// UX & product design

Our challenge was to identify a problem facing knowledge workers working from home during the COVID pandemic and design a physical product with a digital interface using an emerging technology. Through research, we found that all the notifications, communications, and work apps, created constant interruptions, which made it difficult for people to do meaningful work. To help people manage their attention, we designed a rollable LED screen that provides friction between a user’s attention and their notifications.

Client. Academic project, IxD Studio & Product design

Timeframe. 5 weeks


  • Virtual reality prototyping and user testing
  • Industrial and product design sketches
  • 3D modeling, animation and video production

The process

We conducted design research to identify a problem, ideate a solution, and create physical, digital, and VR prototypes to test and iterate in a short five-week timeline.


Our research was heavily influenced by Cal Newport’s book “A World Without Email,” which outlined cognitive and physiological reasons why the rise of email and instant digital communication divided attention and made people less productive.

What did we want to find out?

  • What are some problems that knowledge workers deal with now that they are working from home?
  • What strategies to workers use to be more effective at work?
  • How do workers communicate with their project teams?
  • How does the constant work communication affect a worker's ability to produce work?

Research methods

  • Secondary research about knowledge work
  • User interviews of knowledge workers
  • Comparative and heuristic analysis of existing email, work communication and work management products.
Link to Miro Board
Cal Newport, "A World Without Email."

Research insights

  • The human brain is most effective when its attention is not divided among multiple tasks.
  • Constant interruptions from notifications force the brain to break attention from the task and require time and mental energy to re-engage with the previous task.
  • Knowledge workers spend more time communicating and managing work than actually doing work.
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Digital notifications overflow


We wanted to create a small amount of friction between the user’s attention and incoming notifications by requiring a deliberate physical decision to check communications and notifications.

Design Constraints.

  • A dashboard that gives the user the status of their day at a quick glance.
  • Protect the user's concertation by putting them in control of what notifications they receive and when they receive them.
  • The user only receives notifications that are important at that time.
  • Create a more seamless connection between managing and doing work.
  • It should be aware of it's environment in a home office and be able to be closed and out of the way when you're not working.
  • Create just a little bit of friction to checking your notifications by requiring a deliberate decision to pull up on the screen.
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Initial concept sketches

Low Fidelity Prototypes

Our initial prototypes consisted of physical models, sketches, and wireframes to test the user flow between the physical and digital interactions.

Industrial Design

Affordances and Constraints

  • The base needed to be low to the desk when closed and blend in with the desktop of an office or home office workspace.
  • The Agenda is designed to be placed within an arm's length of the user.
  • The user should know where to grab and pull up the screen to open and where to push down to close.
  • The base should indicate direction of the screen when closed.
  • The base needs to be physically and visually heavy so it doesn't lift from the desk when screen is being pulled by the user.
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Thumbnail sketches

User flow diagram

Interface Design

Virtual Reality User Testing

We created a virtual reality simulation to test the choreography of how the digital and physical components worked together and the affordances, feedback, and personality of the product.

High Fidelity Prototype

To present our final product, we created 3D renderings of the physical product and high-fidelity wireframes of the digital interface.

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Desktop app
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Agenda interface

User Scenarios

We broke the overall user flow down into user scenarios and interactions with the Agenda to help workers control and manage their attention.

Morning Routine. The Agenda desktop client interfaces with all your work apps and let's you organize your workday, by dragging important tasks, events and notifications that you need to keep an eye on.

Dashboard for work. Agenda gives you the status of your workday at a quick glance. Touch any of the entries to get more information and it opens up on your desktop in its native app.

Manage your notifications. Only get the notifications that you've decided are important, so you can concentrate on your work without worrying about receiving that important email.

Control what gets your attention. When you need to concentrate on your work, put Agenda in peek mode so you can keep an eye on a summary of your workday. Or close it, muting all notifications so you work without any distraction.

Take a peek and get back to work. At times that are convenient for your workflow take a quick peek to see if there's anything that needs your attention, then quickly get back to work.

What I learned.

Managing a user's attention is important in UX design.

  • The secondary research for this project gave me a psychological understanding of what drives and prevents human attention.
  • Whether it's on a small scale, like an app notification, or on a much larger scale like an immersive VR experience, the designer must understand and be able to manage what the user is paying attention to.

The advantages and limitations of Virtual Reality user testing.

  • Because this design relied on choreographing physical interactions of the Agenda and digital interactions with computer, creating a simulation in virtual reality allowed us to quickly test and iterate the how the digital and physical interactions worked together.
  • The simulation allowed us to test different product designs, sounds, motion and interactions which allowed us to quickly test the look and feel so that we could dial in the personality of the product.
  • VR could not simulate many of the tactile interactions of the product, such as how it feels to put your finger on the screen and pull it up. We relied on cardboard models and to prototype and test the tactile physical interactions.

Tools Used

XD iconunreal engine icon3DMax  iconAfterEffects iconPremier iconicon illustratorPhotoshop iconCorona icon