As designers working on a multitude of projects, one thing we always talk about is how to organise ourselves. Last year we started researching with a small group of people to understand the challenges when it comes to planning, sharing and managing time – and we decided to try to come up with a solution that would genuinely fit in with human needs.
We saw how different people used different tools, from postit notes and backs of hands to complex digital software, and we realised that to solve this problem we would need to create something that made the most of the tangibility of physical objects, and the ubiquity of digital platforms,
We designed a calendar that is made entirely out of lego, but if you take a photo of it with any smartphone all of the events and timings will be magically synchronised to an online, digital calendar. It is infinitely customisable, can be scaled to fit teams and projects of any size. It uses the technology and processing power already in our pockets, and being open-source can have a wide reach in many applications where time management is an issue. It’s also good fun to use!
We initially designed this with our studio in mind, but as we researched with more people we realised that it could impact a much wider audience. With this in mind we designed the calendar to be as flexible as possible.
The very building blocks of the calendar, lego, are endlessly reconfigurable in a way even children understand. We also realised a major oversight in digital products is the platform dependence, so we avoided creating an app, and designed software to accept photographs of the calendar sent by any smartphone, thereby maximising the number of people who could interact with it.
There is a fundamental comfort experienced in being able to physically hold, and interact with units of time with your hands, and as we’ve used the calendar in the studio we genuinely feel the advantages of such a large, physical object, while at the same time benefitting from the ubiquitous nature of digital calendars.
We really feel that organising yourself is something you shouldn’t need to pay for, and for this reason, we decided to make this project open source, adaptable and flexible – so that interested people can take it into their hands and customise it even further.
By evolving the project as we used it we have been able to create a tool for organising a team of 6 that works better than anything we have used before. Although this is yet to be trailed in other scenarios, we have already been contacted by Universities, Banks and Hospitals who have expressed an interest in using the system. General Motors is known to have used Lego to map out production problems, so we know it is a tool with massive impact. By bringing this tool into the digital world, in a simple, cheap and accessible way we firmly believe that this impact can be amplified through its ubiquity in the digital world.
We have created a flexible and customisable tool that allows people to interact with it both digitally and physically, in large teams, through whatever means suits them, so we believe we have addressed the needs of a very wide audience.
In terms of business impact, making this an open source project won’t generate any income for us directly, but we hope it can demonstrate our design approach in creating meaningful interactions through deep understanding of users needs.
We observed how people organised themselves through informal intimate interviews and looked at the tools they were using; from post-it notes on computer screens, diaries, to-do lists and some really complex project planning software.
We noticed some really interesting things, and made a dream manifesto for our ultimate organisation system:
It had to be big and visible
It had to be tactile:
It had to work both online and offline
It had to be flexible
It had to look neat and tidy
It had to be secure
In exploring what we could do, we were tempted by all sorts of interactive tech-centered solutions – but the more we put technology at the forefront, the more restrictive the system became. We needed something that anyone could use, in any way they felt and this naturally drew us towards using lego as the main material.
Functionally, lego is a cheap and widely available tool which everybody knows how to use. It allows scalability, and accessibility through clean, colourful blocks. We designed a tool with no words, just numbers, meaning it can be used in any language, and designed a half day resolution, to balance the need for detail whilst minimising confusion.