TACTO: stimulating apparel to curb your bad habits


TACTO: stimulating apparel to curb your bad habits

For this project Alexia designed a solution to curb her bad habit of skin picking. As hard as it is to admit in public, through a class with Ayse Birsel—who wrote Design the Life You Love a guide that takes readers through Ayse’s design process to re-design their life—Alexia pin pointed her constraint, shared it with her class, and delved into behavioral research to understand how bad habits are formed, and how they could possibly be reversed.

Behavioral psychologists talk about habit formation as a cycle that starts with a reminder or trigger, which initiates the behavior or routine, and finally yields a reward. Bad habits like skin picking and nail bitting are not just triggered by stress, they can simply be triggered by the feeling of an anomaly on the surface of the skin or nails, the subject tries to get rid of this anomaly and the reward is simply the feeling of a smooth surface. As you can imagine these behaviors can be damaging, and are not something people are proud of.

James Clear’s, who writes extensively about behavioral psychology, explains “You don't eliminate a bad habit, you replace it.” This is when Alexia decided to explore a tactile solution to her bad habit. If she could make surfaces to emulate her trigger, could she curb her bad habit?

Material exploration began by making stickers with patterns that could be transferred onto smooth surfaces as a way to stimulate the fingers. The stickers were a bit too flat, and even though they were somewhat effective, Alexia wanted to make something more tactile. Next she created multiple molds using the laser cutter and experimented with putting dot and line patterns onto different surfaces by screen printing the patterns with dyed silicone through the acrylic molds. This yielded extremely tactile samples that a lot of people in the studio responded to. 


Since the bad habit is triggered by touching the skin it quickly became obvious that the printed patterns should be on wearables. Exploring different trigger areas, Alexia started with this set of t-shirts:



Coupled with the apparel Alexia developed an App to further encourage users to curb their bad habits.  After users download the app a timer is set every few hours which triggers a question in the form of a push notification: did you scratch today? by swiping left or right users' answers are recorded allowing them to keep track of progress, set goals, and reach milestones.