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"The world

according to Gerda"

User-Centered Product Design


UC Berkeley 

ART C166 Project

November 2019


Emily Gui, Angela Liu, Kartikye Mittal, Monika Kiss

My Role​

User research, interviews, ideation

Project Time

4 weeks

‘The world according to Gerda’ is a hyper-personalized object that allows Gerda Schonefeld, the subject of this project, to step back into a very important time in her childhood while still engaging with the object in a way that compliments her interests and quirks today.


Through rounds of in-depth semi-structured interviews, the beginning of this project started with us getting to know our user, as well as us aiming to identify any pain points in her life. Given a broad brief, sharp interview skills were necessary at this stage.

Here were some insights we collected during our initial rounds of interviews:

Touch seemed to be a very important sense for Gerda. A small activity that she does is running her fingers through rocks to feel the texture. Engaging with her senses was something that was pleasurable for her and brought her joy.

Gerda has a stuffed toy named Maddie (a lizard) that brings her a lot of joy. She starts to become more conversational and joyful when she is around Maddie, and particularly enjoys the texture and feel when the stuffed toy lays on her body.

Gerda has a small plate of aromatic oils that she occasionally smells to engage with her smell senses

Gerda recently suffered from a fall, and has struggled with a number of health issues recently. Daily activities such as changing, have become very difficult.

We found out that her book of stories was written by her all on a typewriter in a writing room. This seemed to be a very important aspect of her life. She wrote till 2014, till she was 95.

When she hears music, which is another form of sensory engagement, Gerda does a ‘piano playing’ finger movement in the air. She loves music and listens to a huge variety, although classical piano is her favourite.

Through discussion, ideation, and further interviews, we were able to narrow down potential topics about Gerda's life that could be used for this project.



1. Sense of touch: Gerda felt a sense of companionship and joy around her stuffed toys, especially Maddie.



2. Music: Sera (her caretaker) will often play different music genres for Gerda to engage with her hearing senses, however, classical music seemed to be a more popular genre. 


3. Writing: We found out how much she enjoyed using her typewriter and writing. 


Gerda needed a way to re-engage with her lost sense of touch, in order to provide comfort and a sense of self.


Starting to think about how we wanted to bring our ideas to life with the data we had gathered.

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Idea 2:Comfort Object

We envisioned creating a comfort object that could be interacted with in multiple ways through touch, smell, and sound. The main idea that we had was creating a soft plush toy with each limb of the toy occupying a different sensation. For example, one limb would feel weighted, another limb would be filled with beads, etc.







Through rounds of ideation, sketching, and concept development, we ultimately decided to create a hyper-personal, customized piano, that would engage her touch, and hearing senses. 

Idea 1:Typewriter

One of our first ideas was to modify a typewriter, as one of Gerda’s favorite pastimes was writing stories on her typewriter. We envisioned the typewriter to play some of Gerda’s favorite songs, with the intention of engaging both touch (touching the typewriter keys) and sound (the songs).

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1. The importance of "trusting the process".


Throughout the duration of this project, there were numerous times when I and my team were afraid that we were stuck, and were unable to create a product that would be meaningful for our user. Despite there being creative blocks, it was important to embrace these parts of the process, as it allowed us to dig even deeper and ultimately create a beautiful product. 


2. Passion will translate into your work.


Though this started off as a class assignment, as a team, we were truly able to form a connection with our user and most importantly, EMPATHIZE with her. This emotional connection, I believe, truly translated into our efforts and overall thought with this project. 

Thanks for dropping by.
It doesn't have to end here —  Stay connected. 📱
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