Art Direction by Christina Holtzen

Simulating Deafness

Masters Thesis:
Simulating Deafness

Pratt Institute Master's Thesis

Designed book
Web application

Project completion
May 2013

Simulating Deafness is a thesis project completed as a part of the Master's of Science program at Pratt Institute.

To explain this thesis, hard of hearing individuals may struggle to understand day-to-day communications within a workplace. I believe design holds the potential to simulate deafness in order to create an empathetic experience for hearing colleagues, and thereby create an inclusive social environment for the hearing impaired. 

I proposed to use participatory design methods, along with visual tools, to create an interactive workshop that helps hearing colleagues experience the interferences a hard of hearing individual faces in communication.

The project consisted of the following:

  • The creation of a book compiling research, interviews, and visual project explanation
  • An interactive workshop 
  • Companion interactive toolkit to be utilized in the workshop
  • Testing of the interactive workshop at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn
  • A take-away sheet with the communication tactics shown in the toolkit

Web Application

You know what is complicated about this: A working memory. He pauses and you have to kind of keep up with what you think he is saying and then incorporate it into what he is continuing to say, so this is impacting it. You have to have the capacity of a strong working memory.
— A Test Participant on the Lipreading Exercise, Pratt Institute, 2013

The visual component of my Master's thesis was to create an interactive toolkit that could be utilized on an iPad or computer. It was my goal to make the toolkit responsive
in order for colleagues to apply the exercises anywhere within the workplace setting.  

I wanted the design aesthetic to reflect retro comic books and game shows. As a result, I used halftones, vibrant colors, game show-like typography, and simple illustrations. 

My Role
Designed wireframes, HTML & PDF prototypes. Collaborated with a web developer to implement HTML, CSS, and JQuery functionality.
Also created a MySQL database for the results section. For the results section, JQuery Isotope plug-in was applied. 

The Toolkit Explanation in Detail
The interactive workshop utilizes a combination of participatory and visual design in order to understand the interferences a hard of hearing individual faces in the workplace. 
Through three exercises, users are placed in various scenarios in which their knowledge of communication practices are tested. In between exercises, tactics and big ideas
are introduced in order to help execute these practices within the workplace setting.

Exercise 1
The first exercise focuses on lipreading, which is a major communication tactic for the deaf and hard of hearing. By watching three video clips without sound,
participants are asked a series of questions to test whether they correctly lip-read the clips.

Exercise 2
This exercise places participants in a scenario with background noise, which is a common situation most hearing impaired individuals face on a daily basis. 
The user must listen to background noise for 1-2 minutes while simultaneously trying to have a conversation with a partner. Afterwards, they are asked to rate their
emotions they felt during the exercise.  

Exercise 3
The last exercise puts tactics to the test. People gather into a small group to simulate a mock work meeting. During the meeting, participants pass a “speaker’s ball”
to one another to hold the attention of the person who mimics a hard of hearing individual. Afterwards, participants are instructed to create their own form of visual aids
they think would benefit someone with a hearing loss in a meeting setting.

Results Page
This section brings interactivity to another level by allowing participants to see how others responded during the "background noise" exercise.
Users can click on the circles to see various responses and sort through the data.

Presentation & Book