E Studio Project 1

Hannah Lesser
14 min readOct 25, 2021



I visited the Miller ICA today to get a better feel for the space. Today was actually my first time ever visiting this space.

The exhibit there right now is super cool.

The space on the first floor is smaller than I thought it would be. I don’t love the tiles, but I like the feeling the black walls create.


I’ve decided that instead of focusing on one artist, I think I will focus on an issue from the anthropocene. I’m taking Coffee and Capitalism with John Soluri this semester, and I’ve learned a lot about coffee and how it can serve as a perfect lens into how globalization has developed through history. This is an issue I care about deeply because I believe in Western society, we often don’t think about where what we consume really comes from, or the work that it took to get into our hands. When one orders a latte from Starbucks, they may be surrounded by images of coffee plants and the name of the roast may be called “Costa Rica Latin American Blend”, but how often do you truly think about where your coffee comes from? Because if you did begin to think about all of the actors involved in modern industrialized agricultural production, it would be difficult to stop. Americans are so far removed from every other step of the production process, all most of us care about is the brand and the price in grocery stores.


I visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History today to get some inspiration for my exhibit.

baby steps along stickers on the floor to chase the pattern of a bee
visitors explore the history of the earth through various rooms
in the river monsters exhibit, there a boat that people can sit in, press buttons to play specific videos
puzzle game in the new river monsters exhibit

There were certain aspects of the Natural History Museum that I could take inspiration from, but overall I wished it had more interactive elements. It’s a great place to visit if you want to look at artifacts and read information, but this is the exact reason many museums are seeing a decline in visitors.


Today I began crafting my mood board. Here’s what I made:

Since I’m focusing on industrial agriculture, I wanted to balance cooler colors to reflect the industrial and warmer ones to refelct the natural. I’m thinking of using some aspect of three-dimensional sans serif type, and I know I want to incorporate select amounts of light.


I looked at other interactive museums for more inspiration as I began crafting my storyboards.

I like how these museums combine physical and digital elements and don’t rely too heavily on either.

As for my storyboards, I’ve been trying to think of a way to engage the visitors with my topic while avoiding just using a touch table.

I came up with an idea for a game where visitors try to form a complete commodity chain with puzzle pieces. Each piece would have a different event on it, and they can place the pieces into this ring which is located around a globe.

If the visitors complete a successful commodity chain, the ring would light up green. If they complete it but critical parts are missing, it would light up orange.

Since I want to involve accent light in my exhibit somehow, I thought I could have string lights or lazers come out of the part of the globe that the piece is affected by when visitors put a piece in. Or maybe that part of the world would light up when they place it in.


I finished constructing my first physical model today, and I’m feeling better about the space. I put up a lot of images around the walls, playing with scale and type. A few of the images I currently have flushing the entire 12 feet. I did this intentionally to make the visitors feel immersed in the space.

I struggled a bit with how to place the wall that says “what’s in a cup?”. I couldn't decide whether I wanted visitors to go in to the left or right as I was also thinking about where I wanted the interactive game to be because I wanted visitors to get a better understanding of the information before they tried to play the game.


Today’s class was helpful as I began to get my first set up feedback from some of my peers, Peter, and Mihika.

Emily, Gia, and Julianna liked my setup.

Mihikia suggested I try to find a way to integrate my commodity chain game into the rest of the exhibit instead of having it so separated from the first part. I think I like the idea of this but I will have to think more about how to integrate it effectively.

When Daphne came in the first thing she noticed was how high up the text was on my images. Especially on the sign that says “harvesting”, the text is almost at the 12 ft mark. I need to think about bringing it down, but she said it could be just as big if I want to make the same impact.


I made some changes to my first model. In an effort to try to integrate the interaction into the space more, I moved the big globe to the center of the room and moved the one curnved wall to face the front. I’m hoping visitors will naturally want to walk to the left when they come in since the wall is no longer directing them either way. I ordered a plastic snow globe on Amazon to represent the globe, it hasn’t arrived yet. I want this to be a big centerpiece.

I added more statistics throughout the exhibit to highlight the inequalities that happen throughout the journey of coffee. I would possibly like to illustrate these in a different way.

I began adding more graphics to show what visitors can do to help

I also added these little globe images around the exhibit. I was imagining that visitors would tap these as they walked around the space and then it would reveal a specific event in the commodity chain. Light would then direct the event to the bigger globe in the center of the exhibit, and the part of the world that the event takes place in would illuminate. This involves less of the visitors having to think and put together the chain all by themselves, but I’m worried it doesn’t engage them enough.

Right now I’m struggling with how much to involve the visitors in the exhibit. I thought it might be too difficult to rely on visitors to complete an entire chain themselves, but now I’m worried they’re not involved enough. It’ll be interesting to further my attempt to strike a good balance between a game and an interaction.

I’m also struggling with where to implement the chain itself. In my last model I imagined it to be kind of at hand level since I had the physical pieces that visitors had to place. Since I don't have that anymore, I was thinking of having it more like a news ticker around the room or maybe just around the globe.

kind of like this


I talked with Mihika during class about where my model is going, and it was really helpful. She liked the way I had tried to implement the interaction throughout the exhibit more. I expressed my concerns about not involving the visitors enough. She suggested possibly giving visitors a small cube when they enter into the exhibit. They could plug it in at different points in the exhibit and by doing this, add another event to their commodity chain. Then, at the end, they could plug their cube into the big center globe and see how their commodity chain went.

She also suggested I make the type for signs like “harvesting” and “packaging”smaller. If I think about how this would look on our scale, it would be huge and hard to read.

