Designing Digital Touch

IN-TOUCH is interested to know how design students think about and through touch, and what happens when digital touch communication moves to the centre of the design process. We worked with Dr Val Mitchell and Dr Garrath Wilson at the Loughborough Design School to co-develop a student design brief for their course on User Experience Design. The design brief was to:

Develop an innovative, future-facing digital product or service that enhances communication through touch in one of three sectors: personal relationships, leisure, or health and wellbeing. To do this, you need to first research a specific communication context that would benefit from the introduction of touch technology, for face-to-face or remote interaction. You then need to identify specific user needs and, in collaboration with target users, develop and refine a product or service that will respond to those needs that includes an element of digital touch.

Students were encouraged to move beyond touch screens and mobile apps and to incorporate other forms of tangible interaction. They could either work with existing or emerging technologies or those that could be considered as possible developments of current technological trends. While they could draw on other senses or modalities, touch was to be central to their design solution.

Students were first introduced to the broad concept of ‘digital touch communication’ and the kinds of technologies that may facilitate digital touch communication now and in the near future. The research process involved following the students’ work through a series of workshops (led by Val and Garrath) focused on different design research and prototyping stages, and their associated coursework, which included storyboarding and video prototyping. (Students’ participation in our study was voluntary and did not impact on their assessment.)

We are exploring the students’ work and reflecting on the kinds of design concepts that emerged and how the digital-touch-centred brief shaped the design process. We will continue this collaboration in year 3 of IN-TOUCH to trace changes in the way touch technologies and design concepts are envisaged or employed across time.



Dr Val Mitchell, Senior Lecture in User Experience Design, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University

Dr Garrath Wilson, Lecturer in Industrial/Product Design, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University