Project at a Glance

The goal of this project was to design an innovative product that makes use of the existing infrastructure of light sockets and fixtures and is of value to the consumer. To accomplish this I conducted research in and outside of the lighting industry. I interviewed people about the lighting in their lives and created a persona, scenario storyboard and product vision. Finally, I prototyped the app and conducted user testing to validate my concept.

The Lighting Industry + Innovation

Lighting — how we use it, receive it and control it — is being re-imagined as the Internet of Things transforms the products in our lives into smarter and more connected objects. The ubiquity of light sockets and fixtures presents the industry with a unique opportunity. The opportunity to innovate and make use of the existing infrastructure while providing value to the consumer is the industry’s challenge. Success in this endeavor could help lighting companies remain competitive.

Understanding the User and the Tension

The group research component included ethnographic field research, observing one-on-one interviews and a focus group around people’s feelings about lighting. This initial exploratory research revealed a tension between the desire to access more natural light during the day, the need to keep light out at night and privacy.

Follow up literature research and additional user interviews conducted on my own confirmed:

  • The preference for natural light over artificial is universal
  • The need for privacy and darkness at night is highly desired
  • None of the interviewees had managed to perfect the amount of light let in or kept out
  • All interviewees had complaints regarding the darkness or brightness of their living spaces
  • People have a well-established process of letting light in and keeping it out
  • Managing the light was described as “just part of my daily routine” and an inconvenience
  • Streamlining the light management process appealed to the interviewees

Maximize Natural Light

Minimize All Light

Statement of Innovation

Dichotomy Windows gives a user ultimate control in privacy and light management. Using the home’s existing windows, privacy is created by turning the window into one-way glass. People inside the home can see out, however, the view in is blocked. A byproduct is that the need for window coverings, for any reason beyond aesthetic, is eliminated. The one-way glass privacy feature does not block light from entering the window and, with the elimination of window coverings, the user is now able to access all of the natural light available. In addition, with window coverings removed, outdoor views are completely unobstructed.

Emerging technologies in the research and development of the Internet of Things suggests the possibility of creating Dichotomy Windows is within a future realm of possibility. No doubt gaps exist in the technology required to create this product today but the general idea of how it might work is laid out in the Design Implementation section.

High-Level Requirements

  • The product must allow users to maximize their strong preference for natural light during the day while maintaining privacy.
  • At night, the product should block all outside light and maintain privacy.
  • Use existing home materials (glass, aluminum, vinyl, light fixtures, etc) combined with emerging technologies to design the physical product.
  • Keep the time for installation and purchase cost to a minimum.
  • The product should be portable and transferable so it can be moved to a different location in the home or to a new home.
  • Using the smart phone app, the amount of light entering the home can be adjusted incrementally.
  • The user can control the transitions between day and night settings.
  • Transitions can be set to begin at an exact time or in relation to sunset or sunrise.
  • The ability to override settings manually or turn the product off should be possible from both the app and the physical device.

User & Scenario


Wendy — primary decision maker for home purchases with enough discretionary income for non-necessities


  • Feels strong pull toward natural light and nature, would like to include more of both in busy, modern life where much of her time is spent indoors
  • Must maintain privacy and sense of security
  • Sleeps better in a dark room


  • Spends much of her time indoors
  • Many things competing for discretionary income
  • Lives in suburban/urban environment where light at night is difficult to avoid
  • Is busy and doesn’t have much time for or interest in home improvement projects

Scenario Storyboard

Design Implementation

Paper Prototype


Next Steps

The initial response to the prototype and product idea was positive. The next step would include iterating on the prototype by incorporating user testing discoveries and filling the app out more completely with things like onboarding and additional user flows. The physical product would also need to be prototyped and tested along with the app in user’s homes.