Being lonely can disrupt sleep, increase stress and inflammation, and weaken a person's immune system. It's also associated with cognitive decline, heart disease, and greater frailty later on in life. But what is loneliness? Is it isolation, feeling, disconnection, void, or shame? Loneliness is definitely in the spotlight. In the media, it is called an epidemic and sometimes insinuating as a disease. However, there is a strong stigma about loneliness and it is still a taboo topic for a lot of people. I was intrigued by this duality and controversy about this topic.
Anti-lonliness cafe in Japan | Yuki Arakawa/CNN
Through deep research, I mapped out loneliness through 5 lenses (evolution, neuroscience, phycology, people’s experience and society perception) and a wide spectrum of what people can be connected to. After numerous interviews, home visits and co-creation sessions, I distilled the insights into simple experience drivers as the base for crafting the solution. Then I went through many iterations of concepting, prototyping, testing, and further improvements to hit the sweet spot.
In our hyper-connected world, we often suffer from the inability to have time to ourselves. We spend so much time being social and “normal”, we rarely remember to carve out spaces for solitary contemplation.
Honne service captures and saves meaningful experiences of solitude, and allows people to get back to those moments. Details of those moments are captured by the Honne app to create personalized artefacts that represent the person’s state of mind. It enhances people to connect with their inner self when they are feeling overwhelmed and when they need to take a break from the world and reboot. The Honne artefact is portable and easy to use. Just touching the Honne object triggers a sound and immerses the person into their solitude experience. Honne was tailored to increase self-awareness, improve mood, and enhance wellbeing.
I really wanted to design an immersive personalised experience with analog interactions. This includes designing both simple physical interactions and an entire system that translates and embodies experiences and emotions into a tangible object — a purposeful, beautiful, and de-technified product.
The core challenge was designing the system that translates experiences and emotions into a physical object in a way to create a bond between a person and the thing. Bonding is an important part of the experience as it allows you to immerse into a specific moment and evoke memories and emotions. I focused on input and output, exploring ways to eliminate friction and make interactions less intrusive.
With your permission, Honne System gets access and collects environmental and health data at a specific moment of time. Algorithms use this data to generate highly customized journal and tangible object. The form of an object and the sound are unique and tailored specifically to a person.
Honne app captures experiences of solitude by a simple tap that allows the system to collect data about a location, weather, date, time zone, motion, heart and breathing rates. This data is mapped by the system to generate a journal entry for each solitary moment. Journal helps people be more aware of their emotional health, track frequencies of having Me Time and save special places.
Each journal entry can be converted into a physical Honne artefact that represents a certain meaningful solitary experience.
Oh, and one more small detail — for an app prototype I collected stories about solitary moments from 10 people and asked my friend Sergiy Maidukov to make illustrations for journal entries based on those stories.
My aim was to design a portable customized object with a focus on details and quality materials to enhance and simplify the user experience. It was critical to balance technology and aesthetics with a simple analog interaction.
I used interviews with experts — psychologist, anthropologist, a robot designer and target group millennials — home visits and few types of exercises to dig deeper and get a better understanding of the topic.
I explored a complex concept of loneliness through 5 lenses and 3 dimensions of humans connection.
 Connection with Things
Often how we relate to things is based on stories and these stories can be fictional and subjective. The ability to talk about fiction is the most unique feature of our language. Fiction enables us to imagine things. That is why we can bring to life legends, myths, religions, countries and believe that toys are alive.
 Connection with People
The experience of loneliness is highly subjective, an individual can be alone without feeling lonely and can feel lonely even when with other people.
It is a biological mechanism that pushes people to find the social interaction that they lack and need. The brain will push the lonely individual to find someone to interact with because our brains still think we need to be surrounded by others to survive and thrive.
However, people define loneliness not only as a lack of connections with others but also as a disconnection from self.
 Connection with Self
We have so much stress and things grabbing our attention all the time that solitude and Me Time for many people have become a necessity — a modern need.
I distilled the insights into a specific angle for the creative exploration and design challenge:
I started off by prototyping experiences and testing assumptions to find rich potentials in concepts for further development.
Prototype [Really Lonely Chair]
Really Lonely Chair creates spontaneous intimate moments of magic touch with people to experience and share feeling of loneliness. I created public experience near the harbour in the evening and let people hear and share personal stories of feeling loneliness. The main learning was that sharing stories is a powerful instrument.
Prototype [Solitude Kit]
The portable and customized kit provides solitude on-demand. For people who are feeling overwhelmed and stressed to take a break from the world and reboot. The kit includes a Pocket Forest, a Solitude Planner & Tracker and a Memory Totem.
The Pocket Forest is a VR experience of immersing yourself into a world of nature of your choice whenever you feel a need for it. To prototype this experience I used Google Cardboard and 360 videos of nature from National Geographic. People tried it out in different public spaces like bars and libraries. It was surprising how quick people felt immersed. However, VR experience in public spaces brought more disconnection from others than connection with self.
A Solitude Planner and Tracker help people to be more conscious about having Me Time and plan it as other life activities. I asked people to plan Me Time for a few days and visualize how it feels. Not for everyone it was comfortable to have a rigid schedule for it.
A Memory Totem. With the co-creation session, I wanted to test one of my biggest assumptions — experiences and emotions can be embodied into physical artefacts that were not from that specific place or moment. I gave people random objects and challenged them to build something based on their memories. Then I asked them to bring those totems home and for few days observe their feeling towards their sculptures.
The insight from this prototype was so powerful that I pushed on that further and focus specifically on a tangible manifestation of solitude.
The next big step was to define a system that translates experiences and emotions into a physical object. This includes a new round of testing different inputs and interactions to make this system smooth and human-friendly.
I also had to think of the look and feel of the physical object. I drew my inspiration from a seashell — when you hold and listen to it, you are fully immersed in that specific moment. I focused on figuring out which type of technology and materials would create a nice-to-touch and easy-to-use product. Hence I did various iterations to find a perfect match. Oh, and I learnt how to use a router and a sanding machine with a cute name Fiona.
Honne Objects and App were designed based on real stories about solitary moments and specifically for 2 persons to test and examine input system, the logic of translation experiences into a physical thing, interactions, bonding with objects, and product design decisions. The next step was to evaluate the solution with the psychologist to ensure that it stays true to the main goal and value.
People avoid talking about mental health. Being alone or being lonely is stigmatized by society all around the world. With this project, I wanted to disrupt the taboo around this topic and provide artefacts that will attract attention and help people be more open. User tests showed that people are eager to use Honne not only privately but also in work and public spaces to share experience and stories behind those objects.
The Honors recognition 2018 at CIID.