The UX of Time

TEAM: Daniela Navaes, Constance Ip, Nathassha Di Pasquale, Deepika Grover, Wan Li

For our fourth project of the term, we got the brief of “The UX of Time: Design an experience that alters how time is perceived”.

We studied the concept of timekeepers of many natures (biological, psychological, social etc) for different living beings. After that, we did three timeline exercises. First we individually made a timeline of our morning up to that moment; then, a timeline of our month; and finally, in a group, a timeline of our last year.

On the next day we had another workshop on timekeepers. In our groups, were asked to quickly design a timekeeper and present to class. Our group did an experiment with water and tracing paper. 

Testing the behaviour of tracing paper with water and humidity.



Territory Mapping
The first research method used on this project was the territory map. We listed our thoughts on the concept of time and made a map with all of them. Then we voted for our favourite concept in each categories, then voted for one of the five. The concept chosen was “time as currency”.

territory map

After discussing, we strayed from the original concept and arrived at the relationship between time, life and death, and we designed some experiments with the concepts of “deadline” and “countdown”. The first is usually associated with stress and anxiety, while the latter usually consists of waiting for a happy occasion to happen. We wanted to test those assumptions.

After reflection, we then came up with a new experiment, a board game, coming back to the original concept of time and money.

Creating the concept and testing within ourselves before testing with others


The board game consists in giving the participant a certain amount of fake money and watching how they behave when money means money and when money means time. 

The game would consist in three rounds of spending money/time. First, spending money; second, they flipped it over and now it’s time, plus there was a time constraint – walls closing on them -, representing the end of the turn. Finally, there’s only one unit of time left, and the time constraint represents life ending.

We experimented with it with 9 people, and the results showed that, for the majority, when money was the currency, they spent it on investing to get more money, but when it was time, they spent it on activities with other people.

real time board comparisson between rounds

A sample of some of our results from the board game

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 17.04.12

Some quotes from the participants

While doing that, we also sent some people a digital booklet with reflexive activities to understand what they think about what is productive time, and what they considered valuable.

A sample of some of our results from the digital booklet

The results were that although productivity was related to activities related to work and studies, people said that what they really valued was time spent with family and loved ones.

Experience Sampling Experiment / Timekeeper

For our experience sampling method, we decided to change the topic to “the value of time”. We divided the concept of value of time into four parts:

  • History of currencies and value attribution;
  • History of measurement of time;
  • Activities and objects associated with time and value;
  • The perceived value of time for people.
My individual brainstorming on the perceived value of time

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 17.04.24

Excerpt from article about mobile phone behaviour

For our timekeeper, we wanted to measure how consistent was people’s everyday behaviours with those activities that they considered to be the most valuable.

It was a small bag, in which participants would put coloured balls inside for each time they used their phone. With that, we wanted to measure how much of their phone time was used for conversations with people.


The timekeeper

Participants would put a pink ball inside the bag for each time they picked up the phone to talk with someone, and a white bag to do anything else. They would do it for a period of three hours after diner, and send a picture of the results for us.

Some of the results


After we presented our research results, the feedback was that we had a lot of data, but a lack of direction. So now we should focus on the design.

The Design

After feedback on the presentation, we decided to work on the concept of a Value Tracker for our design outcome. It consist on a device that measures the perception of time and the feelings associated with it through visual cues like image saturation and speed of movement. To create the concept, we’ve done some brainstorming and storyboards.

The device/system was envisioned to exist in a distant future, and it would allow users to tune into other person’s subjective perception of their time, and see the world “coloured” through their eyes.

The experience would not give any information about the user, or what they’re seeing; it would simply allow you to see the world coloured with their own subjective interpretation of what they’re feeling. If you can see how someone else is experiencing their time in the same situation as you, could it make you reflect upon how you’re valuing your own time?

We thought about what technologies could enable that (glasses, for example), but decided not to focus on in, but on the experience.

While designing it, we also considered a few issues, such as:
– Could it be damaging for people who suffer from low self esteem or mental issues?
– It should be easily turned on and off.
– Privacy issues: User has to actively allow others to be able to tune into their perception, instead of it coming already activated as default.

Final Presentation

As a feedback, people didn’t quite understand the concept, and we were told that we should have walked them through it before the role-play. Also, that the design of an actual device would have helped the narrative.


The concept of time is very abstract and difficult to work with, because it is a completely based on the perception of the individual experiencing it, their feelings and sensations. Our topic chosen, the value of time, makes it even more difficult, because it adds a layer of psychological complexity of it: the interpretation of one’s perception. Nonetheless, I was satisfied with the final result, because the abstract nature of the concept matches the complexity of the subject. We ended up with an experience that is non intrusive – albeit not perfect and with limitations – and, more importantly, that not only alters one’s perception of time, but provokes a reflection on the value that they’re giving to their own time.


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