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Experiencing Your Thoughts


Concept Development

Game Development

Video Making






Columbia 2020 Spring
Independent Study

Groupmate: Qi Yang

Instructor: Dan Taeyoung


The project provides a Virtual Reality experience that allows people to physically experience their process of thinking when doing design. By spatializing the throughs, the experience encourages people to interact with their own thoughts. The goal is to help designers live with their thoughts with different sensoriums so that to provide inspirations and reflections.


A. Initiation

Desk crit has been a central part of architecture pedagogy since the 19th century. During the desk crit, architecture students will bring the professor progress of their design that usually includes models, drawings, and sketches. Then, the student and the professor will start a dialogue trying to evaluate the progress together. Different professors usually have different preferred topics and focus during the discussion. It’s assumed that through rounds and rounds of desk crits with the masters, students will have a better understanding of their concepts and design methodologies. Eventually, students will be able to evaluate their own design and understand their decision-making process, then forming their own design positions.

This kind of apprenticeship is beneficial for a profession like architecture where empirical experiences, tacit knowledge, and intuition are critical. However, the effectiveness of desk crit depends highly on the successful collaboration between the students and the professor, which can be fragile, especially under the current scenario of COVID-19. Some students may depend too much on the professor’s opinions to move forward, which will also weaken the students’ muscles to make decisions.

Desk crit is essentially a self-reflective process assisted by the professors. Can this process be augmented and automated? What tool, procedure, and space can encourage students to jump out of their own thinking paradigms and train the muscles to evaluate their own designs?



B. Opinionated Tool

Our thoughts are (deeply influenced by) the processes we think. Parameters of the processes include the space where we think, the mediums that we use to assist thinking, and the sensoriums involved in thinking.

The project explores the idea of an “opinionated tool.” Common tools used for thinking such as the sketchbook and sticky notes are too “easy-going”, meaning that they are relatively loyal recipients to our ideas when we embody our thoughts on them. What if the tool is more(around 70%) opinionated and autonomous. When we embody our thoughts on those tools, the affordance of the tool will bend our original ideas and lead them to somewhere new. Then, we can say: “Hmm, I never thought about that, but I agree/disagree with what the tool tells me.”


Projecting thoughts on a neutral tool may be a self-indication process while an opinionated tool may bend your thoughts


C. Prototypes

C-1. Active Sticky Notes

What’s the geometry of the thoughts? More than identical and perfect squares, the active sticky notes are yelling at you about their opinions. The unique geometries lead your thoughts in many ways.

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Thinking Affordance of Different Geometries

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Possible Combinations of the sticky notes

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Ideas and the Framework of Ideas


What is your thinking mode?

C-2. Self-service Desk Crit Kit

The Active Sticky Notes raises a question: What is worth putting on a sticky note? What can be the drives and step stones that help us refine our raw thoughts? We get used to the architectural review sessions when the critic asks you questions about the project. Is it possible to turn that process into a self-driven ritual/process/game?

Inspired by Apples to Apples, Oblique Strategies, and Dungeon and Dragons. The Self-service Desk Crit Kit contains a pool of questions with blank spots where the players can fit in their observations randomly to self-check.

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It’s a game of two people. They will collaboratively fight virtual critics that may ask weird questions. They start by showing three artifacts(drawings, models, videos, etc.) that best represent their projects. Then both players will observe, imagine, and draw arguments from the artifacts. Then, those observations, imaginations, and arguments will go to the “inspiration pool” and be interrogated by different questions selected by the critics(computer). After the interrogation, players will be asked to evaluate if they think they have answered the question decently. They can modify their original ideas in the “inspiration pool” but they have to keep the size of the “inspiration pool.” When the players decide to finish playing the game, they will enter the conclusive phase, in which they conclude the sparks and decisions.


Process diagram

Below are some template questions:


Part of the question pool

C-3. Spatial Journal

When developing the project, we continue to abandon and recycle our ideas. Documenting the design process is crucial. Beyond a linear journal, the spatial journal prototype takes advantage of the affordance of three-dimensional space by mapping the timeline on offsetting domes, which allows the designer to occupy their design histories. Designers can examine the ideas throughout time and discover new connections among ideas.

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The Method of Mapping Data

Spatial Journal-small.gif

Experience the history of your thoughts

We turned the self-service desk crit kit process diagram into an architecture. It’s one virtual thought playground incorporating your body movements into the thinking process. Thinking in virtual space involves more sensorium.

The way we navigate in the space have auxiliary influences on the way we think. It’s one virtual thought playground incorporating your body movements into the thinking process. Thinking in virtual space involves more sensorium. The Thought Playground encourages you to leap, go through, pursue, step back, connect, scale…in both physical and mental ways.

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Spatialize the thinking process

Thinking and Navigating at the Same Time


D. Discussion

In my opinion, the best education should be more self-driven and automated. The opinionated tools will try to control your thoughts by persuading, luring, guiding, coercing, gaming… The teacher as the authority may retreat and opinionated tools will come into play, working as step stones for our thinking.

The COVID-19 situation also opens the discussion that what would be the best virtual space for learning. Instead of a flat user interface, or box-shape classroom, can virtual space play a more active role in thinking? We need to explore new typologies of circulations, navigation, sections, lightings, and materials… to echo the nature we think.


E. Reference

  • Oblique Strategies, Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

  • Mind in Motion, Babara Tversky

  • Conversation is a Cybernetic Technology, Dan Taeyoung

  • Game for Actors and Non-Actors, Augusto Boal

  • The Humane Representation of Thought, Bret Victor

  • The Tyranny of Structurelessness, Jo Freeman

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