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My research project Weighing Lightness, investigates and reinterprets the influential parameters of two opposing concepts—lightness and heaviness. I mainly utilized Coding process in Grounded Theory, a qualitative method commonly used in social science, has been utilized to identity qualities that will influence the perception of lightness from literature and art and design projects. By presenting an analytical lens as a tool to inspect design and other aesthetic phenomena, it offers an explanation of the rather elusive concept of lightness. Design projects are embedded through out the process at where they serve as exploratory tools.


The conceptual and philosophical implications of lightness go beyond the general definition of the physical absence of weight. As the dichotomy of lightness and heaviness has been discussed in various disciplines such as philosophy, literature, visual art, architecture, and product design, this research aims to explore the meaning of lightness in communication design. By applying methods of literature review, ethnography research, cultural probes, and grounded theory, this thesis investigates and reinterprets the influential parameters of the opposing concepts of lightness an heaviness from a perspective of communication design. The result presents an analytic system as a tool to analyze design and other aesthetic phenomena in an attempt to explain this rather elusive concept and reveal the underlying rationale of lightness.

→ Thesis Book

→ Watch my presentation at Fresh Grad AIGA NY

Process and Projects

Literature Review

Laughter: Lightness and Heaviness
A Sensory Ethnography Film
April 2015

Cultural Probes
A kit is distributed to people to gain an understanding of lightness through asking research subjects indirect questions and performing simple game-like tasks. Multiple compartments within one package are designed to be unwrapped one by one for seven days. This research serves as an early exploration of the multiplex dimensionality of lightness and the play of subjectivity.

May 2015

Fine Art Project
September 2015

Impulse from Xinyi Li on Vimeo.

Soundscape: A Research journal
September–December 2015

1 Place

2 Sounds
A Moment of Heaviness
A collection of sounds for a moment of heaviness

3 Heaviness
Interviews about dream weight within a meditated experience and monologue

Analytical Model


Weighing Lightness
May 2016