Humble Logistics

Installation, Storytelling, Interaction Design
Individual Project

Humble Logistics is a small scale installation that aims at using playful and analogical interactions to raise people’s understanding about the human efforts behind the logistics system.

Research Paper
Major Major Exhibition, New York, NY

Rubber Band, Acrylic Glass, Metals

Development Tool

5 Weeks | Mar-May 2018

Interactive Installation


The project is inspired by an interview done by NPR to a garment worker. Without watching the interview, I had no idea how much effort is put into a simple T-shirt, then I realized that their stories are worth to be told.

Planet Money Makes A-Shirt

“Would you like the people who buy this T-shirt to know about you?”


“What is behind the T-shirt?”

“It is a world.”

by Doris Restrepo, a garment worker    

Identifying Problem

With the fast development of e-commerce, we receive everything at our fingertips, fast, easily, and conveniently, with almost no sense of loss. Products are turning into nothing but ordinaries. The piece works as a caution sign to catch people’s attention on the fact that we are becoming more and more indifferent to whatever we receive. The story behind each product is worth to be told.

Design Values and Goals

This piece aims at informing people about the hidden values and human efforts behind sophisticated logistic system.  This piece could be served as a model for logistics system at a global scale.

The outcome experience should be playful, informative, and visually memorable.

The target audience of this piece will be e-commerce customers. This piece could serve as an  advertisement for logistics in theme park or museum.

Idealization and Sketches

I sketched out  my initial thinking about how this installation would look like and then improved the structure upon making it. Inside the system, several interaction setion are staged so users can play with triggers and make the conveyor belt to proceed.


To test out work mechanism of a conveyor belt, I laser cut plywood and paper and build the very first simple prototype, which uses manual force as drivers to rotate the wheels that lead the belt to move.

#1 – Mechanism feasibility Interestingly, people find this prototype engaging and fun, which might leads to a direction that I want to be going for. So for the next few prototypes I decided to use digital screen as a medium for people to use dance movement to deliver visual result.

The success of this prototype allows me to move forward to test out the technological feasibility of this mechanism, for example how much power of a motor or how many motors I need for moving how much weight of an object.

#2 - Physical Computing & Technological Prototyping

For this particular prototype, I used a 5V stepper motor to test our if one motor is powerful enough to lead the belt moving and also used a potentiometer to test the rate of speed control. Moving forward, I need to calculate the friction and choose the right materials for the belt.

#3 – Material Test

For this prototype, I am testing the diverse belt materials for the smoothest moving with the right level of friction to transport objects.

#4 – Visual Effectiveness & Storytelling Methodology

The idea to use fingerprints to reveal human elements was inspired by the project, Humans of The World, created by designer, Adrien Colombie. He left on a 365-day trip around the world, and, each day of his trip, he interviewed a complete new stranger to reveal their own unique human perspective. By doing so, he also asked them to give him one fingerprint and signature. Every piece comes with the story of the human who carries this fingerprint capturing the essence of their individuality. Using these, the designer created a 365-piece art series called “The Fingerprints”.

Working in Progress

The visual delivery will be creating a sense of industrial toughness and abstinence to reflect the stereotypes that people had with logistics system but using light mapping to build a warm ambiance around the piece to generate a sense of compassion.

3 Core Interactions

This piece will be experiencing 4 stages of interactions. The decisions are based on considerations of time and scale of the project, and important processes of logistics that heavily involve labor forces.

Stage 1: Transportation

Stage 2: Operation

Stage 3: Assembly

Stage 4: Hidden Fingerprints

For me, fingerprint indicates the uniqueness of individuality, which, I convince, is also a perfect epitome of human efforts.

The number of fingerprints shows the number of hands that have touched and handled the object. In addition, fingerprints could be either obscure or clear, light or heavy, which helps to reveal the level of efforts and time spent on each T-Shirt.

Player Testing - Major Major Exhibition

Some participants responded to me that they wish to have some instructional board or graphs to show the purpose of the interactions in the beginning, as well as provide some context information of the project.

Based on feedback from player test, the mapping fingerprints are informatively straightforward, visually powerful, and qualitatively effective in expressing human values and efforts in logistics process. Besides, watching the little objects moving along the conveyor belt based on their interaction is motivational and engaging, which also helps to catch pass-by people’s attention and stop them for a watch.

Evaluation & Conclusion

Participants were appreciated with the non-abstractness and relatable stories from my idea and my project. In contrast, what was suggested by users for further development were a more comprehensive form and logic interactions and more hybridized mediums. Using conveyor belt and invisible UV image are very useful and innovative methods for delivering important messages through design.

Also, the project, Humble Logistics that works as a model for the logistics system at a large scale, provides a lot of room and space for further application in domains such as marketing, data visualization, environmental protection, energy consumption.

Overall, up to 79 of 90 participants think the project was effective at delivering desired content (human efforts) and providing expected interactive experience (playful and informative). The majority of participants acknowledged that they had not thought about this matter until they were informed by this project. They also agreed that this is an important awareness or message that worth spreading.

Code - Github