Welcome to my design portfolio!

I’m Charlotte van der Sommen a graduating master student at the faculty of Industrial Design at the Eindhoven University of Technology.

In this portfolio you can read about me as designer, my projects and my passions.
Design for Energy Awareness

As designer it is my goal to make the complex societal problem of the energy transition easier to grasp by the bigger public. I do this by creating awareness about personal energy consumption, and by motivating a shift in perspective by empowering energy users. By engaging with my designs I want to offer the user a playful and insightful experience that empowers them to make the right choices for them and for society, concerning the transition towards an energy neutral society.

Society’s need for energy creates many environmental and societal challenges, like unmet energy demand in developing countries due to commercially traded energy, overuse of primary energy sources [1], and our increasing energy demand make our future very insecure [1]. Additionally, the extensive emission of carbon dioxide results in the greenhouse effect that causes climate change [1]. It is a big challenge to handle these problems in a sustainable way. Although there are many alternatives, over 85% of the energy use in the world is generated by fossil fuels [2]. According to Pacala and Socolow [3], increasing energy efficiency and decreasing activities that consume energy may be the cheapest option to stabilize the climate problem. Another possibility is to transfer our consumption pattern from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. In short: an energy transition is necessary.

According to the Dutch Central Bureau for statistics, there are currently about 7.8 million household in the netherlands [4]. From these household about 880.000 households have a smart thermostat, in other words an interface for the smart energy meter, which is about 11.3% [5]. That leaves about 89% of the households without a rich insight in their energy consumption. How can you expect people to understand what they can change in their behaviour if they can’t even understand fully what they are doing wrong. Here design can step in, and can create the bridge between the complex data, the business side, the politics and the end user.

In order to make the energy transition more fluent and faster, it is important that it becomes easy and even fun to change something in your lifestyle. By the help of interaction-design, game-design, social-design and system-design it is possible to make the complex problem of the energy transition more understandable and easier to adapt to.

I’m Charlotte van der Sommen, a business minded product designer, driven by complex societal issues like the energy transition, that I like to take on, in a hands on way. I design products with the goal of making complex societal problems, insightful and easier to understand for the unaware user.

I create intuitive and playful interactions that support people in dealing with the acceptance, awareness and adoption of the transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. In my designs I look for a colourful, still clean and balanced appearances.

I see myself as responsible, ambitious and adventurous person, who likes to take risks, guided by my own intuition. I’m a thinker and a builder, and I like to think of the world of tomorrow and build object that will support that world.

I prefer to work in team compared to individually, and within the team I am the person who will keep the overview and structure. Due to my feeling of responsibility I also tend to take the lead within the teamwork.
During my design process I follow the following steps:

For me it is very important that my project starts with a well funded societal issue. Expert involvement and Co-reflection, are two tools that I prefer to use whenever I’m stuck or in need inspiration, and I use them to validate the concept and direction.

Over the past two and a half years I’ve been doing the master program of Industrial Design at the Eindhoven University of Technology. Before I started my master I participated in the bachelors program of the same faculty. My motivation for starting the Industrial Design master program in Eindhoven was that even though I struggled a lot during the bachelor, I learned incredibly much and I felt that I had still a lot to learn. At the end of my bachelor I found a direction that really interested me, which is Design for Energy Awareness. I thought that the Industrial Design master would be the best education to support me in my development, and give the space I needed to keep doing my own thing. Even though the master itself was a mess since it was reinvented the year I started, I’m very happy with the development I went thought. During the past two and a half years, I developed a expertise in the field of Design for Energy Awareness, I became a much more mature designer and I realised that Design for Energy Awareness is my passion and I want to make it my future career.

