A tangible break reminder for digital product users which provide nature and subtle notifications.


Date: 2015 January-March
My roles: product designer, prototype developer
Deliverables: Physical computing prototype
Technique: Arduino, laser cutting


The design requirements from personal experience includes:

  • Aesthetic design: the appearance of the reminder should be appealing to users. So that could be helpful to encourage users to put the device in their workplace.
  • Subtle reminder: To avoid distracting users from concentrating on work.
  • Others: the device should be able to activate automatically when the users start to work. 


This is a project for practising physical computing and prototyping skills. The final outputs should be a functional physical prototype of a design idea that students are interested in.

My idea is to make a device for laptop/desktop users to prevent CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome: including eyestrain, blurred Vision, headache and so on.) results from prolonged using period. As user research and evaluation were beyond the scope of this project, I assumed that making a tangible reminder would be helpful for laptop users to prevent this health issues. 

Prototype Introduction

The final output is a reminder made as the shape of a leaf. It will change the colours gradually based on users' working hour to remind users to take a break.

The purpose of this prototype

  • The aesthetic design (look and feel) of the device and subtle reminding (implementation) are the core concept of this design idea, and the current working prototype should be able to convey those two features.


  • LDR, RGB, LED, arduino UNO micro controller, polywood board / acrylic sheet for laser cutting



  • Knowledge: Through this project, I learnt that how to make a physical prototype depends on the purpose, audience and resources of the project process. Generally speaking, there are three aspects to considerate: (1) implementation (2) role (3) look and feel. 
  • Skills: digital fibrication (laser cutting), basic programming. 
  • Limitations: In this two-month project, I tended to focus on the concept of the product before the designing to avoid unnecessary waste on materials and times on learning unrelated techniques. This strategy makes the final design convincible, but may limit the possibilities on technical side.
  • Future work for this prototype: Exploring different subtle reminder and other related technique on physical computing. (e.g.The RGB LED in this reminder would be too subtle because of the size.)