7 1/2 and weekend alarm: Designing alarm clocks for the morality of sleep and rest

Although clocks facilitate good time-management, they have been used in ways that are detrimental to wellbeing. For example, alarm clocks are used to force a person to wake before they have had sufficient sleep and the ambient presence of clocks encourages a constant and sometimes unnecessary need for punctuality.

In this paper, we discuss two alarm clocks that are designed to respect wellbeing, improving the ethics of user-object and designer-object relationships. ‘71⁄2’ runs for exactly seven-and-a-half hours, regardless of when it was started, allowing a healthy amount of sleep. ‘Weekend Alarm’ hides its clock face over the weekend, when keeping to time may be less important.

The clock designs were purposeful but did not always fit with conventional expectations on functionality. We discuss the process of designing these artefacts for the morality of sleep and rest, and how we came to propose the addition of some unconventional functions to their conventional designs. To inform our reflection on our design approach, we evaluated the devices with two types of participants: two temporary owners, who experienced discomfort but were able to cope with 71⁄2 during the three-week trial, and six design experts who provided critical reviews of both designs.