Design for Energy Awareness
Within my master I developed myself from a “Cultural Immunizator” (see B3.2 showcase) to a designer for Energy Awareness (see vision). The key incentives in my B3.2 vision are: People with different backgrounds working together, Make ignorant people think for themselves. In some ways these key incentives remained, but a very important aspect what added, which is the complex societal challenge of the Energy transition. “People with different backgrounds working together”, became “involving different field experts in the process”. And “Making ignorant people think for themselves”, became “creating energy awareness among unaware energy users”. By involving Energy Awareness within every project I’ve been doing in the master, including an extra curricular project “Bit of Energy”, I was able to develop my expertise in the field of Energy Awareness and formulate my design vision accordingly. I gained insight in the energy problem, from many different perspectives. The research perspective during my research project. The political perspective within the first half of my Final Master Project. The business perspective within the second half of my Final Master Project and within Bit of Energy. The economic perspective, by following the elective “Energy Economy and Society”. And finally the societal perspective by doing user research within all my master projects.

Energy, Economy and Society
For the elective “Energy Economy and Society”, I had to execute three assignments and an exam. For assignment one, we had to make a systematic energy demand forecasting using formulas, and based on existing consumption rates and other values that influence the energy demand. For assignment two, we had to tweak a software model of the energy system of the Netherlands, to make a prediction of the energy consumption of 2030. For this assignment we had to create a vision on how our energy consumption would change over the upcoming fifteen years. For assignment three we had to write a scientific essay about the regulation and the energy system of a foreign country, I chose the United Kingdom. Eventually I had to make an exam for which I had to read numerous papers on energy systems, the meaning of energy and energy efficiency, the meaning of sustainability, the meaning of sustainable energy, the energy transition, the current energy problem, the societal effect of our use of fossil fuels, the societal effect of sustainable energy, energy grits, the economical effects of changing the energy system, the geopolitics concerning energy policies, and so on. I followed this elective during the first semester of my master and it provided me with a very strong base of knowledge about the energy sector.

My working attitude
I started the master very energetic and motivated. Unfortunately due to too many interesting activities in my life and not enough rest, I went too far and got into a little burn-out. This resulted in the fact that I was incapable of working on my project during my second semester, which resulted in a half year extension. It took me almost two years to restore my old energy level and my positive and enthusiastic personality. Due to this event I learned to say no, and choose for myself when I have to. I see this as a very valuable life lesson, that is very important for my professional personality. Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way.

Also I realised that I’m a little perfectionist, which caused that I developed a fear of failing. This fear has been a big struggle for me, during my master education, since it often blocks my abilities to do what needs to be done. And it gave me a lot of stress, because I often didn’t feel I can rely on myself. I’m a sprinter and very good at working close to deadlines, which was my salvation many times during this semester. For my future career I have to find a way to deal with this stress, maybe in collaboration with a psychologist.

From my teamwork within Bit of Energy and Techtonia, I learned that I’m a team worker. I love to work together with others and support each other to get our common end goal to the next level. It motivates me that I’m not the only initiating stakeholder. When I am the only initiating stakeholder, which was the case for Juul, it is very difficult for me to motivate myself and to prioritise the actions that need to happen for that project. During the past year I developed a certain maturity as a designer and as person within a team. Which gives me the skills to see what needs to happen for the project and makes it possible for me to take the lead.

Bit of Energy
During my last master year I’ve been working on a project parallel to the development of Juul. The start-up of Bit of Energy. It has been very difficult to keep both projects running, and give them my needed attention. Luckily Bit of Energy is a very similar project to Juul, where some development steps were beneficial for both projects (see report). What made it especially difficult was that Bit of Energy was in a further development state than Juul was. This caused that most of its development path was mapped out already, where Juul was still in the idea generation phase, which provided a lot of insecurities. Even though Juul needed much more energy investment, it was much easier to do some concrete small tasks for Bit of Energy that also needed to happen. This provided quite some stress. This management showed me how important structure and open communications within your team is. Once I started making realistic estimations of the time I needed to invest in a certain task it became much easier to create a realistic planning. This way I could see what tasks would be too much for me and I was able to hand it off to one of my team members from Bit of Energy. These insights provided a big stress release.

Design Process
During my Final Master Project I realised the different aspects of the design process that work for me. I learned what process steps and methods help me to gain inspiration and helped me proceed in the process, and what did not help. The process steps that worked for me were: Societal research, expert involvement, formulating the actual problem, expert involvement, brainstorming, co-reflection, idea generation, expert involvement, User-testing, expert involvement. For me it is very important that my project starts with a well funded societal issue. Expert involvement and Co-reflection, are two tools that I prefer to use whenever I’m stuck or need inspiration. Also these tools are a great way to validate your concept and direction. I also learned that when I’m stuck in the process, I shouldn’t try to just remain brainstorming by myself, I should zoom out and involve others in the project.

