Class: Interaction Design Studio || Time: 2 weeks || Team Members: Hajira Qazi, Devika Khowala || Tools: Sketch, Adobe After Effects

In my Fall 2017 Interaction Design Studio at Carnegie Mellon, we completed a few short “experiments” meant to spark exploration of the boundaries of interaction design. One of these experiments explored the idea of dissonance in interaction. What happens when a system purposefully does not operate as expected? And how can that be a design opportunity? We explored these questions by designing a new type of vending machine.

Concept Generation

We began by generating some initial areas of interest for this project. We considered how dissonance could be used to force users to understand the supply chain of their purchases, the implications of artificial intelligence, their support of small business, and their specific social privilege. It was important for us to consider how dissonance would be integrated into these concepts. Being too outward or confrontational with dissonance would immediately deter users. We need to find points of interaction where dissonance would make the user ask questions, and even frustrate them, but not make then shut down to any further interaction.

ideation session

There was a strong desire amongst the group to use dissonance as a tool for activism - a way to bring voice to social issues. We landed on the idea of designing a vending machine that critiqued the current rhetoric around refugees entering the United States. With the talk of “extreme vetting” happening today, we believed that we could make users aware of the currently lengthy and exhaustive screening process that refugees go through before entering the country. What if, when buying something as simple and mundane as a Coke, users were presented with an experience similar to the refugee application process? Could that create empathy with those trying to enter this country?

refugee screening process (worldrelief.org)


A Coke vending machine made sense as a metaphor because of the “Cult of Coke” that exists in the United States. There is a deep passion about the Coke brand in the United States, and thus many analogies to draw with the nationalism associated with refugee rhetoric. People purchasing coke from this vending machine are attempting to join an elite club and will be “vetted” as such. And the idea of an “other” exists in the Pepsi brand. We began to develop the flow of this vending machine, pulling from the refugee screening process where it made sense.

expected flow vs. new flow

We finalized a flow that consisted of the following:

  1. Background check
  2. In person interview
  3. Medical Screening
  4. Cultural orientation

With the flow outlined, and given the short timeline for this project, we began to develop screens and create our concept video (seen above) in quick succession.

vending screens

Physical Takeaway

We also designed an altered Coke label for the bottles in this machine. Further supporting the idea of helping users empathize with refugees, the label plays off of the existing “Share A Coke” campaign. Each bottle features the story of a refugee seeking a home in the United States, as well as more information about the refugee crisis.

bottle label