Alumni Feature: Whispering Reeds ADAA 2011

An Ancient Greek myth inspires the Mobile App of ADAA 2011 Finalists Damiano Gui, Martina Maitan and Paolo Basso
Iuav University of Venice

The combination of their University’s impressive ADAA track record (10 Finalists/Winners since 2008!), and the encouragement from their professors, lead to the team sending in their application concept.   The project entitled “Whispering Reeds” is an interactive system, accessed by a mobile device, through which people can “plant a reed” anywhere in Venice to record their thoughts and sensations, and can listen to the “whispering reeds” of others. Their project was inspired by the Ancient Greek myth of Midas and plays with the unifying human experience of imbuing our physical surroundings with our emotional and intuitive lives.

We really enjoyed the chance to talk to the team and find out what they have been up to since the 2011 awards in Taipei.


Martina Maitan

Martina Maitan

Damiano Gui

Damiano Gui

Paolo Basso

Paolo Basso

Tell us a little bit about your project and the process of getting it done.

Martina: My team I decided to enter the competition because this seemed to be a good opportunity for measuring our ability as interaction designers at an international level. After the initial phase of brainstorming, we created the perfect interface to fit the need of the user, and then a working prototype and finally checked our work with some user tests.


Your impressive design earned you some attention after the awards! You went from Finalists in 2011, to being the team behind the fully functional Wings app for the ADAA 2012 campaign!  How did that happen?

Damiano: Shortly after the ADAA competition the guys from LABOR Studio, the team responsible for the design of ADAA campaigns, got in contact with us asking for our help in making the official ADAA 2012 App. We agreed enthusiastically, even if a bit scared: all of our past projects were just prototypes, and we had never built an actual application before! It was a real challenge, but we eventually succeeded. We couldn’t have done it without the help and support from our friends and from Mathias, Arnfried and Stephan (LABOR team). The Adobe Awards Wings App is now available in Google Play and in the Apple App Store and we are so proud of it!


How else have the ADAA’s impacted your  opportunities as designers?

Damiano: This July, I start a four-month internship at the MIT SenseAble City Lab in Boston, MA. I couldn’t even think of something like this a year ago. I just had interviews with studios from Madrid, Paris, Berlin, London and New York. All this thanks to my portfolio, which now includes an ADAA Finalist award and an Adobe featured App on top of all my other projects.

Martina: The ADAA has given me the opportunity to see my value as a designer on a global stage.  Like Damiano, I have also gotten a summer internship – mine is at Fjord Studios in Berlin.

Paolo: And I will be in Treviso, Italy at Studio Log607 for my internship!


How did the ADAA experience influence your outlook as designers?

Martina: The ADAA has been a force pushing me to pursue my path with much more strength and conviction than before this experience.  It gave me the chance to see other people with the same dreams and expectations and they have been an example for me.

Damiano: The ADAA’s jury choices made me reflect on what should be the aim of a designer today: not from the market point of view, but from an ethic and social one. Our project was a user-centred service design, which can shift technical complexity into a simpler and more emotion-oriented and poetic shape. I think this is the reason why Whispering Reeds was one of the Finalist projects. I think this is the right way to go in design for the future.



So where do you see design going in the next decade?  What do you think its role will be in industry, culture and society?

Paolo: I think that the role of design will be increasingly in the direction of the user experience, with the intention of improving the person’s life, not just with new functionality, but with the ease of use.

Martina: I think so too.  In my opinion, interaction design will have a central role in the future of any person.

Damiano: I see the role of a designer finally gaining the importance that it deserves.  People are coming to understand that technology is not just a brain’s matter: it’s a heart’s one too. Only thanks to designers we will achieve a world in which human beings and technology have a virtuous relationship.


Thinking about these reflections on the role of design and looking back over your experiences as students and ADAA Finalists, what advice or insight do you have for current design students?

Martina: As a student you should aim to keep a clear focus on your goals and dreams, but to always remain passionate and curious for new things that happen around you.

Paolo: When it comes to designing, the most important thing is to never design from start to finish alone! Discuss your project as many times as possible with different people during the process, so you can see mistakes and opportunities for improvement that often you don’t notice on your own.

Damiano: What I learnt is that you can’t do everything, but there is nothing you can’t learn if you have passion and ambition. So don’t worry too much about your technical skills and try to keep your mind and eyes wide open to the world, even to what is not related to your field. Aim high and don’t refuse any good opportunity, even if it could scare you in the beginning.


This impressive team are all finishing their Masters at Iuav University of Venice: Damiano and Paolo are writing their theses in Visual and Multimedia Communication Design, while Martina is doing hers in Interaction Design.  You can learn more about the Whispering Reeds project in our ADAA Gallery.  You can see more of Damiano, Paolo and Martina’s work in their personal portfolios:

One Response to Alumni Feature: Whispering Reeds ADAA 2011

  1. Leona Guidace says:

    Great to hear the positive turns their careers have taken! Very exciting to see what will come next from them!