Special Projects
Finding a balance with technology.
A printable Paper Phone which helps you have a little break away from your digital world.
Calm Technology, Digital Wellbeing, Mindful Technology, Calm User Interface, Digital and Physical
Paper Phone
Paper Phone is an experimental app which helps you have a little break away from your digital world, by printing a personal booklet of the information you’ll need that day. Printed versions of the functions you use the most such as contacts, calendars and maps let you get things done in a calmer way and help you concentrate on the things that matter the most.

As a studio we’re interested in the theme of digital wellbeing, and more specifically how leading technology companies are now integrating wellbeing features into their software.

We created a series of concepts and submitted them to the Google Digital Wellbeing Experiments platform as a way of sharing our approach to finding a balance with technology.

We were particularly interested in the idea of a digital detox, which usually involves spending some time away from your smartphone. Many of the people we spoke to about this were literally terrified at the idea of leaving their phone behind. “What would I do without my maps”, “I don’t even know my boyfriends phone number”. We also found out about a condition called Nomophobia, which is the fear of being without your mobile phone.

Existing approaches often involve going cold turkey and completely cutting out the use of a digital device, but we feel this is sometimes inconceivable to people who rely heavily on their devices and can put them off the idea entirely.

These insights shaped our approach to try to take the risk out of being without your mobile phone for a short period of time, in a gentle, empathic way. Rather than removing all of the functionality of your digital world we wanted to keep some of it, in a calmer, more passive way.
"It’s a surprisingly convincing demonstration of how well the information we all feel that we need our phone to access can so easily be decoupled from the addiction-device."
"It’s like time-traveling for those of us old enough to remember life before smartphones, and a small gift of freedom for those who have never been without."
Paper Phone is an app which allows you to select the things you feel will be important to you that day. Typically this means contacts, calendars, maps, tickets, task lists and the weather. The app retrieves this information and lays it out across one or both sides of an A4 sheet. Then it’s simply a case of printing to a nearby printer and folding it into a little booklet.

Once we started exploring the concept and gathering insights we realised that there were other behaviours and functionality that people might want to experiment with. For example, we included the option of cutting out a space for your contactless card, allowing you to use your Paper Phone to make payments. It also has space for content creation, such as adding extra things to your to-do list, and taking notes in a more mindful, analogue way.

We were heavily inspired by personal diaries and agendas which often include a few pages of useful information like tide times and multiplication tables. We created a section called “Paper Apps” with a set of example apps, such as recipes, phrasebooks, puzzles and conversion charts, and you can choose one of these per print out. The challenge for us was to find a balance between pure practicality with a small element of delight. We tried to remove connections to social media and publications in this particular execution to make for a calmer user experience.
"I can see it benefiting my state of mind on days where I'm in need of a digital detox."
As a studio we are mildly obsessed with the idea of calm technology, introduced by Mark Weiser at Xerox Parc in 1995 and more recently explored and evolved by Amber Case. Most of our work has explored using physical objects as tangible ways of interacting with technology, and in this particular concept a piece of paper acts as an incredibly basic, one-way user interface between a person and the information in their device.

The idea of digitally printing a customised booklet or magazine isn’t new and back in 2006 Jonas Martinsson created FeedJournal, a service which transformed RSS feeds into a customised printable booklet. Pocketmod is a printable and customisable organiser with an ingenious folding mechanism to transform it into a little booklet which we think came out around 2008. Little Printer by Berg London, 2012, allowed users to curate custom lists of information and personal messages which it printed on a receipt using an adorable miniature printing machine.

If you worry about the environmental impact of printing a sheet of A4 every single day you’ll be surprised to know printing one page per day would produce approximately 10g of CO2 in a year. In contrast, using a mobile device for one hour a day produces 1.25 Tonnes of CO2 at the end of the year, taking into account network and server infrastructure energy requirements.

Paper Phone is an experimental open source Android app which is available to try right now, all of the code is available on Github for people to play with and hopefully adapt and evolve!

Experiments with Google
Try the Android app on the Play Store
Download the code on GitHub

Energy Calculation References

We used these sources to estimate the carbon footprint of the concept:

Carbon footprints (Viessmann)
Mobile Phone carbon footprints (The Guardian)
Printing A4 paper (Quora)