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Out of the box

Empowering the elderly to access mobile technologies.

A phone box and manual are shown as a product shot

Role User Research, Concept Design & Prototyping
Team Vitamins studio, Samsung Design team
Company Samsung Design Europe

Create design solutions to help elderly people overcome the barriers associated with learning new interfaces.

A user manual, cards and a map to teach users about features and applications.

Top view of a manual showing its content

Top view of the manual with a cutout in the middle to slot a mobile phone

To discover what was hindering people’s interaction with smart phones we first created an unconventional research journey that involved field visits to homes across Europe, workshop featuring magic tricks and hands-on activities (e.g. asking our participants to “draw” their mobile phones on a banana, using coloured pencils and stickers gave us a really good idea of people’s aspirations in relation to mobile technology).

This immersive research journey enabled us to draw knowledge from their everyday experience, picking up contextual cues about their mental models and observing how these models guided their attitude towards mobile technology. Interestingly, the word ‘technology’ was not brought up at all in conversations, because it was “a scary topic”, so we chatted about magic and aspirations instead.

What hindered people’s regular interaction with mobile phones, we found out, was not their age, or their presumed lack of technological skills, but the clumsiness of the phone’s manuals. The poor design and encrypted terminology discouraged them from even trying to set up their mobile phones. Books, on the other hand, were a very familiar and preferred way of learning new skills.

Delivering our solution in the shape of a book was a way of creating an analog bridge between them and what was until then a very unfriendly topic, technology.

Beautifully crafted and easy to understand, the manual guided the users step by step through the process of setting up their smartphones, empowering people to use their mobiles more often and with a lot more confidence.

‘Out of the box’ was the only phone manual featured in an exhibition at the MoMA, in New York. It was also shown at Vienna, as part of the exhibition Design Diversity at the Wagner: Werk Museum Postsparkasse – a show that challenges assumptions on design for older adults and calls for more inclusive design.

1. The Manual
Users learn about features by sliding the phone inside the book and turning the pages.

Top view of the manual showing how to slot in the SIM card

Top view of the manual showing the phone in the middle

2. The Cards
To support novice users, RFID cards can be touched on the phone to launch tasks or applications.

Top view of coloured cards labeled with phone actions and tasks

Top view of a person placing a 'add new contact' card on top of a phone

3. The Map
The entire structure of the phone is mapped out on a poster so users can understand and discover features more easily.

Photo of a poster showing the features of the phone in a metro line format

Photo of a person pointing at the map and holding a phone in hand