Thanks to Phones


10-2019 – 11-2019

Creating more awareness of the negative effects of excessive smartphone usage

In today’s world it seems that everybody feels the need to share their voice. Social media enables us to share more of ourselves than ever before. Sharing your voice has never been easier. But do we ever dwell on what we share with the world and how do we know if we even get heard? Thanks to Phones is the product of a two-week project in which I share my voice in a way that goes against mainstream media in order to get heard. The result is a campaign which goal is to create more awareness of the growing negative effects of excessive smartphone usage on our society.

The negative effects of excessive smartphone usage on our society.

Through a conversation I had with an elderly man on the bus, I got inspired to share the meaning of this conversation to a wider audience. He told me that he used to talk to a lot of people on the bus. But that nowadays more people are focused on their smartphones rather than the world around them. In a world were more people voice their concerns surrounding loneliness. Putting your phone away to talk to the ones around you is one step towards a more social society.

Whilst smartphones can enhance communication, it is evident that they are interfering with our offline social interactions and decreasing the quality of our relationships. Rejection within social interactions leads to lower self-esteem and signs of depression. Excessive smartphone usage during social interactions, therefore, can be destructive to our mental wellbeing by decreasing the quality of relationships. It saddens and at the same time scares me to see how big these negative effects are on our society. As a designer I felt the responsibility to use my voice to create more awareness of these negative implications.

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Finding the right medium in order for my message to be delivered in the most impactful way.

From the beginning on I knew that I wanted to spread my message outside. Outside of the online world, where there are no digital devices necessary to access it. My message should be targeted towards people who are using their phones the most. In order to get inspiration, I went outside and observed the people who were on there phones. Through lots of iterations, I came up with concept of Thanks to Phones. The idea is to design multiple “phones” with each having a message on its screen. These messages will tell you something about the negative effects of excessive smartphone usage. These phones are then hung down the top of streetlights, trees, bridges etc. The people who’re on there phone will most likely walk into these phones, since there not looking in front of them. They will start reading the message and hopefully think about the impact of their behaviour.

My initial idea was to use a 3D printer to print the phones, but since most smartphones are all flat, I decided on using a laser cutter. This saved me a lot of time, because creating a 2D design in Adobe Illustrator is much easier than building an actual 3D model. While I was doing research into the negative effects of excessive smartphone usage, I found a lot of shocking facts. For example: “89% of Americans admit they took out a phone at their last social encounter – and 82% say that they felt the conversation deteriorated after they did so”. (Pew Research Center, 2014).

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Finding the right location to spread the message.

Once done designing and cutting the phones, I went outside to look for places to hang my phones. I did this in the city center of my hometown Nijmegen. There were a lot of places which I liked, but one spot stood out the most to me. It’s at this two-story high shopping district named the Marikenstraat, located in the heart of Nijmegen. I hung the phones down the bridge that goes over the first floor, connecting the two streets on the second floor.

Seeing all the reactions of people was amazing and it really proved the impact it had on them. Seeing their reactions really motivated me and encouraged me to keep on working on my designs. Whether they’re actually going to change their behavior is up to them. But the beginning is there.

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