Interactive Storytelling for Packaging: Design Using Augmented Technology to Explore Personal and Social Identities

Students explore and investigate the abstract concepts of personal, social, and intersectional identities.

Linh Dao
Assistant Professor
California Polytechnic State University

Alcoholic beverage labels captivate and fascinate. Some excite with promises of novelties, while others connect on a deeper level, reaching for similarity or intimacy. Yet they all have one thing in common: they vary in their levels of authenticity. Designers tell stories for their clients. Some never get to tell their own. 

A package design expresses brand identity, as well as personal identities, in addition to building relationships with consumers. In the classroom, such a project should encourage students to tell their own stories, especially if they are underrepresented or marginalized. The project would allow students to both develop and explore their identities, as well as connect and build their communities. 

The Interactive Storytelling for Packaging Design project was designed specifically for that purpose. It uses the theoretical framework of the identity wheels developed by the University of Michigan as a starting point. It helps students explore and investigate the abstract concepts of personal, social, and intersectional identities. Students are then encouraged to consider the format of a physical package as a self-portrait, with the exterior and the interior being the more and less obvious identities that are more or less keenly felt in different social contexts. While identities are ever-changing, the fact that they can have an effect on how we treat others remains the same. 

This project aims to (1) to be actively unbiased towards privileged, white, mid-socioeconomic cultures and (2) to tackle the topic of identity in a substantive way of fostering identity development beyond elementary visual representation. 

The project is exciting because it pairs abstract concepts with emerging new technology. Students learn to formulate their ideas, creating assets, and building the prototypes. They get the opportunity to blend both 2D and 3D graphics. They can write their own unconventional narrative about themselves and connect to consumers in an intimate yet powerful way. The opportunities are endless. 

My presentation explains how augmented reality can be used to add interactive storytelling elements to a traditional beverage label package design. It outlines the appropriate parameters of such a project for a graphic design classroom, including contextual background, technology implementation, and limitations. It also includes student deliverables consisting of print designs and augmented reality extensions that are playable on mobile devices such as the iPhone or the iPad.

Teaching Procedural Rhetoric: Some Lessons

Challenges of analyzing and designing artifacts that presume to use interactivity for communication.

Ian Bellomy
Interaction Designer

This presentation will summarize lessons learned from studio coursework that incorporated Bogost’s concept of procedural rhetoric — an idea about how interactive artifacts make claims, i.e. communicate, by way of their behavior. I incorporated the topic in response to observing multiple senior communication design capstone students treat interactivity as a kind of generic value-add opposed to a space for making communication-affecting decisions. My hope was that the concept would lend students a better conceptual scaffolding for engaging the general challenges of analyzing and designing artifacts that presume to use interactivity for communication.

Results were mixed.

Crafting procedural rhetoric requires crafting emergent phenomena, which is difficult even absent communication goals. Moreover, my initial attempt to simply this challenge by having students design analog artifacts instead of digital ones only replaced the student need for programming competency with a non-trivial need for analog game design competency.

Moderately successful solutions did occur however and project development often showed some movement towards solutions that better integrated visuals and interaction in support of some subject matter. A few students also formulated sophisticated procedural insights about their project’s topic, indicating some systems-thinking growth.

Unexpected positive outcomes also manifest. Some students discovered solutions that worked, in a sense, despite not fitting the procedural rhetoric structure. This helped me formulate alternative strategies for interactive communication in general. I also learned I could isolate components of the procedural rhetoric concept in ways that afforded valuable learning opportunities about causal relationships. I incorporated these insights into later projects.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.1: Quinnipiac University on October 5, 2019.

Light Switch Graphically-Assisted Nudges

Niyati Mehta
Adjunct Lecturer
New York City College of Technology
Nassau Community College
Lehman College 


The aim of this nudge is to demonstrate how Visual Design combined with Behavioral Science can have a positive impact on user (kids’) behavior through the unknown creation of choice architecture. Parents told us that an often-encountered irritant was the necessity for them to remind their young children (aged 5-10) to switch off the light. We took this cue to develop a nudge to encourage children to use the light switch when leaving a room. The aim of this nudge is to reduce electricity consumption to save money, promote the practice of sustainability and to mitigate parental stress.

Description and Development

The graphically-assisted nudge developed is a cutout template that is printed on a home computer printer and then affixed to a light switch plate. Parents access the graphically-assisted nudges via the Nudging for Kids website ( Step by step instructions are included in the downloadable pdf package.

In the ‘fish and bowl’ template, children understand that the fish is, “out of place” and they want to help it get back to where it belongs (the fish bowl). Two alternate templates were developed using ‘basketball’ and ‘bug’ motifs. The bug motif, uses the “cognitive learning effect” where the child remembers to switch off the light by associating it with the bug’s color or a name it has given the bug. The basketball template, with its requirement to pull down the string holding the basketball, uses a child’s desire to explore and understand by exercising her/his manual skills.

The nudges also take advantage of the, “IKEA Effect”–the tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they have partially assembled themselves (regardless of the quality of the result).

Preliminary Small Sample Size Try-Out

In an initial proof-of-concept try-out, all three graphic nudges were installed in ten homes near Westchester, New York (USA) in December of 2016.

The preliminary results are promising, but the sample size is too small to draw conclusions.

A larger sample size test is in the planning stage.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.2: Parsons Integrated Design on Thursday, Feb 16, 2017.