Periodic Table Makeover

Industrial design students reimagine the periodic table – and a book is born

Around the world, people are celebrating 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPTCE). The iconic scientific tool is 150 years old, and going strong.

By partnering with other Georgia Tech units, the College of Sciences created a year-long program to celebrate IYPTCE. Among the beautiful outcomes is the book “Interactive Design of the Periodic Table to Celebrate 150 Years of Elements,” by the School of industrial Design, in the College of Design.

The book’s genesis goes back to the summer of 2018, when the College of Sciences approached Professor and Chair Jim Budd with a project idea that we hoped could be used in a spring 2019 course. The project goal was to reimagine the periodic table as an interactive installation.

Suggested ways to achieve the goal were by maximizing sensory modes to deliver information, by interacting with technology, and by presenting in multiple formats. No restriction was imposed on how to approach the project.

Assistant Professor Wei Wang embraced the project. He asked students of ID 6213, Studio Interact Product, to work on the project for the first three weeks of January 2019. Twenty-one students in the Master of Industrial Design and Master of Science in Human-Computer Interaction programs explored the fascinating world of the periodic table and developed concepts for an interactive exhibit.

“Students – by teams or individually – designed seven concepts, from public physical installations to virtual reality experiences,” Wang says. “The goal was to enhance the accessibility of the periodic table to inform, educate, inspire, and enable multiple ways of comparing elements and introducing the stories behind.”

On Jan. 28, the students revealed their concepts. Wang invited several guests to the presentation: Rafael San Miguel, a former senior flavor chemist from The Coca-Cola Company who is deaf but could speak and lip-read; Kirk Henderson, the exhibits program manager in the Georgia Tech library; Ximin Mi, data visualization librarian; and Maureen Rouhi, communications director in the College of Sciences.

The students “showed great creative ingenuity in developing tactile interactive exhibits designed to allow users to explore the elemental foundations underlying our everyday existence,” Henderson says.

San Miguel provided guidance and feedback on accessibility. He says he was “instantly amazed and impressed to see the wonderful and diverse talents the students brought along with their seven different concepts. This was a great way to help students think beyond standard norms of end users of designs and inventions.”

The ID 6213 students delivered a riveting array of installation concepts, which are collected in the book. All the projects are delightful to behold. The periodic table never looked so fresh, accessible, and exciting.

Related Media

Click on image(s) to view larger version(s)

  • A book is born (Credit: School of Industrial Design)

    A book is born (Credit: School of Industrial Design)

  • Wei Wang

    Wei Wang

  • The periodic table as seen by industrial design students (YouTube video)

    The periodic table as seen by industrial design students (YouTube video)

  • ID 6213 students for the periodic table makeover

    ID 6213 students for the periodic table makeover

For More Information Contact

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences