Improving Circadian Rhythm for Atypical Shift Workers
My Role
UX Designer
Interaction Designer
Industrial Designer
Team of 3
Andrew Shiau
Olivia Harold
Will Wang
2 Months
This project came from our Ideation Studio class. We focused on a specific problem under the theme of Smart City:

How might we improve city life for atypical shift workers by improving sleep quality?

We designed the smart shade Lux by generating simulated natural sunlight based the user's sleep schedule, to regulate the circadian ryhthm of atypical shift workers. Lux can be controlled via the paired app or voice assistant.
Scheduling shade actions
Bedtime Transition
Relaxing light reduces stress and helps sleep
Wakeup Transition
Energizing light motivates wakeup and activities
Remote Control
Customizing shade behaviors
Where did we start?
Social Interaction
Social interaction plays a significant role in city development. Our research showed the evolution of technologies which contribute to the smart city could potentially lead to weak social interaction. Hence, we focused on making cities smarter by enhancing social interaction.
Target Group
Atypical Shift Workers
What affects social interaction? We found the city environment causes its citizens stress, potentially leading to behavior changes and higher rates of mental illness. Furthermore, those factors would have amplified their effect on 5.5% of the population in the U.S. who work in atypical shift schedules. We gravitated towards this under-investigated population, but the design solution could be inclusive and extended to a larger population.
How to define the problem space?
City intervention
Realizing the traditional way of the on-street survey has fewer and less detailed responses, we built an attractive robot-like box to collect responses in the public space.
We placed the box at the entrances of the Capitol Hill light rail station from 10 pm to 7 am for two days, based on the schedule of most atypical shift workers.
The box includes pens, plenty of blank cards which allows people to share their thoughts freely and sufficiently without any constraints.
We also prepared cards with fun facts as an incentive for people.
Initial Problem Space
Sleep and Social Isolation
We received a total of 17 responses:
• 41% responses wished to have more sleep and rest to reduce stress.
• 29% responses complained about the social isolation caused by atypical shift schedules.
This activity led our focus to sleep and social isolation. We framed the initial problem statement as:

How might we reduce stress caused by social isolation for people with atypical work schedules?
Ideation and Validation Concepts and Storyboards
Reality filters
We ideated 30 concepts on the problem space and narrowed down to 3 based on feasibility, desirability, and usability. To better demonstrate the concepts, we expanded each of them into a storyboard.
See all 30 concepts >
Storyboard 1
Smart Shade - Improving Sleep Quality
Storyboard 2
Loneliest Person - You Are Not Alone
Storyboard 3
Holo Mate - Hologram Teleportation
Prototyping and Testing
Happy Accidents
Prototype created calming atmosphere - Smart Shade
The light reflecting on the shade created an ambient atmosphere that made me relaxed and calm.
Prototype became a long-lasting service - Loneliest Person
We created a Slack channel as a prototype for classmates to test, aiming for sharing the lonely feelings and experiences to receive sympathy and comfort from others. The overall participation and engagement were way beyond our expectation, and we had to extend this prototype from one week temporarily to permanently active.
How to Prioritize the Problems for Solving?
Feedback on the desirability of the concepts
Through the prototype testing, participants thought Loneliest Person would have less desirability compared to Smart Shade in reality. Because there are existing services that could potentially offer solutions to alleviate social isolation, such as Reddit, etc.

What matters most to the target group? - Sleep quality

Additional research revealed that, compared to the influences of social isolation, poor sleep quality would result in more profound impacts on atypical shift worker. Hence, we narrowed down the final direction towards improving sleep quality, and we refined the problem statement to:

How might we improve city life for atypical shift workers by improving sleep quality?
Application Map and Interaction Model
“I just want to sleep when I get home. “ - Participant 7

Our goal was to provide a solution that requires the minimum effort from atypical shift workers so that they could save more time for sleep. We kept the interaction model as straightforward as possible.
See medium-fidelity wireframes >
Why Voice Assistant?
Reducing Screen Time
“It’s too tired for me to look at the phone doing other tasks.”
- Participant 3

“If I could control the shade by my voice, I might not use the app quite often.” - Participant 4

The light from cell phone screens can stimulate one's optic nerve, which not helps sleep but wake up. That's why we aimed to reduce the screen time for the atypical shift workers. To minimize the phone usage while still having control over the shade, we thought the voice assistant would be a good option. Here is the conversation tree for the voice assistant:
See full-resolution version >
Hero Flows
Considering Sleep Patterns and Behaviors
"I work both day and night shifts for three days a week, and I take a nap between shifts." - Participant 1

We considered the most common sleep patterns and behaviors of atypical shift workers, which includes sleeping and napping at daytime and nighttime. And we mapped the core user flows with those sleeping behaviors.
Design Consideration
Colors and UI Specifications
Soft colors - avoid vibrant colors which stimulate optic nerves when close to bedtime.

Rounded corners - more comfortable to look at. Both iOS and Material Design elements have rounded corners for better user experience.

Card metaphor - provides explicit relationships between each schedule and more accessible for users to take actions.
See full UI specifications >
Final Design
I made the user interface with Sketch, built shade 3D model with Solidworks, rendered and animated through KeyShot.
What I've Learned
1. Useful insights from research and testing can effectively inform the design decisions.

2. Consulting stakeholders help to neutralize the biases inside the designers’ mental model.

3. It's important for both designers and developers in the team to know the limitations of each other's tools.