Physical Prototyping, Thesis Writing, Evaluation



I built installations as a mode of exploration over the course of my thesis works. During each project, I went through a five-step process to design my installations. My insights begin with opportunities that I find, and things I want to achieve. It’s not a linear process and each step includes different studies and experiments. This process enables me to know what I should do at each stage, and make sure I won’t go off the track or focus too much on one of the stages.


When I started my exploration about interactive installations, I know that I’m interested in the integration of physical and digital experience, telling stories about objects and spaces, but not sure how I can provide my own approach. I began by researching the history of interactive art, and started a series of milestone projects.

  • Flora is a responsive art installation that intervene in a transitional space to change people’s behavior in their daily activities. (https://vimeo.com/78400288)

  • Chrono is a kinetic sculpture that changes through time and senses people’s presence. (https://vimeo.com/79859855)

  • Flow is a light installation using the movement of people to light up space. (https://vimeo.com/81576312)

  • Orchestra is an interactive interface using hand gestures to activate different parts of the installation. (https://vimeo.com/90944572)

  • Segue is an interactive sound installation where people can experience the difference between two campuses through both visual and sound. (https://vimeo.com/90802615)

  • Echo is an interactive sound installation that echoes voices from viewers. (https://vimeo.com/90802641)


There are three important lessons about creating delightful experience with interactive installations that I learned over the course of my thesis study.

1) I have to incorporate what people naturally do in the space, and use that action to trigger unexpected experience. This way the installation will quickly catch people’s attention to initiate the interaction, and help them understand immediately how to interact with it.

2) To make sense of what people could do in the space, I have to think about the metaphor behind the interaction. It helps people associate with the thing they already know, so that they don’t need to learn about the technology when interacting with it.

3) In order to keep people engage and continue the delightful experience, the expressive range of the installation should be dynamic so that people can keep exploring and find out unexpected rewards.


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