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January-May 2022

Project in collaboration with Nefeli Lemessiou

The University of Edinburgh


Brief: Design, program and make an interactive lighting product or installation

Students tend to put high levels of pressure on themselves, adopting unhealthy work patterns, and working for hours on end without proper breaks. 

Ilia is a desk lamp designed to encourage taking breaks and relaxing through breathing exercises. The lamp offers two different modes. In the first, the user can place their hands on the base of the lamp when they feel the need for a break. The light color will switch to blue, and go through a breathing animation for 2 minutes, that the user can breath along to. In the second mode, the light will turn blue automatically every 2 hours, for users who struggle to discipline themselves to take breaks.



This project having started in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, and being in this position ourselves, we felt compelled to research stress and anxiety in students at this time, and we were shocked by how high numbers were.


We ran some of our own research, and found similar results, with only 12% of people believing stress never makes them unhappy and 14% believing it had no impact on their productivity levels. Furthermore, work/ studying turned out to be the biggest sources of stress, being mentioned by 62% of people.


We did secondary research into techniques for stress relief, and breathing exercises came up as one of the top suggestions overall. Results from our survey also indicated this is something people found to be a good solution. We found this to be a really interesting starting point, and we thought it would fit quite well with the lighting brief we were given.

45% report having a hard time concentrating on schoolwork

21% report general procrastination due to stress

43% say the level of stress in their life has increased over the past year due to Covid disruptions


of high school students in the US experience anxiety

82% said uncertainty about what the post-covid school years will be like was causing them stress

23% reported being diagnosed or treated by a mental health professional for anxiety

67% say the coronavirus pandemic makes planning for their future feel impossible


of university students in the US experience anxiety

Statistics from the American Psychology Association (2020)


We came up with our breathing lamp idea, and started considering the design. We decided to have a base the user would place their hands on to activate the breathing, and a glass top for the light to show.


For the top, we quickly decided to go with an organic, cloud like aesthetic, as we thought it would fit the theme well, and it would allow to play with the natural qualities of glass as a material.


For the base, we knew we wanted something more neutral, as we wanted the glass to be the visual focus. The question was then what shape was comfortable to hold your hands on, and we settled on some more domed shapes, as testing showed these to be the most comfortable. We decided to make the base out of MDF, as it can have a really soft texture that would enhance the user experience.(Sketches to the left by Nefeli Lemessiou)

Coding & Electronics

We started by creating a flowchart, allowing us to have a clear sequence of events to base the code off of. This was also a way to test things one at a time, as opposed to doing everything at once, which in coding tends to lead to further confusion.


The main question was how we’d detect whether the user had their hands placed on the lamp, using simpler sensors that we had the capacity to code, and that would be compatible with the wood base we wanted. We chose to have two LDRs (Light Dependent Resistors) on the surface of the base (one on each side). The user placing their hands over the LDRs would lower the light level they read, in turn telling the Arduino to move forward with the code. We then worked with a coding technician to use a sine function in creating a smooth breathing animation with the light.


Step 1

We worked with the university glass technicians to blow the glass components we needed, and press on them with different tools to create the organic cloud shape we wanted. We then sandblasted them.

Step 2

We layered pieces of wood, and got help from a wood technician on the lathe to create the shapes we wanted for the base. We moved forward with two shapes, as we wanted to have more variety for user testing.

Step 3

We then soldered the electronics, and drilled/chiseled out a cavity for them in the base. We also drilled holes out of the cavity for the components that needed to be on the surface, and finally assembled all the components.

Final Concept & Prototype

Nefeli Yellow copy.png
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