The Observers

“The Observers” Provides a way to have a better understanding of how people behave around “Alien” objects and how it makes them feel. It also provides data that can be used for good: Understanding people’s behaviours around the city and improving the areas and facilities accordingly.


Creating an experience around the city dealing with expo’s events and especially the changes that will accrue around the city during those events can be an opportunity to understand people’s habits, traditions and prejudice using a simple, lovable and highly relatable element: Food.
“The Observers” are a series of five different characters distributed around Milan in main locations in order to observe and record data of the city and its people’s behaviours. The characters are designed as different foods since the event is Expo 2015.
The data collected by these characters will be published in a website/app, which will provide another way to observe, analyze and understand those changes and occurrences around the city, and can be used later on for different causes.

Process and Solution

The Observers started from the characters themselves; and with that having a limitation that the objects can be only designed as different types of food and with that trying to understand which food will make more sense to have a specific quality.

While researching for different examples of “observing” objects, I found that most of the times people find it amusing and fun and not disturbing and invasive; Which I tried to apply to my objects as well (e.g. “Pinokio” by Adam Ben-Dror & Shanshan Zhou).On the other hand, a project like “Funktionide” by Stefan Ulrich, Creates a very disturbing feeling as he has designed a conceptual shape-changing object to relieve loneliness, using artificial muscle technology: “…He envisions that people will turn to robots for the illusion of a living presence to satisfy their emotional needs…”
Having that in mind, The Characters created for “The Observers”, has a positive attitude in the way they are designed and presented. The feedback that the users get when they act in different ways is presented in a positive humours way.

Each one of the characters has a unique functionality and design. The Characters are:

Lazy Luigi (Eggplant): Luigi is Lazy, he doesn’t like to be moved, but he does like it when people touch him. Whenever he’s touched, his colour saturation changes, and if he gets moved he makes noises (“complains”). When Luigi is in idle mode, he slowly loses colour. Luigi also counts how much time he’s been resting without being disturbed.

Material and tactility: Soft, textile, “bean bag” like - can be moved but a bit heavy.

Paranoid Piero (Pear): Piero is afraid of everything. He doesn’t like it when people get too close to him. Piero believes that if he can’t see you, you can’t see him.
He follows people’s movements with his eye, and takes pictures of them, which he collects in his online gallery.

Material and tactility: Hard (probably plastic), static.

Gossip Gianni (Tomato): Gianni likes gossip, but can’t keep a secret. Whatever you tell him will spread around pretty quickly. Gianni records messages and tweets them from his own twitter account.

Material and tactility: Soft, static.

Traveller Tina (Kiwi): Tina likes to travel and explore new places. When she isn’t moving, she gets bored. She has GPS that track where she is at all times. When she doesn’t move for a while she makes whining sounds.

Material and tactility: Soft (plush doll), portable, light.

The gloomy Mozzarella family: The mozzarella family likes to be together - they suffer from separation anxiety. When separated, they make a sound (“Cry”) that won’t stop until at least two of them are close to one another.

Material and tactility: soft, textile, movable-rolling.

The data collected by those characters/objects is displayed in an online interface.
The main interface screen presents Milan and it’s areas in a “Mind Map”, which don’t show the precise locations, but gives an idea on where is each object so it can be easily found in the city itself.

Each Character has it’s own page that displays the data the character has collected in a visual way (“Infographic” like) and explains how it works.