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Tempus - Design Project



Making elderly with severe dementia smile again

Tempus is a music player for elderly with severe dementia to listen back and share significant songs from their lives. The design encourages the users to become animated, use motor skills and reminisce with their fellow residents in small-scale living. Tempus is a multi-sensory device with a familiar form and intuitive needle switch to activate music. With integrated speakers on every side on the player, everyone around the table can enjoy the music. Lights under the record stimulate and engage the user to focus on the music and activity. Family members of the users can add significant songs from the lives of the users to the playlist of the product to create maximum engagement. It is designed to be part of an activity or initiated by the caregivers when the residents appear particularly bored, restless or disoriented.

My personal focus in the project was user centered design and technology realization of the prototype. I was present in all of our weekly visits to the elderly home and conducted many interviews, observations and prototype tests at the care home of the elderly with severe dementia. Besides this, I worked on the programming of our prototype through Arduino.

When starting this project I had the goal to focus on learning more within the technology and realization competency. At first I wanted to take the leading role in coding and electronics when we were entering the realization stage, but after some time it became clear that I didn’t have enough knowledge to take on this task, so I worked together with my teammate Tijmen on this. Since he was more experienced he did the most difficult parts and helped me with what I didn’t understand. This was a good way to learn more whilst working efficiently.

During the realization stage of our project we took the time to create a design for our concept. We didn’t have complete freedom in this, because we needed a design that closely resembled a record player. But we still integrated criteria’s such as that the arm of the record player should be bigger and less fragile than a normal one, because the elderly have difficulty with gripping and moving things. I learned more about how to design for a target group with specific needs.

We spent more time than originally intended on the realization stage, because we didn’t realize how much technology had to be integrated. For future projects I need to keep in mind that technology might take a lot of time. Luckily all components worked quit quickly and we didn’t have big issues, but we would have gotten short in time if issues would have occured. So even though we made a realistic planning, it would have been better if we planned in a way that there was time left for if one stage went wrong. In my opinion, the competency of User and Society is integrated the most in our project. User focus is something that I prioritized in my vision, so before starting this project I was excited about working so closely together with a user group. We visited Vitalis Berckelhof almost every week, especially in the end of our project. First we went there to observe and explore our design space, and later on we mostly went there to test parts of our prototype or our final prototype. Integrating the user and client this much in the process is something I haven’t done before, but I notice that every design decision we made is much better reasoned than in Project 1. Because we had such good contact with our client, we were able to reflect on every decision with our expert and/or with the users.

Project 2 is the first big project where I have worked with a client, but I did do an elective before where I had Philips as a client. I already had experience with considering a client’s values whilst creating a concept, and it is something I have found very valuable to practice with, because chances are that after graduating I will continue doing project for clients.


Unlike project 1 for me, we spend time on computing data after our user tests. I learned that it is important to do research on how to test with a certain user group and how you can create data results. After putting our data in a spider sheet, we could very clearly see how our product worked on different aspects and for different residents. I learned from this that exploration on what figures work best for your data makes it a lot easier to draw conclusions.

Also, when designing for a target group that is difficult to get opinions from, such as elderly with dementia, it was important to read literature on how to do this. After doing this we came up with creating a scale of their behavior. If we would have gotten more time, we would have read more about user testing with this group. This could have resulted in more data and even more insights. For future projects I will try to include research about user testing into the planning, because we missed that right now.

Overall, I enjoyed working on this project a lot. It helped that all the group members had different expertises, so it was easy to divide tasks. What could have been improved here was that group members who were a little less advanced in some things, didn’t focus on learning new things. It would have been better for our development if the group members worked on tasks that they still needed to learn in. In this way everyone could have learnt even more. So for next project I need to focus on firstly discussing what everyone wants to learn, and based on that and expertises divide tasks.

I learned more within the competencies that I wanted to improve (Technology and Realization, User and Society). I could have learned more about designing aesthetics by taking on more tasks within this. This is something I can lay my focus on in the next project.

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Eindhoven, The Netherlands

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