Experiential Design


The Project

Nostalgia is an interactive installation and exploratory design piece. Falling somewhere in the gray area between art and design, this experimental take on a book delves into the psychology of human emotion behind individual experiences of nostalgia.

The word nostalgia stems from the Greek words nostos, meaning to return to home, and algos, meaning pain. This means that nostalgia is typically a bitterswee feeling; the pursuit of a romanticized memory that never actually existed the way it does in one’s mind.

Nostalgia manifests itself in very different ways from person to person, but no matter who is telling their story, it holds a very intimate and emotional value.

This project explores the emotion behind nostalgia; by creating an immersive and interactive experience, the viewer can truly allow themselves to become absorbed in each story and open themselves up to listening to, understanding, and experiencing a stranger’s memory and the emotions that come with it.

Additional Credits

Dermot MacCormack
Instructor, Graduate Seminar
Tyler School of Art & Architecture

The Mood Board

The Project

The system for Nostalgia is a minimal one, working seamlessly across print and digital platforms. Using collected memorabilia — a handwritten letter describing a particular memory or time of their life, a voice recording of the letter, and a photograph to accompany them — from the ten individuals who participated in this project, a series of “books” was designed. Four of these “books” were installed as large turnable pages on the physical piece, and the full collection lives on an iPad as a prototyped virtual exhibition.

The idea behind the interaction is simple and makes heavy use of the Raspberry Pi system. With the physical installation, visitors can interact with the piece by donning the hardwired headphones and moving the clay house next to the story they would like to experience into the shadowbox built into each panel. This has a trigger effect, turning on a small light inside the shadowbox so the user is aware they’ve effectively made the connection, as well as activating the voice recording for that story through the headphones. This allows the viewer to truly immerse themselves in this person’s memory, as they are able to turn the pages as they listen to the story unfold. 

The installation also includes a built-in iPad, which allows the viewer full access to explore all ten stories, which feature digital translations of the printed pages. Additionally, while the installation was designed with the user’s experience in mind and designates visually where each clay house should be placed, an explanatory postcard is included on the display for assistance and as a project takeaway.

Key Words


This project is heavily based on an idea I had about three years ago. The theme of nostalgia is one I keep coming back to in my work, and this project was my way of visually exploring the concept.