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Beta designs of Gianfranco Macagnan's Vibe Check wearable devices

Winning wearable design showcases grad's artistic range

Keiko Kataokaby Keiko KataokaJan 18, 2021
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Recent Bachelor of Interaction Design graduate Gianfranco Maccagnan had a Sheridan experience that included a series of fortuitous events. He discovered his program after happening upon the coordinator’s hallway display while leaving an Open House event where he had his portfolio reviewed for a different degree. A short conversation led to a successful application process and the start of a journey in a field of study that felt like a natural fit for his diverse skills and passions.Designs of Gianfranco Maccagnan's Vibe Check wearables

“I always thought that because I had an interest in drawing, I should apply to animation or illustration,” says Maccagnan. “But when I took time to truly reflect on what interests me, I realized I was limiting myself. I’ve always liked circuity, physical computing and solving problems by finding the smoothest path. All these things lend themselves well to interaction design.”

That open-minded approach has served Maccagnan well thus far. It’s also advice he’s shared with prospective students exploring arts programs. Not only did it lead him to the field of interaction design, but during his time in the program, he explored various avenues without hesitation, which helped him develop and expand his skill set.

“I feel like Vibe Check is a nice balance of art and design – I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other in my project." - Gianfranco Maccagnan

Maccagnan combined his love for phygital design – blending physical and digital elements – into an innovative final-year thesis project. A fascination with textiles, fashion and the social implications of design fed into his project Vibe Check – a set of wearables that will aid in achieving interpersonal synchrony between two interacting users. Fittingly, Maccagnan found himself wrapping up his project during a global pandemic, which has driven interest in new ways of interacting.

Vibe Check uses the concepts of Interpersonal Synchrony, the Social Presence theory and Computed Mediated Communication to offer another level to face-to-face communication. It consists of a pulse sensor, temperature gauge and galvanic skin response (GSR). The device communicates an increase in engagement by interpreting the wearer's body temperature and GSR, and displaying this through increased brightness or saturation of the lighting in the garment. “I feel like Vibe Check is a nice balance of art and design – I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other in my project,” says Maccagnan.

When the time came to showcase Vibe Check to his peers, faculty and industry, it wasn’t quite the experience anyone in his graduating class had envisioned. With pandemic-related restrictions in place, much-anticipated grad shows that typically draw crowds to a trendy Toronto venue were forced online. Debuting a wearable on the web isn’t the best medium for display, but it was that experience that encouraged him to find additional avenues to share Vibe Check with the public.

Beta designs of Gianfranco Maccagnan's Vibe Check wearable devices

In September 2020, Maccagnan entered Vibe Check into the Global Design Graduate Show 2020 Competition hosted by ARTSTHREAD and i-D in association with GUCCI. And he found success, receiving the Readers Vote for Service Design in the Product/Architecture/Interiors category and a profile in an article on VICE’s i-D publication. “I feel so honoured to be recognized in this way,” he says. “It’s an acknowledgement of my work after an intensive and at times arduous design process.” Vibe Check is also featured on Sheridan’s SOURCE – a collaborative commons for scholarly output, research and creative activities.

Now a Sheridan graduate, Maccagnan is exploring where his degree and range of skills in art and design can take him including work in game design or on interactive installations. “I had a safe environment at Sheridan where I could fail, grow and find a career path that didn’t make me sacrifice where my interests lie,” he says. “Not limiting myself has made me a better designer.”

Pictured at top of page: Gianfranco Maccagnan sporting his Vibe Check wearables. 

Written by: Keiko Kataoka, Manager, Communications and Public Relations at Sheridan.

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