Bespoke Booklets: Curious Proposals for Non-Stereotypical Homes


Ethnographic field research

This research aimed to understand attitudes and beliefs toward internet-connected objects (IoT) in the home, and to highlight the design potential of “non-stereotypical homes”. That is, homes which do not fit the traditional image of the Smart Home: an idealized depiction of contemporary life through a modernist, single-family detached dwelling.

Idealized depiction of the “Smart Home,” source:

Idealized depiction of the “Smart Home,” source:

After getting to know sixteen participants through home tours and interviews, we designed IoT concepts unique to their individual homes.

To open conversations and spark co-speculation on IoT behaviors and roles, we created probes in the form of small, handmade booklets.

We call this method of inquiry Bespoke Booklets. The booklets were designed to feel workable, enclosing colorless photos from inside participants’ homes, on white copy paper, with a natural cardstock cover. Written prompts invited participants to write, draw and think about potential behaviors and responses on additional blank pages inside.


research Findings

Design research methods for technology in domestic spaces can benefit from a broader understanding and vision of the smart home—one considering the porous boundaries of homes, relationships to neighbors, and evolutions with time—and through the use of imaginary and speculative design methods.

The booklets were a productive tool and generated a physical record of our co-speculation. They made a fruitful catalyst for research and design ideation.

The creative process of crafting speculative visions can spark unexpected concepts.

When shared with stakeholders, they can lead to productive discussions, and insights to guide design.

Research and design process

The booklet design was an iterative and collaborative process involving seven designers and researchers. After an initial landscape analysis of existing Smart Home systems, we ideated on alternative approaches to the smart home, and alternative visions of homes themselves. We curated participants who lived in non-stereotypical homes, for example, a houseboat, a sailboat, a camper van, a basement apartment, etc..

After an in-home semi-structured interview, we sketched several IoT concepts specific to each participant and their home. We sent each participant their unique booklet, and returned a week later for a follow-up interview to discuss their impressions and ideas.

The team:

Kelsey Aschenbeck, Aubree Ball, Ioan Butiu, Nouela Johnston, Cayla Key, Jeremy Viny; led by Audrey Desjardins, PhD.


Alternative Avenues for IoT: Designing with Non-Stereotypical Homes. Desjardins, A., Viny, J.E., Key, C., Johnston, N. (2019). In Proc. CHI'19, New York, ACM Press.

Bespoke Booklets: A Method for Situated Co-Speculation. Desjardins, A., Key, C., Biggs, H.R., Aschenbeck, K. (2019). In Proc. DIS'19, New York, ACM Press.