My future
I love the fact that for a little while after my graduation I have no responsibilities or obligations to anyone or any institution, but myself. I have a lot of plans, but nothing is set in stone yet which will give me the space I need to evaluate my next steps in life. Some of these steps are already starting on the background, like Bit of Energy, and the further development of Juul. But right now I see them as opportunities and not as musts. I would have no problem if I would need to get around from a simple side job the first six months after graduating. Doing something totally different for a while, from what I’ve been doing for the past seven and a half years would be good for me. Because it would give me the chance to take a step back to evaluate, in order to construct my career strategy plan.

Since I know what kind of designer I am and since I developed a strong skill-set, I trust that I will find my way in the professional world. I feel ready and secure about myself becoming professional Designer.
Competency Development

User & Society
User & Society is one of my focus competency areas. I choose to focus on this competency area since the effect and relevance of my products on the user and society, are one of my main motivations for designing. I developed this competency within the elective “Energy, Economy and Society (OEM140)”, where I learned about the social and political implications within an energy transition. I also developed this competency are during the elective “Design for Social Innovation (DAM313)”, by learning techniques to get into the skin of the user, and perceive a situation from the users perspective. Within the Elective “Design for Behavioural Change (DDM110)”, I developed this competency, by learning different academic methods and frameworks, to use design to persuade the user in changing their behaviour. I have applied a few of these methods in my Final Master Project. Eventually I have developed this competency area within my three projects: Techtonia, my research project Crocky-Clip, and Juul, by investigating the societal background of my design challenge, by working closely together with field experts and by executing field tests, using various methods.

Business & entrepreneurship
Business and Entrepreneurship is my second focus competency within this project. I chose to focus on this competency area because I wanted to learn about the steps that take place between the final design of a product (as I used to see it), and the end-using interacting with the product. I developed this competency during the elective “Design Strategic Innovations (DEM113)”, where I learned what activities need to be done in order to get your design to the market. For instance: designing a brand image, a business model, a customers journey, a service model, a building plan, researching how to build your product in order to create profit, defining your market and testing your MVP are only a few parts of the developing process that happen after a design is called finished at our faculty.

During the last year at Industrial Design I developed this competency a lot during my final master project, and by working on Bit of Energy. By involving over 10 different business field experts within both projects combined, I learned a lot of ins and outs concerning entrepreneurship and designing for the consumers market. I learned how to create a business model, how to create a lean canvas, how to create a business strategy, what branding is, what marketing is, what a cost price is, how to construct the final price of your product, what things to keep in mind when choosing a market, how a pitch is constructed, what companies look at in a concept, how to communicate your concept to companies, how important it is to create a valuable network around you, what my value as designer can be, and many more things, see the business report. Involving business properties in my design process has been a change in mindset, that has become natural to me over the past year.

Technology & Realisation
During my master I developed this competency mainly within my last projects: Crocky Clip, Juul and Bit of Energy. I build three working prototypes, the Crocky Clip, Crocky, and Juul, using complex electronics circuits. I learned how to work with different variants of ESP8266 components and I learned to build a circuit using two different power sources, the mains voltage and an adapter to supply the microcontroller. I also learned to work with many different components:
Inputs: buttons, potential meters, hall sensors, and non invasive current sensors.
Outputs: LEDs (Light Emmitting Diode), Lightstrips (StarDot and Neopixel).
Also I know to work with various in-circuit components: Transistors, Capacitors, Resistors, OpAmps and Relais. Before reusing parts of the circuit of Crocky for Juul, I experimented with a PCB-sensor (Printed Circuit Board) and learned how to solder such a sensor on a PCB. My next step would be to build circuits in PCB software to let them be produced on bigger scale. For this project I decided not to invest time in that developing a PCB since officially my focus was not on technology and realisation.

