Complex financial and system health data is often buried in unorganized spreadsheets and log files. Cinnober, a leading provider of financial analytical systems, asked us to help them visualize complex information using physical objects.  Graf is the result of a two week makeathon challenge in collaboration with Cinnober Innovation Labs, Uminova Expression, and the Sliperet. The project is completed with Alice Baggio, Evgenia Kateroudaki, and Simon Asp. 



What if system health information can be physically visualized so that technicians can quickly identify and fix the problems?



Graf alerts technicians of server health issues using a combination of physical movments and colors.

Concept video showing how Graf could work with the technician 


When there is an issue with the server, Graf moves and lights up according to the type and serverity of the problem. Graf triggers an alert on the RFID card and notifies the technician on duty. The technician checks in at his workstation using his RFID card to indicated that he is working on this issue. Graf changes its color to yellow indicating that troubleshooting is in progress.  When the technician is finished resolving the problem, he taps his RFID card again to reset the main body of Graf to its normal position and color. 

Each box of Graf represents a server

RFID card and reader set that alerts technicians of server issues

1. Graf moves and changes color when there is a problem

2. The technician is alerted by Graf  

3. The technician checks-in to indicate troubleshooting in progress

4. The technician taps again when the problem has been resolved

Q. How did you conduct your research? 

We spoke to several technicians from Cinnober in order to evaluate existing problems and opportunities.

From the interviews with Cinnober technicians, we learned that server issues happens once a week and there is no accountability as to which technician is working on the issue. We quickly realized that there is an opportunity area using a combination of physical movements and colors to represent the major problems that a server might have. Using a physical device we can represent (a) if a server is on or off, (b) if a server is running low on RAM or disk space, or (c) if one server is sending too much information to another sever. 

“Our current system of monitoring using excel is a mess. We don’t really know who is fixing the problem.”

- Alexander Sehlin,  Cinnober Innovation Labs

Quick Post-it brainstorming 

Expert interview with Cinnober technicians 

Q. How did you test your concepts? 

We started with lo-fi prototyping using wood blocks and cardboard.

The physical shape of Graf was inspiried by the 3D bar graph. Each box of Graf represents a server. We added Neopixel LED strips to each box and a RFID tag and reader. The we used a laser cutter to make the housing for the RFID set and the boxes. A servo motor was placed at the base to drive the movement of Graf. Lastly, we wrote an Arduino sketch code to control the behaviour of Graf.  

Lo-fi prototyping with blocks

Innitial prototype made from cardboard

Coding the Arduino sketch to control Graf

Prototyping RFID tag and reader

Soldering LED strips for Graf

Q. What was your role in this project? 

I was involved in all of the phases of this project with a focus on prototyping and storytelling using video. 

And in the brainstorming phase of the project, I encouraged my teammates to look for non-traditional solutions to the problem. I looked at art books from artists such as Yayoi Kusama to find form inspiration. In the prototyping phase, I created and coded the RFID module. Finally, I created the storyboard and made the final concept video. 

Storyboard for Graf concept video

Video shot for concept video