Peter liked my progress and he said things were coming along nicely. He pushed me to think about more of a space-based interaction as opposed to an artifact-based one. Possibly I could have motion sensors on the floor that trigger the small globe on the wall when visitors step near it. How do I handle groups of two? What if someone leaves before the video is over? These are the questions I need to ask myself. Peter and Daphne will be grading more of the space-based interactions as opposed to artifact-based ones.

He also said things will change once I implement the real globe.

This is the motion sensor I made in TinkerCAD. I would imagine I could use this for the globe idea.


How is the role of an architect and an environments designer different? Be specific when talking about projects, skill sets, tools, approaches, etc.

I don’t know much about the intricacies of being an architect, but I can infer that being an architect and an environment designer overlaps but also differs in a lot of ways. I think an architect is usually designing and creating the space itself, while an environment designer may have to design what’s within that space and work with the constraints and opportunities that the space provides. I think being an architect is scarier because if you’re designing a building that people live in, you don’t want it to collapse. I think architects might work alongside civil engineers more, while environment designers may work with software engineers more. As far as tools, I think architects use software like Rhino and AutoCAD more. Both architects and designers seem to use SketchUp to visualize their ideas. Environments designers might also be more focused on the emerging field of artificial/virtual reality, while architects are more focused on the creation of physical buildings. Designing a building is inherently designing an experience, though. So I guess architects are environment designers but environment designers are not necessarily architects. Like how a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square.

Also, my globe came! It’s the perfect size I love it so much it’s perfect I’m so excited.


Today I thought about working out the intricacies of how my interaction would work. This is what I came up with

Upon arrival, visitors will take a magnetic globe from a bowl. As visitors walk through the space and familiarize themselves with the concept, motion sensors on the ground will trigger projections on the wall inviting visitors to place their artifact on the wall. Upon doing so, the visitors receive a customized event loaded into their globe. When visitors are finished walking through the space, they place their globe into the final stop and see their commodity chain journey on the big globe.

The motion sensors also trigger the beginning of videos/sound elements to immerse the visitors in the space further. As visitors leave the space/motion sensors, the video stops.

Visitors will get randomly selected perspectives loaded onto their globes. This could be one of many roles along the supply chain, including a large-scale farmer, smallholder farmer, fair trade farmer, trader, roaster, CEO, etc.

I also started thinking about my presentation.


I started finalizing my graphics for the wall since I need to do this before I can finish my visualizations. I talked to Dylan and he’s going to help me print my graphics on sticker paper, so that should make things easier.

I also made the ring around my globe for where the visitors will place their tinier magnetic globes.


I continued finalizing my graphics. I also started working through my parti diagrams and I realized I have a big empty space on the left side of my room.

I ended up adding another wall so that I kind of forms an “s” from the bird’s eye view.

When I added this to my physical model, it felt like a more complete space. This works out because I was also struggling with where to place information about how coffee production directly affects the environment/biodiversity.

I added my graphics and my updated wall to my SketchUp model.

My physical model still has my old graphics. I’m going to wait to glue my walls together and put the stickers with my final graphics on then.

my new graphics that will go on new wall

Generally, I added more body text to thewalls. I don’t want them to be too text heavy, but I do want visitors to get some sense of information.

I also got rid of transport as a point in the chain and added cultivation. I figured this was more important since I want to focus on the perspectives of farmers. I think before I was grouping cultivation in with harvesting, but these are two pretty separate stages in the supply chain.

This is where visitors will place their magnetic globe:

I was thinking instead of it reading “place globe here” I should illuminate that spot or something more visually appealing.

I was thinking about eye and hand height while placing my text and the spots for placing the globe.


Dylan helped me print my graphics on sticker paper today (thanks Dylan). This will make constructing my final model a lot easier.

Today I finished my visualizations and put my presentation together. Visualizations are harder than they look.

I experienced an immense amount of satisfaction after I finished putting the stickers on my walls and putting the walls up. It’s really satisfying to be able to see your idea both digitally and physically.


The presenation went well! I wish I wasn’t so concentrated reading off of my speaker notes but I think it went mostly well.

Final Parti + Elevations

Final Visualizations

Final Storyboard

Final Sketchup Model

Final Physical Model Photos

Final Presentation


What motivates you?

Teaching people and making them think more critically about the world around them. I think the potential of combining digital and tangible interactions to create a meaningful experience and truly engage visitors in a space. Throughout the project, I was motivated by being able to illustrate my vision to my classmates and professors. I think if I did the E track I would be a lot more interested in creating something like this, a physical environment/exhibit

What distracts you?

I think in this project at some points I got too caught up in the weeds of the information. When focused on the anthropocene, the limits as far as how much research you want to don’t really exist. I spent a lot of time, possibly too much, making sure all of the information on my walls was historically accurate. Of course if I was making this into a real exhibit, this would be very important. However, since this was just a concept, I don’t think it was as important because not everyone grading my project will be reading every single word I wrote on the wall.

What keeps you engaged?

I think I connected a lot more with creating the physical model compared to the digital model. I often become frustrated with digital tools like Sketchup and I also really enjoyed creating the graphics for my exhibit. It’s super cool to imagine that this is something I could be doing as a career. I was also constantly thinking about how people would move through and engage with my space and I think this kept me engaged and on my toes.One of the things I was thinking about the most throughout this project was perfecting the balance between relying too much on the visitors to do too much mental work and doing all of the work for them.



Hannah Lesser

design, social and political history at carnegie mellon university