Creativity & Aesthetic
Creativity and Aesthetics is a competency that is always important to me on the background. I never give it a total focus, but still I never overlook it. It is important to me that my results look neat and taken care of. Therefore I created a general style for every project I did, in order to make the results look like a unity. By developing these styles I learned the importance of spacing and font size. Also for Juul I went through various shape and interface iterations in order to come to the end result. I learned the steps that work for me within this creation process: First I start with sketching, then I select 6 to 8 possibilities. Third, I build these possibilities in a 3D model in Rhinoceros and then I select 3 to 5 different options, that I work out in a cardboard version. In practice I didn’t involve other people within every selection moment, but it will benefit the product to involve external people in selecting. Also I should have involved others already when sketching, since I was too focused on a look during the first phase which influenced the whole development process for the worst.

Math, Data & Computing
I mainly developed this competency within my final master project, by programming and building the electronic circuit and preparing the sensor data for the microcontroller. The sensor data coming from the current sensor is very raw and has to be modified in order to make sense for the microcontroller. With the use of OpAmps, potential meters and formulas in the code, I was able to construct a legible signal from the sensor. Also I developed a exponential LED-scale on Juul. In order to construct this scale I had to find the parabola formula behind this exponential growth, in order to calculate the steps in between. This made me dive back into the math behind these parabola formulas and helped me to understand the mathematical calculations behind constructing this exponential scale. I also developed this competency area by calculating energy demand forecasts within the elective: “Energy, Economy and Society”. And when formulas to analyse the results of the user-test, during my research semester.

Design Research Processes
At the beginning of this master I said: “research is not my thing”. Now, at the end of my master, I come back from that. It definitely is the case that you need to read and write a lot for research, which I definitely hate to do. But on the other side, you get new insights in a topic that you are interested in, which in many cases is worth the reading and writing. I developed this competency during my first master elective “Constructive Design Research”, were I learned the ins and outs of the basic design research methodologies (Showroom, Field and Lab). Within this elective I experimented with the Showroom-method. After this elective I did my research semester, within this semester I used the Lab-method, I learned how to set-up a proper user test, using a pilot, and pre-tested question list. I also learned to do a test analysis, and to formulate conclusions based on those analysis. Eventually I developed this competency within my final master semester, where I executed a user test, using the Field-method. I realised that the field method is one that speaks to me the most, and if I get the opportunity, I plan on doing a big scale field test in the future, to test the product of Juul.
Future Plans

After graduation, my first plan is to rest a few days. But in the first week after graduation I already have a four-day workshop planned about transformative practices in energy.

After this week I will continue working on the development “Bit of Energy”. And at the same time I will create a planning for the upcoming half year, based on how I am going to support myself. This might mean that I’m going to search for work.

Concerning the development of Juul, In February I have a meeting planned with the project leader of the 10000 households project in Drenthe, to evaluate potential collaboration. As soon as I find time, and money to work on Juul, I will start working on the list of recommendations. One of the first steps will be to get in contact with other possible partners like Woonbedrijf, to ask whether it is possible to organise a user-test with them. Another first step will be to find partners that can help me with the technological and production realisation of Juul.

These plans have an entrepreneurial focus. I don’t know yet if this will be my future. I am going to reflect on my career every three months, in order to see if I’m happy with what I’m doing, and whether it provides me with paid work for the upcoming six months. If not I will take action.
I’m willing to find a side job next starting up Bit of Energy and Juul, for about a year, but after this year, I need to be able to pay myself. Otherwise I’m going to search for a job. I don’t look much further than a year, since I know from experience that all kinds of interesting opportunities can cross your path.

Currently I’m already keeping my eyes and ears out for job opportunities, just in case. For my final Master project I talked with many interesting companies in the energy field, where I might like to work, for instance Enpuls or Buurkracht. If I would work for a company or energy project, I would love to have a position in which I can support the energy transition from a design perspective. But I’m open for many new opportunities.

Design for

Energy Awareness

Charlotte van der Sommen

BSc. Charlotte van der Sommen
+31 (0)6 50 52 20 72

Bit of Energy