Patina-inspired Personalization: Personalizing Products with Traces of Daily Use

DIS 2016, June 4–8,  Brisbane, Austrailia – Paper presentation


Moon-Hwan Lee, Oosung Son, Tek-Jin Nam


Despite the popularization of product personalization systems, it is difficult for people to personalize a product in a way that symbolizes themselves and their daily lives. Borrowing the characteristics of patina generation, we suggest patina-inspired personalization as an alternative approach. This approach is a way of progressive personalization through transforming digital traces of product use into patina-like material traces on a product. As an exemplar, we developed Trace-Marker, a custom-built laser engraver for bicycle riders. It engraves aesthetic patterns on a bicycle bag according to a user’s bicycle journey. During the field trial with 10 participants for three weeks, participants used the system to add symbolic meanings, in particular their unique identities and personal stories on their bags. The permanently engraved patterns enhanced the emotional bond with the bags. Based on the field trial, we discuss implications for improving patina-inspired personalization in wider contexts.


Product personalization; patina; trace; symbolic meaning; self-expression.




Research Approach


Borrowing the characteristics of patina generation and digital traces together, we suggest patina-inspired personalization. Patina-inspired personalization is a way of personalizing a product through users’ trace accumulations during the product’s use stage. Inspired by how products become personalized with patinas, this approach supports progressive personalization during a product’s use stage rather than instant personalization at the manufacture stage of a product’s life cycle. Through an interactive personalization system, users can transform digital traces about product use into patina-like material traces on a product.


Design Considerations for Patina-inspired Personalization

Based on review of existing product personalization systems and understanding of how patinas’ characteristics add value to objects, we derived the following design considerations for patina-inspired personalization. These considerations are related to timing, source, expression and process of product personalization.

  • Supporting Progressive Modifications during Product Usage
  • Utilizing Digital Traces of Product Use as a Source of Personalization
  • Generating Abstract but Aesthetic Traces on a Product
  • Simplifying a Personalization Process

Trace-Marker: Patina-inspired personalization for bicyclers 


To explore the impact and possibility of patina-inspired personalization, we developed Trace-Marker, a laser-based personalization system that supports the accumulation of aesthetic patterns on bicycle bags based on users’ riding histories.

To engrave a pattern, a user inserts the bag or other product in the drawer of Trace-Marker. The user logs into the system, which loads his/her riding histories and analyzes them to generate a visual pattern. In the interface, the user edits and places the pattern while looking through the interactive transparent display. Finally, the system engraves the pattern on the product placed in the drawer.

Hardware of Trace-Marker



The hardware was designed to include three layers of parts: a system interface layer (consisting of a transparent display and a touch panel), a laser plotter, and a drawer. The top of Trace-Marker is made of a transparent display and a touch panel. The see-through interface supports users’ progressive designs and the construction process. Users can generate visual patterns while watching modeled patterns displayed above the real product.


 Transforming Digital Traces to Aesthetic Patterns


Trace-Marker automatically transformed the users’ riding histories onto abstract patterns by mapping each data type to predefined pattern-generation templates. Finally, the system included ribbon and metro styles. In both styles, latitude and longitude data were used to draw an overall skeleton of a pattern. In the ribbon style, elevation and speed were mapped to the width and height of a rectangle. In the metro style, the overall shape was simplified using nodes and connected lines. As elevation increased, more circles were added at each node. To express the moving speed and direction, arrows were added in the connection lines. Lastly, to provide identity information for the pattern, total distance and date numbers were included in both styles.


Interface for Editing Patterns


In the interface, four menus were implemented; 1) Load riding history, 2) Select Visual Style, 3) Edit a Pattern, 4) Position and size 5) Engrave. The user edit and place the pattern while seeing through the interactive transparent display.  (The laser pointing stylus could be used to check the plotting position of a pattern on the bag.)


Field Study Setting & Result


We conducted a field study to understand not only the usability of the patina-inspired personalization system but also the impacts of the system on users’ experiences. Specifically, we expected to determine how patina-inspired personalization would be embedded in the context of product use. We also wanted to find out how patina-inspired personalization could be used for attaching participants’ personal meanings to the personalized products.


As a result, participants used the system to add symbolic meanings, in particular their unique identities and personal stories on their bags. The permanently engraved patterns enhanced the emotional bond with the bags. Main findings are like below:

  • Progressive Personalization for Expressing Personal Stories and Identities
  • Embracing Personalization as Part of Product Experience
  • Strengthening the Emotional Bond with Products

Discussion: Using Patina-inspired Personalization for Other Products


We think that the patina-inspired personalization would also be beneficial and applicable to IT products and services. We expect this research to inspire diverse product personalization services and general fashion and product designs.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s