Keyi Chen is a Central Saint Martins graduate who has reinterpreted everyday desk accessories as stress-relieving devices: his project Inte-rest-ing encourages people to play at their desks. Chen has created five commonplace office items that can also be used as tools to relieve the stress of a long working day. To start the project he has followed a period of research into working culture in China and around the world. He found that employees felt ashamed of taking breaks in their working day and didn’t feel able to express their personality in the work place.
Within the collection he created a desk fan that allows an overtired worker to control their breathing with gentle breathing exercises. To turn the fan on the employee must breathe on the small turbine at the top of the object, or even release a deep sigh “to relieve the pressure”. In turn, the gentle air from the fan will calm them down.
Another product is calculator with a set of easy-to-complete games, to get around the fact that employees are constantly monitored by managers at work.
Chen also designed a “digital fortune cookie” software for a computer mouse that monitors whether the user is distracted or exhausted by the speed and number of times they roll the mouse. When activated, the programme emails a reminder to the user, which pops up on their screen with a pre-arranged topic, such as their horoscope, or an update on their pet. They can choose whether to open it for a brief moment of respite. The USB stick allows employees who feel “demoralised or dispassionate about their work” to vent their frustration by smashing it on the desk or squeezing it like a stress ball. This action releases the USB from its holder, so that the worker can use it.
The final object is a pen that emits a gentle rattling sound as you write, caused by a set of small objects implanted in the pen lid. Along with the naturally relaxing activity of writing rather than typing, this should work to relax the user. His project also adds to a movement begun by an anonymous computer programmer, who launched the website 996.ICU.
The site is named after the common practice in China of working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week, and seeks to boycott this culture by clearly stating the country’s labour laws. It is now available in six languages. Given long working hours during which “the worker works like a machine without seeing any meaning of their work”, Chen’s objects offer a moment of respite. The designer 3D printed the objects and built the internal circuits and software himself, in collaboration with Imperial College and Gudong University of Technology.