Iris Pan's art installation turns your love message into a soundwave postcard

We profile the career of UX pioneer Iris Pan and look back at her most famous creation, Love Cassette.

Based in Silicon Valley, California, Iris Pan is a designer, artist and writer working at the boundary of digital and physical. A globally recognised pioneer in the field of UX design, her work investigates new ways of approaching both technologies and human perceptions.

Currently a lead designer at Amazon, Iris is dedicated to using technologies like Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence to revolutionise the consumer experience for both business and social good.

Outside work, she likes to write, make music, and sabre to her custom songs in Virtual Reality. Her writings on design, technology and their social implications have influenced over 10 million readers worldwide.

She’s perhaps best known in China, though, for her interactive installation Love Cassette: a first-of-its-kind interactive installation that turns your love message into a sound-wave postcard on the spot.

Design concept

Iris explains the thinking behind the artwork. “We all have friends, families or lovers that we hold dear,” she points out. “But few of us feel comfortable telling them how much we care. For some, a chance to help express their love is all they need.”

So supplied that in the form of Love Cassette, an interactive installation that can hear a love message and turn it into a postcard on the spot.

Iris Pan's art installation turns your love message into a soundwave postcard
Iris Pan's art installation turns your love message into a soundwave postcard

“When the postcard is given to friends or family members, they can scan the QR code on the card and hear the original love message stored in the cloud,” Iris explains. “This sound-interactive installation creates both a digital and physical platform for different social groups to express their love and connect.”

As online shopping grows, brick-and-mortar stores have to develop new features to attract consumers, and Love Cassette is an answer to that, adds Iris.

“The whole experience constructs a closed-loop business system of both online and offline marketing. Not only can it attract customers to the physical store to interact with the ‘cassette’, Love Cassette itself generates more revenue by selling unique, customised sound-wave necklaces based on one’s love-soundwave patterns.”

Consequently, the design of Love Cassette is informed by the site constraints of various shopping malls, the on-site study of customer behaviour, and, most importantly, guided by human-centred design principles.

Iris Pan's art installation turns your love message into a soundwave postcard
Iris Pan's art installation turns your love message into a soundwave postcard

“For example, in order to encourage customers to share their feelings of love in a public place, the cassette is designed to have an acrylic divider in the middle, which separates both sides and creates a semi-private space for people to feel comfortable speaking out their love messages,” says Iris.

“Also, Love Cassette is designed with a state-of-the-art level of accessibility and inclusivity so that people of any age, gender, height, or tech-savviness would know how to interact with it intuitively.”

Viral appeal

Love Cassette first appeared at a six-month-long pop-up store in Shanghai and soon went viral. In its first six months of life, over 130,000 customers participated, and nearly 14,000 sound wave necklaces were sold.

Since then, it’s travelled to six other sites in three different cities, including art museums, shopping malls, exhibitions and creative markets. In total, more than 480,000 love messages have been collected and turned into sound wave postcards. More than 56,000 sound wave necklaces have been sold, generating a revenue of 2.8 million RMB (approximately $400,000).

Love Cassette is just one milestone in the career of Iris, who has more than 15 years of interdisciplinary design experience under her belt.

Career highlights

After getting her bachelor’s in Industrial Design from Industrial Design from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, and her Master’s in Design Studies from Harvard University, she went on to work at some of the world’s largest companies, Mastercard, IBM and now Amazon.

Products she’s worked on include Amazon’s View in Your Room AR product, a pioneering AR product with over three million users, IBM’s earliest cloud computing platforms in 2012, and Mastercard’s pioneering ARVR projects and blockchain design projects.

She was also the first designer who experimented with poetry in Virtual Reality. “My work Poeceptible was an attempt to re-create poetry into a personalised, four-dimensional audio-visual experience in virtual reality,” she explains. “This project has received international acclaim and has been presented at various design conferences worldwide.

Basically, Iris never seems to stand still. “As a pioneering interdisciplinary designer, I’ve made several moves throughout my career, from physical product design to UX design, to integrated physical and digital experience design, to emerging technology and tech and art design,” she notes.

Iris Pan's art installation turns your love message into a soundwave postcard

“As a result, I’ve combined the learnings and experiences across these various design fields and arrived at my own ‘anti-disciplinary, omni-platform’ design methodology. Most of my works have been manifestations of such design methodology. Also, my work and study experience in China and the US exposed me to the differences in how we approach design and innovation.”

Future plans

Iris has won many prestigious awards, including the Red Dot Award, A’ Design Award and the Fast Company Innovation by Design Award, given talks at a range of international conferences, universities and companies and has been a jury member of various design awards, including the Indigo Design Award and the forthcoming IxDA Award.

Now, in 2024, she’s co-founded her own design studio, HMW Design Studio, which will focus on social-impact driven design projects, and started another company called OtherPixels, to create new forms of human interactions to enhance connections and encourage empathy amongst us.

“Through these ventures, I hope to bring more creativity to the world,” she says, “and treat the current uncertainty we’re facing collectively as part of the human species with a creative problem-solving approach.”