Reflection Space

The Reflection Space project is a communication design initiative that creates a space for smokers to self-reflect on their own smoking practice, as well as engage the greater public in the discourse surrounding smoking cessation.

An installation concept to encourage smoking self-reflection.


  • Team: Collaborative student project with Allison Huang
  • Context: Visual Communications Studio (Fall 2015), Instructor Andrew Twigg
  • Software Used: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Google SketchUp
  • Credits: Allison Huang for pamphlet visual design
  • See the comprehensive guidebook PDF here.

My Role

  • Design Research: Conducted secondary research, environmental observations, and synthesized findings and design implications with my partner.
  • Concept Development: Ideated on pamphlet design and layout, wrote copy for the reflection prompts, as well as generated booth design solutions.
  • Pamphlet Prototyping: Created functional prototypes of the pamphlet designs with my partner
  • Booth Design: Utilized SketchUp to create a concept sketch for the booth design, as well as to create a rough site rendering of how it would interact with our proposed site.

Design Brief

Working with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), my partner and I were tasked to develop a visual communication campaign to promote smoking cessation in Allegheny County. Our explorations led us to create this concept which seeks to aid smokers to self-reflect on their own smoking practice, as well as engage the greater public in the discourse surrounding smoking cessation.

Promoting Smoking Cessation via A Spatial Experience

Reflection Space is an interactive communication design project that seeks to promote smoking cessation by psychologically reframing smoking practice, educating smokers about the benefits of quitting, and bringing the larger public into the discussion around smoking cessation.  From our research, we learned that smokers continue to smoke not because they find cigarettes pleasurable, but rather because the cigarette provides for them temporary relief from the effects of nicotine withdrawal. We learned that successful ex-smokers started their journey to smoke-free living by first reflecting on why they are smoking, and then by realizing their own rationale for continuing to smoke. The design is comprised of a booth, which creates a space for self-reflection, and a series of pamphlets that aid visitors in this reflective process while giving visitors a means to participate in the discussion around smoke-free living.


Promoting for Health through Self-Reflection, Interaction, and Participation


We developed a booth installation that creates a private space for visitors to self-reflect. Based on our research, we found that the first step to helping people break the habit of smoking is by re-framing their mental beliefs about smoking. The booth serves to aid this re-framing process by encouraging visitors to write down his/her thoughts regarding a smoking-related topic using pamphlets provided inside the booth. Each pamphlet features a thought-provoking question, such as "what does living life to the fullest mean to you," and has a sticker on the back of the pamphlet for visitors to write on. 

These self-reflective questions serve as the spark of an internal dialogue whereby they are encouraged to think deeper on the reasons for why they smoke. The process of contributing their thoughts on a sticker and of posting it up onto a public installation prompts visitors to self-reflect while interacting with the Reflection Space installation.


The booth acts as an intrusion within a familiar space (Eyeball Park) known to Pittsburghers. This intrusion invites visitors to interact with Reflection Space out of curiosity for the anomaly. The booth itself acts as a place for interaction, where it stores pamphlets and pens for visitors to use. The pamphlet allows visitors to write their response and to paste the response onto the see-through glass facade of the booth. The act of co-creating the Reflection Space installation with the community allows the community to develop a sense of ownership of the installation. Crowd contributions also allow Reflection Space to act as a center for discourse surrounding smoking cessation.

On one side of the pamphlet design is smoking facts and cessation resources, while the other half features mindfulness techniques printed in the format of a postcard. The postcard format signifies value to the participant, which makes it more likely for them to take it home and extend the Reflection Booth interaction. The mindfulness techniques not only serve to prime the participant to think deeper into their responses, but also as a fun takeaway to refer to when they're in need of a little mindfulness.


We decided on Eyeball Park as our final site location for Reflection Booth because it is situated next to a busy bus stop and is an iconic public space within Downtown Pittsburgh. Heavy foot traffic, as well as the booth's intrusion in this space, welcomes serendipitous participation on the part of visitors.

During our observational research trips down to the site, we observed many lingering smokers who were at Eyeball Park either to wait for the bus, or to take a smoke break from work. Eyeball Park is therefore a good location to catch smokers in the act, and to encourage them to self-reflect while participating in their habit.


Reflecting in Space, Takeways in Hand

Be Where the Smokers Are

We situated the Reflection Space intervention in Eyeball Park, one of Downtown Pittsburgh's public parks. The park is located next to bus stops, and witnesses high foot traffic throughout the day. My partner and I made several visits to the site to gauge its popularity with smokers, and found that many who lingered around smoking were waiting for their busses. We therefore decided to situate the booth within the park, on a section of the park that intersects with the paths of commuters.


