One thing’s for sure, time is flying by on this project. We’re all trying to get out a bit more and make the most of CPH’s wonderful bars and café culture before we head for the four corners of the globe in December. It’s been dawning on me that I’m gonna miss this city when I move on. CIID has the kind of intensity that could make you dislike the city… you simply don’t get to experience or enjoy the place when you’re working so hard. Having taken the foot off that gas a little, CPH is really starting to charm.

On topic, I stuck to my plan from last week and focussed first on documentation, before prototyping my first concept. The documentation covered the stages during which I selected my context and did my initial research. I covered research techniques and insights, finishing up with perceived design opportunities. Haven’t yet covered the brainstorming sessions, which haven’t yet yielded any substantial contribution by way of design concepts.

With docs out of the way, I began to make the first batch of beermats (or coasters, depending on your nationality!) to put in the shared space of Sleep-In-Heaven hostel in Nørrebro. The concept is a simple one, addressing the perceived appreciation among backpackers for cultural exchange and expression. You provide beermats with a sketching space, and some short instructions. There are a variety of instructions, some very open like “Sketch or make art” and others much more specific e.g. “Write a review and help us get better.”.

Making the prototypes was time-consuming. The card I sourced was easily laser cut, but etching didn’t give the finish I wanted and it needed to cleaned of soot with a damp cloth out of the cutter. The second stage involved laminating a “cover” printed in colour, onto one side of the coaster using spraymount. Some cheap pens and glasses were the finishing touch before putting the prototypes into the field.

Sleep-in-Heaven is a medium sized hostel with no kitchen facilities, run independently in the culturally diverse neighbourhood of Nørrebro in Copenhagen. It is a true “backpacker” style hostel, fun and informal. I chose this place (with the co-operation of the staff) to test the idea first. At time of writing this test is still running, but I did make one visit since leaving the coasters and pens in the lounge. Guests had been interacting with the coasters over a 24 hour period.

I met with a few mats that had been filled in, some with little drawings, one with a suggestion recommending free Danish lessons. There was one piece of obscene graffiti (to be expected!) and a few illegible scribbles. More exciting, when I visited, I found two people actually sketching when I walked in. In a brief interview, the two, young girls from Sweden, suggested it would be better if there were no specific instructions, meaning more people would do whatever it is they wanted. Other feedback on the evening included that the cards might not be as interesting to older people, and that they should be stored in a rack, for people to browse, not displayed on the wall. This particular suggestion, from a Swiss national staying that evening, was based on the aesthetic of browsing physical CD’s or files, which I think is a nice idea.

On my next visit I hope to collect and remove the coasters, bringing them back to the studio for some documentation. I have begun prototyping a mechanism which would allow the coasters be quickly and easily scanned for digital distribution of the content created by hostel guests. I would like to get that built, if the return visit finds a lot of content created, and then return that to the space at a later time.

There is a second concept, addressing a different design opportunity, which I have simmering at the minute too. Unfortunately, a 95¢ component I cannot find in Denmark is holding me back right now, but I’m working on it.

More next week.