Speculative design / Design research / Industrial design / Video Making / Photography
MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts
Thesis work, Guidance from Allan Chochinov and Sinclair Smith
The Gaydar is a speculative design project meant to offer a potential future and provoke a dialogue. It is a wearable piece that makes a subtle, celebratory statement about one’s identity.
Role / Responsibility
Owner, Researcher, Designer
It was part of my thesis, everything is done by myself.
In the context of China, where the government removes the rainbow from public places, this works as a smart object with a screen showing LGBTQ-friendly places. In addition to venues, the Gaydar will notify users when another queer person is nearby. This function is especially helpful in a conservative area where queer people feel isolated and struggle to find other community members, or for visitors to another city or country hoping to find community members in an unfamiliar environment.
This project is the one that I had the most fun with. I materialized the concept of “gaydar,” a phrase that people use constantly and casually. It turned out to be an opportunity for people to start to talk and ask questions. The idea sparked laughter and joy while I was developing the product and sharing it with my peers.
I started with picturing a future and imagining a product that suits this imagined world. Inspired by a short film, “Imagine a World Where Being ‘Gay’ Is the Norm & Being ‘Straight’ Would Be the Minority!” my vision of the future quickly became bleak.
By 2150, the whole world consists of two groups of people, “heteros” and “normalors.” Globally, different countries employ different systems to regulate the groups. In China, in order to ensure the stability of the current government, highly strict regulations are imposed.
All citizens come from in-vitro fertilization. China turned the whole city of Beijing into a pasture. A lab produces zygotes. People who can carry children in their bodies are called breeders. They are responsible for giving birth to all citizens. Whenever a baby is born, the government leaves a mark on their forehead and injects a chip beneath the skin.
The chips work as sensors that detect whether this citizen is a normalor or hetero, and contains the GPS that the government uses to regulate every citizen. Once a hetero is detected, the government will know and take that person under control in Beijing. If this person can give birth, they will be a breeder. If not, they will be sent to work for the lab in a highly-regulated environment. All heteros are assigned to an “unity “of heteros as their chosen family. Only normalors have the freedom and privilege to date and get married.
The product that I imagine in this dystopian future is the injector that the Chinese government uses to inject the chips and leave marks on babies’ foreheads.
Hand tool exists in the speculative future.
With this future in mind, I started to think in reverse. I created a newspaper that published in 2050, same world but 100 years early.
This year, Shanghai hosts the first Gay Game in China. This news shows the Chinese LGBTQ community has grown, in a positive way.
"Hi there" is the brand I imagined will grow into the government system I mentioned in the future.
In 2050, Hi there works on uniting the Chinese LGBTQ community. Their product aims to help queer people identify each other in Chinese society.
In the poster, blue ones are representing queer people. The red background represents the Chinese society which is under control of the "red" Communist Party of China.
Finally, my thoughts come to the near future, 2023. What speculative product could potentially lead to this terrifying future? Here, the Gaydar came to mind.
I am discussing this dystopian future because I want to address a crucial conversation about the role of being a designer. It’s important to consider the potential consequences of the ideas and products that we introduce to the world. When designers put their creations out there, users decide how to use it. Let me use the Gaydar as an example. I intend to help users build a community in the real world. Users may use it as a hookup tool, which is not bad, right? However, what if homophobes use it to track and kill queer people? That would be terrible. To further facilitate this conversation, I made a video that has alternative endings.