Hannah Jiang

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Final Project Proposal 2(revised)


Going through the design thinking process and conceptual prototypes, I realized that the relationship problem I’ve been trying to solve is actually a wicked problem that contains so many variables, every use case will be different because people have different ways to understand emotions and to react on them. So I decided to do a further research on the domains that are related to my concept.

In the book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says that “90 percent of all management problems are caused by miscommunication.”1 Moving forward, I want to focus on the topic of miscommunication in intimate relationships. Also, I want to release myself from the box of “practical” and “useful”, so instead of trying to solve the problems of miscommunication, I am going to explore how to raise the awareness of the existence of miscommunication and the reasons why it exists.

The core domains I’m researching are communication, linguistics, media, and psychology.

Concept Statement

I am creating an installation to raise people’s awareness of the existence of miscommunication in intimate relationships.


1. The Telephone Game

This is a popular game for kids, players sit in a circle or stand in a straight line, the first person whispers a word or phrase to the person who is next to them, one by one, players whisper the phrase to their neighbours until it reaches the last player in line. The phrase that the last player gets always turns out very different from the original one. The game shows how easily information can be misheard and distorted via conversation.

2. What’s in a Word – Paintings by Bart Vargas

“Words. They mean things. We got a dictionary to remind us of those meanings. We also learn meanings from hearing a word in context, attached to a string of others. Depending on how many times we see them printed, written or hear ‘em spoken, their meaning and impact evolve. Every word has the opportunity to be interpreted differently, for better or worse.”2

3. Iceberg Theory

Originally defined by Ernest Hemingway, iceberg theory is used to describe what the readers see of the characters in a fiction(what is above the water) compared with the knowledge that the author has about their characters that never makes it into the story(the bulk of the iceberg). The reason why I choose this as a precedent is that I think the theory can also be applied to daily life, what you see and hear from a person is only a small part above the water, in order to totally understand what is behind their words you need to understand their personality, their experience growing up and their current situation in life.

4. Blackout Poetry

A blackout poem is when a poet takes a marker to already established text–like in a newspaper or a magazine–and starts redacting words until a poem is formed. Even if two people are using the exact same text, the poem they extract from the text will be different. I found this related to my concept in a way, people interpret the same words differently.

5. Life is Beautiful – Installation by Farhad Moshiri

At first glance, we see the words displayed against a blank white wall in a charming cursive typeface. Taking a closer look, we notice there’s more artistry to this piece than simply decorative typography. The title is spelled out by hundreds of knives staked into a wall. I found this piece inspiring because of the strong contrast it shows the audience, beautiful life versus knives, this could be an exaggerating way to represent the difference between what someone says and what they really mean.

6. East Meets West – Yang Liu

East Meets West is an infographic Portrait by Yang Liu who was born in China and lives in Germany since the age of 14. Based on her own experience, Liu created minimalistic visualizations to convey how different the two cultures are. The blue part represents Germany and the red represents China. The complete set can be viewed here. This work inspired me to think about a specific scenario where miscommunication happens all the time: cross-culture relationships.

7. Reading the Air – Mobile Game by FTY LLC.

Reading the air is a game about what people should do in certain scenarios. “Air” means atmosphere, reading the air means to recognize the relationship and tension between people and make choices accordingly. Sometimes “air” is the key to successful communication. I like this game because it turns the abstract atmosphere, which is hard to explain and describe, into concrete interactive graphics.


After doing the research on precedents and going through a few conceptural prototypes, I got a better understanding of the area I’m studying and the feelings I want the audience to have. Thus my criteria are:

  • Visually appealing – it will live in a public place.
  • Interactive – to leave a stronger impression on the audience.
  • Contradictory – it will have at least 2 different contradictory statuses to project the miscommunication scenarios.
  • Inspiring – the goal is to make the audience think about the contradiction and reflect on their own experience.
  • Audience and Impact

    The target audience of the installation are people who have experienced communication problems in an intimate relationship. The goal is to get the audience to be aware of the existence of miscommunications, to think about why they exist, to realize that what people say does not necessarily represent what they think and what we understand sometimes is not what they mean.

    1. Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends & Influence People. Simon and Schuster, 1936.

    2. Buse, Rachel. “What’s in a word?” May 28, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2017. http://artbeacondesmoines.com/post/51568106480/whats-in-a-word.