Studio 360, the Peabody Award-winning weekly public radio program hosted by Kurt Andersen and produced by PRI and WYNC, asked IDEO to participate in its long-running Redesigns series. Inspired by ideas from IDEO design director Ingrid Fetell’s Aesthetics of Joy blog, Andersen asked listeners what joyless moments or experiences they would like to be redesigned. “Monday morning” was chosen from hundreds of listener responses. We couldn’t agree more! Listen to the podcasts here.
Beeeeep beeeeep beeeeep! Ah yes, the Monday alarm clock’s merciless insistence that your weekend is over. If any part of Monday needed redesigning, it was this. So we set out to create an alarm clock that would make you grin instead of groan.
Lolzzz is an alarm clock that wakes you gently with a child’s joyful laughter. As it giggles, Lolzzz rocks back and forth with delight and you can make it laugh even louder by tickling its belly button. To snooze, simply set it upright again. Every week Lolzzz features a new laugh—a little surprise to look forward to on Monday morning. We also envision a website for submitting your own laugh track to brighten Monday for others.
Research tells us that a child’s laughter is one of the most joyful sounds in the world. In fact, our brains respond unconsciously to it, lighting up neurons in the premotor cortex, which prepares our face to smile. It’s automatic—when we hear laughter, our brain wants to join in. We tend to think that we smile because we’re happy. But it also works the other way around. Putting a smile on your face prompts your brain to behave as if you’re in a good mood. So the more we smile on Mondays, the better our Mondays are likely to be.
As wonderful as laughter is by itself, it’s even more magical when you know the context. We designed Lolzzz to email the story of that week’s laughter just in time for the Monday morning commute. So, you get a shot of joy when you wake up, and just when you need it most, you get a booster. The first people to test this out have been delighted by a lovely side benefit—they find that they notice other people’s laughter and joy more often throughout the day.
Beth Bongar, a teacher of laughter yoga, inspired us to explore the physical and emotional benefits of laughter. “If you can bring yourself to laugh or even just mimic the sounds of laughter in a tough time, you ensure that you’re breathing deeply, which can relieve stress.”
Laugh with Beth
There’s a noticeable difference between rolling with laughter and just tipping over. We gave a lot of attention to refining the clock’s angles, balance, and curves to make sure that its rocking motion would mimic the abandon of a joyful belly laugh.
The brain can’t keep a straight face when it hears someone laughing. Learn more about why we find laughter so contagious.
Read the science
Mondays are sneaky. We’ve all felt the Monday blues creeping into our Sunday nights, casting their shadow over the week ahead. This made us wonder: could we turn the tables on Monday and design it to be something that brings you joy instead of dread?
Sincerely is a new ritual of gratitude designed to chase away any end-of-the-weekend gloom. On Sunday nights, the Sincerely app will prompt you to record a simple “thank you” message to someone you care about. If you’re having trouble getting started, the app can help you keep it short and sweet. Then, on Monday, you get some love back when your friend responds. Boom! Double-joy whammy!
A genuine thank you is a special thing and we wanted it to feel different from every other email pinging your smartphone. So Sincerely reaches your ears through a bluetooth version of the tin can-and-string phones children have used for decades to share secret messages. The childlike form evokes a bit of joyful nostalgia while details like the cozy, colorful interior create an even more personal experience of “thank you.”
As part of our research, we interviewed Rachel McPherson, the founder of the Good Dog Foundation, who visits critically ill patients in hospitals. Inspired by how dogs broadcast their joy by wagging their tails, we designed a “tail” for the Sincerely cans that wags whenever a new message of gratitude has been received.
Research suggests that the warm fuzzies you get from expressing gratitude are very real and, more importantly, very contagious. So one of the best ways to make Monday better for you may be to make it better for someone else. Creating a habit of giving thanks strengthens your connection to others, which studies say can help you live longer. So you don’t just get a more joyful Monday, but more Mondays in general.
Our interview with Rachel McPherson, the founder of the Good Dog Foundation inspired us to think about the joy in reciprocity. “The dog brings you joy... but then you give it back to the dog. So then there’s a virtuous circle going.”
The Good Dog Foundation
Want to express your gratitude to someone? Send your own thank you note with our early prototype.
Try the prototype
Getting the tail to “wag” was the trickiest part of this design. We tested it by watching people’s faces as they looked at our prototypes. When the design made people smile, we knew it was ready.
The personal benefits of daily gratitude are enormous and impact your mind, body, relationships and self-esteem. Learn more about the psychology of gratitude.
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The weekend is all about freedom—our time is truly our own—and then suddenly on Monday we go back to living by the calendar. So what happens if we look at the calendar through the lens of joy?
PopUp is a calendar app that looks at your appointments and draws attention to the hidden or overlooked opportunities for joy. It might point out that you’re meeting someone you’ve never met before, or getting together with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. Or it might alert you to the wonderful piece of street art near your lunch date or the meteor shower happening around bedtime.
PopUp comes alive through animated polka dots with colored rings that look like Willy Wonka’s everlasting gobstobbers. The abundance of bright colors and round forms makes this a much more joyful interface than the grey boxes of a traditional calendar. The round forms help shift our perspective from time as linear progression to time as a collection of moments, each of which might be a chance for joy. After all, joy is not a constant state, it’s an unexpected burst.
One of the least joyful parts of Monday is all the beeping, blinking calendar notifications telling you where to be. So PopUp also comes with Notifly, an object that replaces those obnoxious alarms. It sits on your desk and when you have a meeting, it blows a bubble to let you know. Offices tend to be serious and orderly places. A fun bubble, typically found in more playful contexts, disrupts our brain’s expectation of a place and creates a strong sense of joy.
Alex Ficquette, a producer of a morning show, told us that he holds off on his first sip of coffee until he’s in his first meeting. “I love it so much, I guess I want to use that moment to kick off the day.” This inspired us to look for moments of joy that might be hiding in plain sight.
We asked our colleagues to track their weekends and Mondays with this mood journal. Looking at the journals, we realized that Mondays weren’t always as bad as they seemed. Even the worst Monday had hidden moments of joy.
A lot of suds were popped in the making of Notifly. We tested dozens of different size and shape tubes, and six different bubble solutions in the quest for the perfect bubble.
Noticing and savoring more moments of joy is a form of mindfulness, which has been shown to increase happiness.
Read the science