Connecting places

Written By Mike Shorter
3 mins read

We live and work in an increasingly global economy. Globalisation has brought us connections previously unimagined and made communication more important than ever. Here at Uniform, we hope to bring about meaningful change through re-imagining communication: breaking down language barriers, changing the frequency of these conversations, and helping our voices to be heard through the digital static.

Communicating Visually

Communication is something that comes naturally to human beings, but communication through screens, phones and text can feel cold and impersonal at times. By breaking down the barriers that divide us, we can allow people to communicate more enjoyably and more effectively.

 In ChitChat we updated the concept of a fax machine to be simpler and more visually appealing to use: sketch an idea, scan it through your local ChitChat, and it’ll appear instantly in the other office.  Seeing a hand-drawn sketch or note manifest physically from our smiling LED box was undeniably compelling, forging connections between our distant studios and awakening something in us that text just can’t.

Communicating Equally

Making our thoughts and ideas available for all to see is a great tool for fostering creativity and conversation - and making the entryway into this discussion simple and enjoyable for everyone encourages more interaction.

Walter (the) Melon sits in our kitchen, streaming a ticker-tape of guest speaker suggestions from its mouth. Staff can submit ideas through an online form or by asking Alexa, and their ideas print out continuously. It’s great fun to see Walter in action, and our ideas made tangible!

Communicating Intuitively

We’re used to talking through more than words - body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and more help us to decipher what other people truly mean. Communicating through physical gestures rather than words comes naturally to human beings, distilling interaction to its bare elements, and this is now possible over long distances thanks to the Internet of Things.

By focussing on three small elements of physical communication and dedicating a simple device to each one, we aimed to forge simple and intuitive connections between our London and Liverpool offices. We included no user guide or translation - they were designed as ambiguous expressions of connectivity, to be played with rather than used.

The Electronic Wave used light-detecting elements to capture the details of a waving hand, replaying it mechanically, while Background Noise captured ambient sound in one place and transformed the sound waves into a physical wave running along a wire, with a louder background noise making a greater amplitude. Knock Knock captured the personal rhythm of a door knock, replaying the tempo through the taps of a tiny hammer.

We never intended to reinvent the wheel. But by thinking about the different ways we communicate, we were able to inject a little fun into our office lives. Walter Melon has become a physical reminder that the voices of our staff matter, serving as a fun and encouraging way to contribute to the office’s collective curiosity, and means that we never forget a good suggestion.

Cutting through the digital noise of the inbox, ChitChat took us back to a more innate form of communication, while Casual Interfaces showed us that when you remove words, you can still gain a lot from physical interactions. These devices connected our offices, and while we couldn’t necessarily plan meetings or share information through them, they did allow a staff member in London to put a smile on the face of a colleague over 200 miles away - without saying a word.

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