Visually Appealing, Safe, and Versatile

We designed the pamphlets to be visually vibrant, which is in direct contrast to the dark and ominous visual styles that smoking cessation materials typically feature. The pamphlets feature a piece that is tearable, which invites interaction (people love to tear up perforated things!). Additionally, the tear-away portion features mindfulness exercises that participants can use anywhere, which extends the interaction of the installation beyond the visit to the site.


ONE: Problem

Allegheny County faces one of the highest smoking rates in the area. The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) collaborated with our studio class to come up with design solutions to help promote smoking cessation in the county.


TWO: Research - Why Do Smokers Smoke?

We decided to approach the issue of smoking back-to-front. Rather than ask “why don’t smokers quit,” we sought to understand “why do smokers smoke?” Using this approach, we hoped to nip the bud rather than treat the symptoms of smoking behavior.

To non-smokers, smoking seems inherently paradoxical: smokers pay money to put toxins in their own bodies. We therefore re-framed the problem situation, and looked to understand why people engage in this paradoxical behavior. We learned that many smokers smoke because they are unable to quit once they became addicted to the nicotine. They are unable to cope with the nicotine withdrawal symptoms, and falsely assume that smoking another one helps them feel better. Many smokers believe that smoking helps them focus, be less irritated, and have more energy when the reality of the situation is that smoking is the very cause for their lack of focus, irritability, and lack of energy.

We combed through many online smoking cessation discussion boards and found that many former smokers applaud Allen Carr’s smoking cessation method as a fail-safe way of helping them quit. Carr’s method essentially helps the smoker confront the truth of smoking: that smokers don't actually enjoy the cigarette, but are compelled to smoke due to the nicotine withdrawal. We therefore looked into methods that could bring about this psychological re-framing. One such method we found was the practice of mindfulness techniques that help smokers accept their cravings as transient feelings of the mind.

Mindfulness & Smoking

In reading Allen Carr’s book, we found that many of the points he made are rooted in mindfulness principles. He repeatedly tells the reader to be self-aware and to examine his/her own reactions while smoking. His method seeks to break any illusions smokers have created to rationalize their own smoking. Using this line of reasoning, we examined research on the effects of mindfulness techniques on smoking cessation. One such mindfulness technique used in the studies involve teaching smokers to accept their cravings as transient feelings in the mind. Research into mindfulness techniques on smoking behaviors is still in its beginnings, but these initial studies show positive results: mindfulness techniques could help smokers smoke fewer cigarettes.

Interactive Communication

During our research, we examined smoking cessation literature currently in circulation. We found that most materials employ dated aesthetics and gloomy imagery, grim tone, and are overall unappealing. Furthermore, our contact in ACHD told us that the way cessation materials are distributed in the county are via local health fairs and within public buildings. This passive way of disseminating information ensured that only those who are interested in going to these places are able to access the smoking cessation resources.

As a result, we decided to look at active ways of communicating information about smoking cessation. We brainstormed possibilities around interactive art installations as a means of communicating this information as a result of two considerations: one, to bring the information to the smokers rather than have them seek it out; and two, to create a memorable interaction that allows users to take ownership of the interaction.

My partner and I made three site visits to Downtown Pittsburgh to pick a high foot-traffic location for the placement of this communicative piece. Of a few potential locations, we chose Eyeball Park for its popularity with lingering smokers as well as its busy location within the financial district.


THREE: Smoking Cessation via Interaction / Reflection / Location

Process sketches showing initial brainstorming ideas. We began the exploratory process by looking at interactive art installations, and exploring ways that the cigarette, or the process of smoking, may be included in the participatory process. We started with ideas revolving around a flowchart or "choose-your-own-adventure" diagram. We tried incorporating the cigarette butt into the design by looking at whether ashtrays could be used to bring smokers into the interaction. We examined where we could place this installation, either along a walkway on the sidewalk or in a larger public space. 

After the initial brainstorming sessions, we developed a concept chart where we outlined the goals we hope to accomplish via the Reflection Space installation.

Form: Urban Intervention - Making Space for Reflection

Explorations of form, looking at the different ways a visitor could interact with a physical installation. Does he walk around it? Walk through it? Look at a wall? Look at the floor? We especially focused on organic shapes, since they allot for more 'movement' as compared to two-dimensional walls.

Form: Communication Piece - Leaving Your Mark

While developing the physical installation design, we also explored ways in which the visitor can contribute to the piece. At first we thought about using stickers as the medium through which visitors participated, but after deliberation the idea was dropped given the destructive nature of stickers in public spaces. We stumbled upon the idea of keeping the bottom half of the pamphlet postcard size after visiting a local eatery and being inspired by their postcard-shaped business cards. Postcards connote value, and make it less likely for visitors to take them lightly or throw them away.