A system of objects to foster creatively constructive conversations

Role : Conception, Prototyping(Hardware and Software), Design, Evaluation and Sole Author
Duration: 4 Weeks
Advisor: Dr. Jignesh Khakhar


Conversations form the basis of forethought in communication. Articulation and the semantics surrounding it fundamentally shape thoughts and ideas, as they manifest in actuality. Yet these conversations largely devolve to trite, colloquial and often derivative and unimaginative instantiations.

Can we design for conversations that are more engaging, fun and radical? How might we facilitate constructively creative conversations?


Improp is a system of objects that leverages improv (improvisation) and role-play to facilitate creatively constructive conversations. A set of four objects - Ear, Nose, Glasses and Lollipop; Improp leverages improvisational practice, to help facilitate reflective and originative conversations by nudging or drawing attention to participants behaviour(s), allowing the emergence of otherwise inaccessible dimensions of expression.


Children posses a superpower called “Imagination”. I was fortunate to have been introduced to a story written by an acquaintance’s daughter. The story follows a doughnut and a man, and the conversation that ensues.

While its easy to dismiss the story as being idiosyncratic, it is worth noticing that if given due recognition, we recognise the sheer complexity and creativity of the narrative.

This compelled me to think about the uninspiring and derivative narratives and conversations we as adults devolve to. As adults we seem to have completely lost touch with our creativity, that once informed our world view as children.


How might we facilitate constructively creative conversations?


To understand possible reasons for impedances in carrying out creative and constructive conversations, a semi-structured interview with 15 participants was carried out. Some of the most common themes that emerged from the interviews were:




Precedent Analysis

Secondary Research

Expert Interviews

On further delving into two theatrical improvisational practices (namely Improv & Theatre for the Oppressed) , the following was observed:

 • Yes, And? : In Impov participants must always agree to what other people say and build on each others ideas

• Improvisational pratice relies heavily on the need for a facilitator

• Improvisation leverages embodied interaction to allow emergence of creativity

Looking through precedents in UX, tools like IceBreakers, UX Retrospetives, it became apparent that “metaphor” is a tool often employed to approach problem solving.


The interactions embedded within the object help bring participant’s attention to their own behaviours. They also nudge users to behave in specific ways.


When a participant wears the “ear” prop, they assume the role of an active listener. They must pay more attention to what is being said rather than making themselves heard.


Fluttering Ears

Ears flutter when participant doesn’t listen to others

Closing Ears

The ears close when the participant defies their role for a prolonged period


Participant with a glasses assumes the role of a critic in a conversation. As the lens of the glass changes, the participant must critique the idea being discussed with a different metaphoric lense i.e. approach.


Lens Change

Magnified: Detailed Critique
Fish Eye: Overall / Long-term Critique
Normal Lens: No critique
Blocked Vision: Ignorance/ Dismissal

Field of vision

When the field of vision becomes small, participant must focus or assume tunnel vision


Participant wearing the nose must be the radical element in the conversation. The interactions of the nose allows participants to infuse the conversation with humor and absurdity, allowing the emergence of creativity.


Nose Glow

 Participant must improvise and try to be funny/humorous when the nose glows

Colour Change

When the colour of the nose changes, participant must assume a contarion opinion in the conversation

Smelling Pungent Odour

Participant must introduce a radical thought when they smell a pungent odour


The lollipop is the prop for the moderator in a conversation. When there are such diverse opinions being expressed, it is imperetive that they are coherently synthesized so as to be constructive an solution oriented. The interactions embedded in the lollipop help realize the aforementioned.

Lollipop Glows

 Lollipop glows to remind a participant to moderate/resolve ideas and opinions that emerge in the conversation.

Sweet Taste Dispensed

Participant must be appreciative of others when a sweet taste is dispensed from the lollipop. The idea is to be more constructive in their mentions.


It is imperative that participants understand what different prop interactions mean. To understand how a prop works, participants must tap their prop to their smartphones, and voila! All relevent information about the prop appears on their screens!


Tap to get information


Having conceptualised the objects, it was imperative to test their validity and efficacy in producing the desired “affect” and results.

Several contexts were identified where Improp could find its potential uses:

Of the several contexts identified, a design sprint seemed the most appropriate for implementation given the need for creativity as well as the expectation of a coherent and tangible(read: constructive) solution. 

To test the conceptualised hypothesis an exercise was designed:


The ISS has a sizeable supply of baked beans and toast. These are by far the most sustainable items to preserve especially in the vast expanse of space. Among the myriad issues at the ISS, one that is particularly relevant in the present times is the consumption of the  aforementioned toast and beans has led several astronauts to complain about their digestion. This has caused a great deal of discomfort to several astronauts who cant help but smell their own farts in a completely enclosed space suit. Find a solution to this problem.


One of the many solutions participants conceptualize “Dry-Per”.
A diaper that stores farts to be later used as a form of energy!


Random fact(s) to consider in new solution

• The temperature outside the ISS is -274 C

• James Joyce thought farts were sexy


The group creates a multi-pronged solution. To create aphrodisiacs leveraging the solution from Round 1.
And creating alternative sustainable food for the ISS!


Random fact(s) to consider in new solution:

• Smelling farts could be good for you.

• Farts can explode;  Farts are really fast


Participants conceptualize “Farty Pure” and “Bum Filters”. Two products that seek to create fragnances from the biproducts of the problem at hand!


Affordance to Reveal

Partaking in roleplay allowed emergence of non-chalant, fun and radical behaviour among participants
Group Accountability

Participants held each other accountable for their assumed roles

Participants had express agency to engage with an interaction and Improvise