Skype Now

Umeå Institute of Design 2015 – 10 Week Project with Martijn and Ezgi


Be in the moment. Together.
What if there was a way to share moments, exactly then when you want to be with someone and regardless of time and distance? Skype Now is a video messaging app for those moments you want to be with someone but simply can‘t, because time and/or distance has put you apart. It enables people to create, re-live and be in the moment together by recording a video with and for their persons, sending it away and let the other complete that moment by taking part in it. The result is not just a video, it is a shared experience



Skype Now is a video messenger app that puts a strong emphasis on creating a moment for both parties regardless of location and time. It‘s an approach to bring out the sweet spot of Skype, its video call function – with that the priceless feeling of togetherness – and therefore creates a asynchronous Skype video call experience. Furthermore, this concept for instant video messaging aims to make asynchronous communication and video messaging as beneficial and engaging as possible. 

To recreate the feeling of being face-to-face for a moment even during instant messaging, Skype Now records with two cameras, the back and the front camera. This allows the user to not only share the environment, the experience, with the recipient, but, what's more, capture reactions and emotions and even address oral messages. The togetherness-moment happens, when the receiver jumps in an in turn adds his reactions to the message.


Create a moment for somebody

Choose a person you'd like to involve in your life. Without any start, pause or stop button, you can capture a moment with both cameras in order to share the whole experience, including your mimics and messages.

Be in the moment

By receiving a video message, you're invited to join and complete this moment by adding your reactions and messages to it. This completed moment will be saved on both sides. And again, there are no start op stop functions, but only an dynamic, natural communication.


Relive old moments

You can relive past shared moments in the gallery which starts in the camera-on view. This encourages you to record a new moment, the conversation can continue.


Skype Now understands videos not just as plain media that is shared with people, but videos as conversations with two parties involved. Hence, messaging with Skype Now is not one directional.



Screens f.l.t.r.: select a friend – visual enhancement of the voice – send away your moment – pause the moment to add to the conversation





Our main research question was formed as a response to the brief about asynchronous communication. Through two weeks of ethnographic research consisting of doing 8 user interviews with follow up sessions, we investigated the question of: How do people handle non-communication? Our user profiles had unique aspects in their communication habits due to family constellations, work and relationship purposes and were located both in- and outside Sweden. The techniques we used were contextual inquiry, user interviews (on-site and via Skype) and journey mapping interview through visualisation methods with the users.



How do people that live abroad communicate?


Journey mapping on communication in an international household


Interview supported by physical probs



With the help of these, we created a framework where we mapped our research. It consisted of expectations of both sender and receiver, interpretations each other‘s actions and the time gap existing in non-communication situations. This framework helped us to decide which areas we would like to look further in our project.






Based on the framework, we created physical experience prototypes. These models carried the values of async communication that we pointed out in our framework. We used the opportunity of presenting the prototypes to further understand the valuable aspects of async communication. Four stations were created addressing to our research: 

The Timer explored how people perceive the time after they send or receive a message. The Marble Run deals with expectations formed during the time gap between messages or conversations. With the Light Signal we explored how people understood and made assumptions over a simple signal like a LED. In the last station, the Box we looked into how people create meaning with synchronising with the others.




The ideation was carried on both in for us familiar ways such as open brainstorm sessions but also unconventional ones such as force fitting: brainstorming on randomly picked words or subjects. 






After brainstorming on paper we challenged our ideas by creating physical prototypes. These helped us to further explore our ideas and to validate them with people. The prototypes mainly focused on how we could apply elements of a synchronous communication experience in an asynchronous one. We constantly switched the fidelity and the medium, from low-fi paper prototypes to installations and screen-based prototypes. Beyond that, group presentations themselves were leveraged as prototyped experiences.  



Follow and anticipate the other's writing process


Emphasise with the writer by capturing mimics


An asynchronous presentation: the video-audio-walk





We envisioned Skype Now as a standalone product next to the native Skype App, and therefore worked with metaphors rather than with video, call or chat cues. It is designed based on the metaphor of an invitation, which manifests itself not only in the key moments – selecting a friend, creating a moment, diving into a moment, re-living a moment – , but also in its GUI – from animations to colors to interaction flows and wording. The visual design follows the native Skype assets in major elements, but shows its own visual cues which we intended to support the synchronous feeling.




We used different media, from paper to low- and high-fidelity and visually appealing prototypes on the mobile phone. These prototypes were constantly challenged in user test sessions.






The team work was very collaborative – we challenged ourselves by keeping up a lively discussion throughout the process. We pushed each other and openly communicated critique, which we constantly turned into productive rounds of iterations and variations. The discussions also opened up for the public in form of alternative presentation formats and quick user testing to make informed decisions. It was of immense help to learn to set goals, make decisions and schedule ahead of time.

Everyone in the group was equally involved in all project phases from research to ideation to concept and design/branding including all decision points. During the execution phase I was responsible for the narrative/art direction, the film shooting and film editing.


Watch the whole process below:





Skype London – Steve Pearce / ICT Interactive Institute – Brendon Clark / Hyper Island – Nico Nuzzaci