To design a vending machine that vends an intangible object, utilizing a digital screen and physical form.


Outpour, a clean water donation vending machine where a physical valve is used to determine specify the amount to be donated.


Brainstorming and concept development efforts were shared by all team members. My individual role involved developing the concept video using After Effects.

Two week experiment for Interaction Design Studio Course

Katie Herzog, Chen Ni

Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop, XD, Sketch



The design brief of this project was to devise a vending machine that vends something intangible and to explore the interplay between a digital screen and the physical form.

So how do you vend something intangible?

Our team discussed this question at length. Would could this be? A feeling, a service, an idea? This could encompass everything and yet nothing. We had to narrow our focus.

We decided to explore the idea of vending good will through donation.

After exploring an idea of donating food that didn’t quite pan out (it was too large for the scope of this project) we settled on the idea of donating clean water to those in need.

How might we design a vending machine that tangibly communicates how much water is donated, encourages generosity, and returns positive feedback to the user?

Community Cooperation

To stress that the shortage of clean drinking water can be helped by each and every one of us, we wanted our vending machine to display a cumulative amount of water donated during each day.

If you think of everyone in an apartment building donating several cups of water, it will start to add up and to slowly fill the container in which it’s placed. That’s the concept we wanted to incorporate here. The screen shows a digital representation of how much water has been donated on a particular day. Other passersby can quickly see this information. But they can also see how much more water is needed to complete a goal.

We envision this vending machine in a well traveled, visible location. While the average person may only donate a few dollars here and there, passersby can also see the virtual water container gradually filling up.

Digital vs. Physical

What’s the most effective way for the user to choose how much money/water that they’d like to donate? Press a button? Enter in an amount on a digital panel? While those solutions would be functional, they would not be very engaging.

Our team wanted to replicate the act of opening a valve to allow water to fill a container. To accomplish this, we decided that the way in which people would choose how much to donate would be through a physical valve.

The user would start by inserting their credit card or tapping their phone. Then, they would slowly turn the wheel and open the digital valve, releasing water into the virtual container. The dollar amount would be calculated, similar to the readout that we see when we’re getting gasoline for our cars.

Would the user like to donate more? They can open the valve further and increase the rate of donation. Are they interested in donating only a small amount? They can slightly turn the valve to let the dollar amount slowly accumulate. When they are finished, they can close the valve to end the transaction.

The digital screen will show how much water and money that they are offering to donate. It will then confirm that the user wants to do this, and upon confirmation, will process the transaction.

January 4, 2018