Abyssal Logo


a Senior Capstone Project by The Aqua Children

ABYSSAL is a multi-sensory art installation focused on immersing one in the deep ocean environment. With an aim to foster curiosity and empathy for ocean ecosystems, ABYSSAL initiates a personal encounter with the habitat of deep zone flora and fauna. The installation uses video projections, sculptures, and sound to form a layered experience, enveloping guests in a new world.

The Problem

1. Conservation efforts focus solely on charismatic megafauna, using flagship species
2. There is a lack of interactive experiences that engage audiences into the topic of preservation
3. Installations often highlight differences between humans and wildlife


1. Focus on the actual environment and underrepresented creatures
2. Design engaging and memorable experiences though multi-sensory interactions and immersion
3. Create a bridge between human interaction and deep sea environments, generating empathy

Ethnographic Research

Our research began with a visit to the Seattle Aquarium to view the primary audience of aquarium visitors and view what exhibits and experience they had to offer.

From our observations, we noted that there were primarily only groups that included younger children - there were little to no young adults or teens during peak hours.

The aquarium was successful in generating empathy for "flagship" aquatic creatures as visitors spent the majority of their time watching these animals interact with their environments.

Unfortunately, there was a lack of engaging experiences and conservation methods were vaguely highlighted - solely being mentioned on informative posters beside exhibit tanks.

Primary Audience

The primary audience is young adults and teens.

The aquarium was centered on educating and building a visual experience for children. We wanted to engage a larger audience range and generate deeper empathy for those who are already familiar with base conservation principles.

The installation was to be presented on the University of Washington Bothell Campus for our Capstone Exhibition. Taking all factors into consideration, our intended audience aligned well with the expected demographic of the Capstone.


Idea #1 : Luminescence of the Reef  ❌
Climbable coral-like structures in a room with projected images, creating an ambient deep-ocean habitat. The coral will feature thermochromic pigment that changes to white to simulate coral bleaching upon human contact. augmented reality (AR) targets embedded into the structure for hands-on digital interactions.

• Made almost entirely off of recycled/donated materials
• Creates a immersive and multi-sensory experience through a defined space
• All elements can be easily customized and updated
Generates empathy for non-charismatic flora and fauna by transporting users directly into their habitat

As an art installation, the experience is up for user interpretation and it may not have a strong push for conservation
• Being physical installation, we have to ensure that it can be safely enjoyed during the COVID-19 pandemic

Idea #2 : ABYSSAL ✔️
Tank structure as the surface of a projector animation with a kelp forest made of recycled paper inside, imitating the look of an aquarium. The internal kelp forest will feature motion reactive lighting to simulate bioluminescent plankton. The structure is placed in a dark room with ambient audio to create a deep sea environment.

• Creates a defined space and learning environment for kids through fun interactions
• Implements augmented reality as a form of interaction
Blatantly pushes for conservation with the physical interaction with thermochromic pigment
Generates empathy by simulating a habitat and a creature’s natural behaviors

• Climbing structure limits accessibility
Dark lighting and AR targets do not mix well together
• We will face cost/budget limitations
• Geared towards younger kids
instead of intended primary audience

We did a full 360 from Luminescence of the Reef to ABYSSAL as it held strong in our values and had acceptable cons that would be favorable for the installation's overall experience.

Ultimately, Luminescence of the Reef was a very optimistic idea that we would not be able to complete within our timeline and we would not be able to overcome the cons without impeding on the base inspiration of conservation.


ABYSSAL prominently featured recycled materials. The garlands were initially origami fish modeled after senbazuru, or Japanese paper cranes. As the building process progressed, the final shape of the garlands was changed to show off varied volume and texture of the materials. This change in process also saved time and aided the kelp forest illusion. The final installation featured 62 kelp garlands.


ABYSSAL’s primary structure consists of a large PVC tank displaying animated video projections of the illustrated deep sea. Within the pitch darkness of the room, the deep blue hues of the projection cause the structure to glow as particles of bioluminescence and stylized plankton drift within the tank’s boundaries. Ambient music accompanies this visual experience, which is layered with additional sounds that can be heard from the inside of the tank sculpture, which is enterable through an open side facing the entrance of the room itself.

The inside of the tank is filled with recycled paper sculptures resembling kelp, hanging from the ceiling in multiple clusters to create a dense forest environment. RGB LED lights are contained within many of the kelp’s groupings, which react to motion as one enters in glitters and glows to reflect the agency that plankton display within their habitat through their natural bioluminescence.


Capstone Exhibition

ABYSSAL’s first public showing took place on May 20-21, 2022 at the University of Washington, Bothell. The open experience of the space itself worked to initiate conversation between the team and the steady stream of guests themselves, adding additional voices to the full list of contributors that made ABYSSAL possible in the first place. The team plans on continuing to iterate upon the space, taking it further into the deep.


First Draft
The first draft features 3 similar poster designs with multiple thematic backgrounds. We found that they were too wordy and off-brand with the actual installation. These were reworked for overall consistency and visual styling.

Final Marketing
The final marketing included posters of varying sizes and additional items needed for our Capstone Exhibition. The consistent them more closely matched the overall theme of the installation and generates greater interest in the project.

Meet the Aqua Children

Image of Team Members (Aqua Children) From left to right:
Justina Le, Katharina Brinschwitz, Josephine Hartono, Kenneth Nguyen, Brandon Mach
Katharina Brinschwitz
Illustrator/Visual Lead
UX Research Lead
Aqua Children (est. 2021) captures the interaction between life and light. The transformative qualities of illumination spill into our understanding of the connections between people and the natural world. As a team, we aim to create and bring new perspectives to our audience with the whimsical, multi-sensory environments that we craft through our shared vision.The voices of our community are the foundation to our projects. We invite others into our creative process, allowing us to dive into the intersections of installation art and empathetic design. We aim to build on our work with care so that these contributions continue to flourish.


I am very grateful to be have been a part Aqua Children for my final capstone project in Interactive Media Design. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of my time in the cohort was spent remotely. The IMD class of 2022 held the first in-person capstone exhibition since the pandemic, and my team and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to create a physical art installation.

Although ABYSSAL was an art installation, we are able to differentiate ourselves from traditional artists through our focus on design thinking throughout this process. In building this installation, we constantly asked ourselves how we can improve the user's immersive experience as they visited ABYSSAL. Each member of our team held an important role to add to the effectiveness of our intended immersion. With each dress rehearsal and feedback session, we revised and revamped our installation and still have plans to incorporate even more in the future when life brings us there!

Aside from the physical build, my focus was marketing reminded me of how much I enjoy the creative side of design. This was my first time using Figma and I really enjoy the software! The toughest component in this marketing was to keep a consistent look across various poster sizes and designs.

The greatest challenge for the Aqua Children was balance in our design and installation. There were many times where we were so passionate and optimistic about our project, we were unintentionally drawing away from our productivity. It wasn't until we were transitioning from our Winter to Spring quarter (halfway into our project) where we made the decision that we have to stop ideating and adding to ABYSSAL and set our focus on production. After merely 30 hours of garland making and 3 dress rehearsals, we pulled through to the Art Installation and Final Capstone Exhibition.