Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Design (MDes)




Gill Wildman

Second Advisor

Nick Durrant


Anyone who owns a computer today also owns literally millions of digital files. How does anyone find a specific file among the millions? It’s no trouble when we know exactly where a file is, or its full name, but this information is easily forgotten. Moreover, most of us currently own multiple digital devices that have a decent amount of digital storage and access to cloud services. As a result, our digital files are even more dispersed, and are shared with more and more people.

This is the starting point for my thesis. Given the massive number of digital storage and cloud computing services, the folder system is no longer the best way to store information. We are confused about where to save information, how to name our folders, and where to search for them. The parent-child relationship within the folder system no longer works best to manage our digital data. What could replace this metaphor, so we can retrieve files easier and faster?

This project is not about problem-solving, but rather it is about finding opportunities. This was focused on not just designing one singular product to replace the desktop metaphor, but rather designing ways to guide other designers and developer out of thinking the conventional way. The process started from historical research. I researched how the digital context in computing system has evolved from the early 1980s. Then, I looked at what current issues are and user behaviors. Findings from the historical research were linked to the synthesis of current issues and user research and these links helped me come up with three design opportunities : data structure, contextual information, and search preference.

Based on design opportunities, I proposed a new file management system, Arium. The data structure of Arium is social ontological and files are networked through their social relationships. Arium is a platform that can exist across devices and in the cloud. It can exist in a virtual server, or become a surface that can access personal archives from certain devices. It is networked with other services such as email, social networking, and cloud storage services, and it provides unified notifications to its users. This collected information across external services will contain such powerful contextual information that it will enable Arium to create social relationships between digital data and their owners.